Does your day revolve around what and when you get to eat? Mine sure does! In my dreams, I don’t have to worry about calories, but reality has other plans. To get (and stay) in shape, eating healthy is a necessity. Following a pre-made meal plan is a great way to get started, but you must eventually learn how to make a healthy meal plan yourself if you want to turn this new habit into a lifestyle!
The biggest challenge in assembling a meal plan is learning how to turn nutritious ingredients into tasty recipes. Luckily, you can find thousands of healthy options right here on SkinnyMs. Our recipes eliminate the guesswork and make this process easier than ever!
When it comes down to it, building a healthy meal plan is essentially plugging your favorite nutritious recipes into a calendar. I like to look at my eating plan as a puzzle. If pieces are missing, it’s incomplete. In this case, the puzzle pieces are things like protein, vitamins, fiber, and more. Finding delicious meals that complete your nutritional puzzle is the key to your success!
What Makes a Healthy Meal?
Before you can make a healthy meal plan, you must learn about the components of a healthy meal. There are three necessary items in any well-rounded dish: produce, lean protein, and whole grains.
Produce – Half Your Plate
Produce includes both fruit and veggies. Choose fruits that are lower in sugar, like berries, avocado, and bananas. Some of the most nutrient-dense veggies include tomatoes, sweet potatoes, kale, spinach, broccoli, bell peppers, asparagus, and carrots. Keep in mind that this list is not comprehensive.
Lean Protein – One-Quarter of Your Plate
Sources of lean protein include chicken, turkey, pork, lean ground beef, fish, shrimp, crab, eggs, beans, and even tofu.
Whole Grains – One-Quarter of Your Plate
A serving of whole grains should always be on your plate. Some examples of whole grains include brown rice, oats, quinoa, or whole wheat bread.
What about “healthy fats,” you ask? Also referred to as unsaturated fat, healthy fats are found in eggs, salmon, nuts, nut butter, avocado, and olive oil. When you eat whole foods, it’s fairly easy to get enough unsaturated fat in your diet without too much worry.
How to Make a Healthy Meal Plan
Now that you know what to look for, you can begin building your very own healthy meal plan! In just five steps, you will create a perfectly customized program for you and your family.
1. Check Out the Calendar
Personally speaking, I like to plan my meals by the week. Looking at the entire month can get overwhelming, but do what makes sense for you! Be sure to look for any appointments or events that would conflict with needing a meal. For example, maybe you have lunch scheduled with your boss or dinner with the in-laws. Once you know this, you can plan accordingly to save food and money!
2. Take Inventory of the Pantry and Fridge
There’s nothing worse than buying an ingredient and realizing you didn’t need it when you get home. Okay, maybe there are worse things, but it’s frustrating nonetheless! Do yourself a favor and look in your pantry and fridge before you leave the house.
3. Compile Your Recipes
We highly recommend selecting recipes that provide you with multiple servings unless you want to cook every day. We suggest choosing no more than six recipes each week (two for breakfast, lunch, and dinner). Be sure to include recipes for any snacks and desserts you want to make, too.
Check out these awesome “easy-to-prep” recipes:
- Slow Cooker Everything Chicken -This is a personal favorite. You can turn it into buffalo chicken one night, barbecue sandwiches the next, and throw it on a salad for lunch the following day!
- Greek Egg Muffins
- 55 Healthy Overnight Oats Recipes
- 7 Easy Meal Prep Ideas
4. Create a List of Ingredients You Need and Head to the Store
As you sort through your kitchen and figure out what you need to purchase for each recipe, begin to make your list. If you plan on meal-prepping ahead of time, make sure that you have the appropriate containers for divvying up recipes into serving sizes. Once you have your list, you can head to the store.
5. Get Prepping!
Preparing meals and snacks for an entire week (or month) may sound daunting, but setting aside designated meal-prep time makes it extremely doable! There are several meal prep ideas that will come in handy, including:
- If you’re going to prep all your meals for the week at once, you won’t need to worry about freezing anything. If you’re only going to meal prep for half the week, be sure to place any extra meat in the freezer. Just remember to remove it from the freezer the day before your next prep day!
- Wash, chop, dice, slice, and grate any fruits, veggies, herbs, and cheeses ahead of time. This will help save you time later.
- Divvy up snacks like veggies, fruits, or nuts, into pre-portioned baggies to make them easy to grab and go.
- If you’re going to use whole grains like quinoa, oats, or rice for more than one meal, consider cooking them up in big batches.
- Whenever you’re able, utilize multiple cooking methods at once. For example, you can put a quiche in the oven, meatballs in the Crock Pot, and chicken on the grill, all at the same time.
Feel free to do anything else ahead of time that you can think of! Soon you will see that creating a meal-plan isn’t complicated, but actually kind of exciting. It’s extremely rewarding to know that you are capable of making and preparing healthy and delicious meals for you and your loved ones to enjoy. All it takes is a little bit of planning and effort to build a healthy meal plan and lifestyle!
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