Meal planning

Sincerely Stefanie: Meal Planning for Dummies

Sept. 6, 2017
Eating healthy throughout the week can be a challenge when balancing family, friends, work and life.

I’m terrible at meal planning. I eat out for lunch almost every day. I rationalize spending money on fast food with the fact that food is a necessity. However, it’s definitely not the healthiest, and it’s something on which I can improve.

The hardest part about meal planning is not deciding what to eat during the day, but grocery shopping for other meals and snacks that actually are healthy and could help me avoid daydreaming about food at 10 a.m. or early afternoon after I’ve already had sufficient calories.

With our busy lives, it’s hard to keep a regimented shopping list and to always choose the best, healthiest options. People invite you to eat at their house – leaving the cooking to them. You go to a function that has endless tables of pizza and chips. You get invited out with some friends for drinks and dinner.

It’s common to not make food at home. According to, the average American gets takeout or goes to a restaurant an average of four to five times per week, or around $232 per month on commercially-prepared food rather than making a meal at home. In addition, the average restaurant or takeout meal costs more then $12, which easily can add up.

So, what lifestyle changes can a busy worker make to make sure he/she is not starving all day, thinking about the next meal rather than being productive as well as being healthy?

A May 2015 article written by John Rampton provides 12 tips to juggling a busy lifestyle.

1. Don’t skip breakfast.
Missing breakfast can be detrimental to your health. Rampton cites a link between skipping breakfast with obesity and diabetes. My personal favorite choices for early mornings are oatmeal, pita with peanut butter and bananas or some fruit.

2. Prepare snacks.
Prepare healthy choices such as nuts and other snackables to munch on throughout the day.

3. Don’t wait until last minute.
The article suggests taking the weekend to prepare meals which can be frozen and thawed or last all week. This way, there is less temptation to eat out.

4. Purchase grab-and-go snacks.
Just as with number two, healthy options are essential, but they always are not available in vending machines. Rampton suggests granola bars or raisins.

5. Don’t eat and work.
Multitasking doesn’t always produce the best quality of work, and eating mindlessly on the job can prove detrimental to your waistline, according to the article.

6. Eat with coworkers.
Going along with No. five, all attention should be on food portions. Eating with others can help recharge your brain for the rest of the work day as well as make better meal choices.

7. Drink water.
Your body can mistake thirst for hunger. So, staying hydrated and drinking water could save you from making the wrong menu choices.

8. Choose healthy options at restaurants.
Substitute a steamed vegetable as a side or a small salad instead of French fries. This alone can save you a few hundred calories.

9. Make family dinners a priority.
A healthy work-life balance can be achieved while spending time with family after work or eating out with friends, Rampton says.

10. Grocery shop wisely.
This might be the most difficult thing with which I’ve struggled. Look at what you already have available in the fridge and pantry, make a list of exactly what you need and stick to it. It also will save you the hassle of wandering aimlessly up and down grocery store aisles.

11. Choose quality.
A reoccurring theme throughout this list – sugar and empty calories will leave you daydreaming about your next meal, according to Hampton. Choosing healthier, nutrient-rich options could keep you full for longer.

12. Limit alcohol.
Happy hours are fun, but being cognizant of the calories in those couple drinks could save you from some weight gain.

Lifestyle changes are hard, but once you are in the habit, it will be easier to keep making the right choices when it comes to eating right. For me, it’s easier said than done, but I’m up to the challenge. Are you?

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