Many of my clients find me after feeling overwhelmed with meal planning and feeling stressed about where to begin healthy eating. A client conversation typically starts with, “help me with meal planning!” Their lives are busy with work, social and kids activities, and with summer finally here, they want to spend more time outside and less time in the kitchen. Thinking about the time required for planning, shopping, preparing, cooking, and cleaning is enough to stop them before they even begin.
The prepared food industry knows this, which is why the prepared meal category and meal kit business is growing each year. Sadly, as the prepared food category is growing in our food stores, so is our weight. As of 2017, research done by the Public Health Agency of Canadafinds that 64% of Canadian adults over the age of 18 are overweight or obese, and 60% of children aged 5-17 are overweight or obese.Not only is weight gain the problem, but obesity is linked to many undesirable health conditions.
In my blog post, eight ways to make healthy eating easy, I outlined the steps involved in meal planning and offered some suggestions on how to save time. In this post, I share with you options to solve the “help me with meal planning” problem.
To begin, ask yourself the following:
- What do I dislike doing: Planning, shopping, or preparing meals?
- Where do I breakdown in the process: Is it before buying the food or after grocery shopping, leading to food waste?
Depending on your answers, I offer some suggestions to overcome barriers in the planning, shopping, and preparing steps with the result of healthy eating.
Planning can be a time-consuming step for some because of the abundance of choices available. I will venture to say that the amount of options availableis enemy number one. Keep an inventory of regular food products in your pantry and refrigerator for easy planning.
When I begin working with clients, we work through a list of foods so that I can determine what foods they like, dislike or have intolerances. We then start the meal planning process with up to three meals for the first week. I plan the meals around the clients’ needs, experience and time available. I do this because it’s better to make less and strive for success than to over plan and fail to reach your goal!
If seasonal inspiration is important to you, read the newspaper. I enjoy the Ottawa Citizen Wednesday edition; the YOU section recipes showcase what is fresh and in season. You can also find these recipes online.
If keeping track of recipes and items is overwhelming for you, then you should consider trialling the Plan to Eat system. I have helped clients set up this system, and they have had lots of success with staying consistent with healthy eating at home, and with trying new recipes and flavours.
Grocery shopping is a chore that most working parents dread. It is often left to the weekends and, when the sun is shining, the grocery store is the last place they want to be. Utilizing a click and collect service or online grocery shopping app is a great way to save time. Once your grocery list is created, you need to do an inventory check before placing your order online. If you don’t know how to do this, contact me, this is one of the services I help my clients set up to save time.
If you are short on time, you can use Instacart for repeatable grocery items and get them delivered to your door.
Helpful hacks are to keep a standard grocery list around your inventory of “usual” foods that you always want available. Remember, to minimize waste, always check your inventory and shop with a list.
Home delivered meal kits are a great way to explore new recipes and minimize waste. Many people think meal kits are wasteful because of all the packaging. I was surprised to learn that meal kits are greener than grocery shopping. While they may be more ecological from the emissions point of view, I would encourage consumers to reuse the packaging whenever possible.
Your food waste will be reduced with proper meal planning and ingredient purchasing. Sometimes, buying less may seem more expensive, but it is less wasteful and will cost you less in the long term.
If the idea of implementing these suggestions overwhelms you, let’s chat. Simplifying meal planning for busy people is exactly what I do! Reach out to me to save time each week on healthy eating, minimizing your stress and getting healthy meals on your table.