Planning a week’s worth of healthy, diet-conscious meals for you and your family is important to ensure that your meals are nutritious and within your calorie goals. Though it can be tough to find time to plan menus, shop for ingredients and actually make the food each day, the added nutrients you get from eating fresh food prepared at home are significant. And if you can manage to stick to a meal plan, the process becomes easier and easier in time. Keep simple tips and advice in mind to help pull off a weekly diet plan.
Plan your meals for each day of the week. Allow for some flexibility in your planning–for example, you could switch meals around or eat out one night of the week. Try to balance food groups and make sure that you meet the nutritional guidelines of the USDA Food Pyramid (www.mypyramid.gov).
Compose a grocery list that includes all items you’ll need for that week’s planned menu. Try to prepare meals with highly perishable ingredients, such as fresh greens or crisp vegetables, early in the week so that you can use more stable and long-lasting vegetables and foods later in the week without having to make another trip to the store.
Limit grocery trips to once or twice a week to save money and avoid buying unnecessary ingredients and foods that you won’t eat, and stick to your list when you do shop. Avoid packaged, prepared, processed or convenience foods, and focus on the ingredients you need for making meals and snacks at home. Keep pantry staples such as olive oil, canned fruits and vegetables, rice and pasta on hand at all times so you can easily make a quick meal.
Make satisfying and simple snacks a part of your weekly diet. Combine food groups to get a variety of nutrients; an apple and peanut butter, milk and whole-grain crackers, and low-fat cottage cheese with fresh fruit are all good choices. Keep these items in plain view so they are available to all family members whenever they get hungry between meals.
Simplify your weekly diet planning and save time by preparing food when you have the time. Chop vegetables and fruits late in the morning or at night, if that is the only free time you have during the day. Make lunches, snacks and quick meals ahead of time, and store them in airtight containers in the refrigerator. Use a slow cooker and ingredients like precut vegetables to reduce meal preparation time.
Save money on groceries and simplify meal planning by going through weekly circular ads for grocery stores and using coupons when you shop. Save more money, and boost the nutritional value of your meals, by cooking with local, in-season ingredients.