In the pursuit of weight loss, a well-crafted meal plan can be your best friend. Beyond a mere trend, meal planning is a strategic approach that merges mindful nutrition with practicality, offering a roadmap to healthier choices while saving time and reducing stress. Meal planning promotes weight loss by eliminating last minute food decisions and supports you in sticking to your plan1. Join us this week to understand how to create, follow, and incorporate meal planning into your life to achieve your weight loss goals.
Meal planning is the process of planning out what you are going to eat for your meals, usually done on a weekly basis. Sometimes this can feel daunting, but in the long run it actually saves you time. Instead of popping to the shop last minute and mulling over what you are going to eat, it can streamline your cooking process and help you avoid temptations. With that in mind, let’s think about what steps you can take to incorporate meal planning into your life?
1. Plan With Goals in Mind:
Begin by assessing your dietary needs, preferences, and health goals. Consider factors such as your daily caloric intake, nutritional requirements, and any dietary restrictions or preferences. Establish clear goals, whether they involve weight loss, improved energy levels, or a focus on specific nutrients.
2. Choose Your Recipes:
Look for balanced options that include a mix of lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats - but make sure they are things you actually want to eat! Choose meals which you find appetising, suit your cooking abilities, and fit your lifestyle. Make sure you consider breakfast, lunch and dinner so there’s no room for last minute bad decisions!
3. Create a Meal Calendar:
Once you've chosen your recipes, create a weekly meal calendar. Designate specific meals for each day, considering factors like busier days when you might prefer quicker recipes or bulk cooking on less busy days so you are able to grab healthy meals when you don’t have much time.
4. Create a Shopping List:
Write a list that includes all the ingredients you require. Prioritise fresh and whole foods (e.g. brown rice vs white rice), and avoid overly processed foods or things that may not support your weight loss journey. Remember: this is not about restriction, but about making healthy choices that support your goals and lifestyle.
5. Get Cooking:
Set aside time in your day to cook the meals you have planned. Pop on some music and make this an experience to be enjoyed, that’s how we create long-lasting behaviours! Remember staying mindful of portion sizes helps regulate calorie intake, supporting your weight management journey.
Now that you have your plan in place, it’s time to think about the roadblocks that may arise when you are following your meal plan. We want to make sure this process is easy to follow as this will support you with your weight management goals. Here are some tips for meal planning to avoid some common pitfalls:
1. Choose Meals You Actually Want to Eat:
Don’t just choose things because they sound healthy. If you choose boring, non-satisfying meals you are more likely to make bad decisions or lack enthusiasm for the food you eat. Healthy eating can be exciting and full of flavour, so don’t just be eating bland chicken and rice. Websites such as the NHS have recipe ideas that suit a range of recipes that suit all diet types, and will help you keep things varied.
2. Create a Realistic Plan:
We get it, life happens. In order to make long-lasting changes, you need to ensure you don’t feel like you’re missing out. Don’t skip out on plans with friends or avoid social situations, just be mindful of how you can stay consistent with your goals whilst living your life too.
3. Keep it Varied:
Lacking inspiration around meals or getting bored of your food may encourage you to make last-minute changes that don’t align with your goals. Follow blogs or accounts that inspire healthy eating, think about what ingredients are in season (to keep it cheap and varied), and plan themed nights at home to try different cuisines.
4. Budget Constraints:
Fresh and whole produce can be expensive, however a lot of the time these products are cheaper than their processed counterparts. Plan meals around budget-friendly ingredients by looking for sales and discounts. You can also consider buying in bulk, and explore cost-effective protein sources such as beans and legumes.
5. Last Minute Plans:
Be adaptable and have a contingency plan. Life is unpredictable, and it's okay if you need to switch meals or plans occasionally. Build flexibility into your meal planning approach to accommodate changes, store ingredients that won’t go off (you can always throw together a veggie chilli) or store a few portions of your favourite dish in the freezer.
Meal planning is a valuable strategy for weight loss. By pre-arranging meals, you can control calorie intake, regulate portion sizes, and make informed nutritional choices1. Beyond weight management, meal planning brings efficiency, time savings, and cost-effectiveness to daily eating habits1. It fosters a mindful approach to nutrition, reducing reliance on impulsive and less healthy options1. Overall, meal planning is a practical and sustainable tool that empowers individuals to achieve and maintain their weight loss goals while cultivating a healthier relationship with food.
Activity: Meal Planning
Now we understand the basics of meal planning, let’s put it into action to make sure you follow through with your plan. When you are making your plan, follow the tips above to ensure you are happy with your choices and they meet your nutritional needs.
Download our Meal Planning Worksheet to plan your meals and grocery list, and mark down the protein, carbohydrates, fats, fruits and vegetables you will be gaining from each meal to ensure your choices are balanced and nutritious. You should use page 1 to plan some meals you’d like to try over the next month or so, then use page 2 to plan this week's meals and your grocery list. This will allow you to feel in control, make good decisions rather than tired ones, reduce waste and save money by buying ingredients in bulk.
- Ducrot P, Méjean C, Aroumougame V, Ibanez G, Allès B, Kesse-Guyot E, Hercberg S, Péneau S. Meal planning is associated with food variety, diet quality and body weight status in a large sample of French adults. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2017 Feb 2;14(1):12. doi: 10.1186/s12966-017-0461-7.