Simple Steps To Successful Meal Planning
Meal planning isn’t just for the organized. With the right approach, it can help to ease decision fatigue, save you money, keep you on a healthy track and decrease food waste.
Here are 3 steps to meal plan success.
Step 1: Start with a base
Most meals contain a source of carbohydrates, protein and vegetables or fruit. In most cases, the base is a grain, preferably a whole grain variety.
Grains and cereals such as long-grain rice, rolled oats, quinoa and flour-based products like sourdough bread and pasta are among the most underrated pantry items. Fibre-packed to fill you for longer, Dietary Guidelines recommend including a minimum of 3 serves a day.
What does a serve look like? 1 serve is equal to:
- 1 slice of wholegrain bread
- ¾ cup of whole grain breakfast cereal
- ½ cup cooked porridge
- ½ cup cooked wholegrain pasta, rice or noodles.
Top tip: A great way to set yourself up for the week is to make a big pot of grains in the beginning of the week and then repurpose for a variety of meals. One night you might use already cooked brown rice in a stir-fry, then use leftover rice with canned tuna or salmon the next day for lunch. A scoop of grains also goes great in a poke bowl or vegan wraps.
Step 2: Choose a protein
Covering everything from chickpeas, canned fish to lentils and beans, these pantry items are a meal-preppers best friend. Add them to your salads or whole grain base for a super-quick and satisfying lunch. As for fresh sources, vary between red meat one night, chicken the next, and don’t forget protein-rich fish, eggs, nuts, tofu and dairy.
Top tip: To keep things interesting, vary your protein prep. For example, you can blend beans or lentils, add some spices and a binder like egg and bake them to make veggie burgers. You can also blend beans or lentils with some extra virgin olive oil, lemon and garlic and make a protein packed dip or filling for a burrito.
Consider switching up your sauces or marinades you generally use for chicken, red meat and fish in order to get a completely different dish. Experiment with a variety of herbs and spices for a twist on rubs, and make the most out of condiments like mustard, teriyaki or balsamic for a DIY dressing that can store in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Step 3: Fruit and veggie power
We all know we should be eating a minimum of 5 servings of veggies and 2 pieces of fruit every day. As for veggies, there are so many ways to enjoy them. The easiest and fastest way is to eat them raw which is great for snacking, but you can also sauté, roast or steam them and then repurpose them throughout the week.
Fruit is a little easier to get into our diets, especially on-the-go. You can always grab an apple or banana on the way to work or throw some berries in your breakfast. Fruit also makes an excellent dessert and a great addition to salads. Top tip: Taste the rainbow and choose fruit and veggies of every kind and colour to get a wide variety of antioxidants. As always, shop for in-season to bang the best bang for your nutrition buck.
Putting it all together
Whether you’re planning breakfast, lunch or dinner, creating a balanced meal is key to ensuring that you are nourished, satisfied, and energized. So now you know the steps, think of meal planning like ticking a box. At every meal include a source of carbohydrate (step 1), a source of protein (step 2); and variety of a vegetables or fruit (step 3). Want to keep your portions in check? Fill your half your plate with vegetables or fruit, a quarter of your plate with a source of protein and the remaining quarter with wholegrains.
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Kathleen Alleaume (MSc) is a nutritionist and founder of The Right Balance