Meal planning should be as effortless as you want your life to be. Keep it simple with a loose structure that provides guidance with flexibility.


Meal planning can be an excellent form of self-care. And by meal planning, we’re not talking about following a generic write-up with a calendar full of meals and snacks. We’re talking about having a few meals planned for the week that sound satisfying and take as much time to prepare as you want them to. This can save you time to do other fun things in your life and reduce the stress of scrambling last minute at every meal, trying to figure out what to eat.

This is where intuitive eating meets meal planning.

If you’re a fan of whipping up meals in less than 30 minutes and use just a handful of ingredients, give these 5 simple tips a try. It makes things easier especially after an eventful day of work, or a fulfilling day living my life.

1. Brainstorm

Come up with 3-4 meals ideas that sound delicious, and will make bomb leftovers for the next day; it never hurts to make a little extra. When planning meals, think about what foods sound good together. Try the “Protein Fat Carb Fiber” (PFCF) method, because having all 3 macronutrients is key to feeling good. And of course, fiber keeps you regular. Each nutrient has a specific role in your body function and your satisfaction.

2. Keep it simple and versatile

When thinking about your meal planning, it’s helpful to use some of the same foods for multiple dishes. For example, you can purchase more peppers, onions and mushrooms because they work great for stir-fry, tacos, or spaghetti. Also try to pick foods that you know you’ll typically eat to limit food waste, unless you’re trying out a new recipe.

3. Make a list: PFCF style

Make your shopping list simpler with these categories: Protein, Fat, Carbohydrates, Fiber. Choose 3-4 under each category for a quick trip to the store. For the fiber category, this is your time to focus on fruits and vegetables. There will likely be other fiber sources in foods you are eating (such as carbohydrates), but this method keeps it simple and ensures that you’ll get in all those nutritious fruits and veggies. You may consider keeping some shelf-stable carbs and fats in bulk at home for future meal planning, such as noodles and oil which take awhile to go bad.

4. Choose foods based on preference vs. obligation

It’s so important to plan meals around foods that you want to eat, not foods that you think you “should” eat. Eating foods that are chosen out of obligation really sucks the pleasure out of eating. Not to mention, research shows that we digest food better when we enjoy it. We can also reduce food waste by choosing foods we know we will eat; there’s nothing worse than a wrinkly eggplant sitting in the back of your fridge.

5. Don’t be afraid to take a shortcut

If you’re a huge fan of convenience, stock up your freezer with frozen veggies, fruits, grains, meals, and of course, ice cream. Using frozen foods can save you prep time and cooking time. Plus, most foods are frozen in their prime, so frozen foods can sometimes taste better than fresh, depending on the season. Other shortcuts include picking up pizza from your favorite place and adding a fresh salad, or heating up a frozen burrito and making some sides.

Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to meal plan; you’re just feeling out what works best for your schedule.

Adapted from the original article.

Hannah Turnbull, RDN, LD is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in Denver, CO helping others build healthy relationships with food and their body.  In a world full of food rules and restriction, she helps individuals navigate what works in their everyday lives.  Learn more at Nourished with Hannah.

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