Choose a day that is most convenient for you and make it your “plan” day. Label this day in your calendar whether that’s on your smartphone or paper. This will be your day to write out what you will eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the week.
Below is a chart that I provide to my clients as a rubric to help them outline what they will eat during the upcoming week. For some, planning in general can be difficult, so no reason to overcomplicate this. Keep your plan simple for the first one to two weeks, until you get the hang of planning/rotating healthy meal options. Start your plan by choosing two items for breakfast and two items for lunch; then rotate for the week. In regards to dinner, I typically suggest incorporating/rotating a vegetable, grain and a main protein. While making your weekly list of meals, decide if there’s anything unhealthy you could skip; for instance, the cheese on your salad (cuts calories and fat) or the oil on your vegetables (substitute regular salad dressing with balsamic vinegar to save calories at lunch time). If you are someone who frequently goes out to eat during the week, plan ahead which restaurant(s) you will go to, look over their menu, and choose what you will eat accordingly.
Making a grocery list (like the one pictured below) may seem like a mundane task but it could help you lose weight. According to a new study in the journal of nutrition education and behavior, those who made a shopping list before going to the store had a healthier weight than those who didn’t. Even though you just planned your meals for the week and may know exactly what you need to get, writing out a list and sticking to it will help lessen the temptation to purchase random foods or prevent old behaviors such as buying two pints of ice cream because it is on sale. Constantly remind yourself while shopping that if the food is not on the list, you can’t buy it. Don’t try to justify buying chips because the kids like them or purchase bakery cookies because it’s your roommate’s birthday. When trigger foods are in the house, it’s much easier to give into temptation.
I am a big believer in batch cooking. First, decide which starches, vegetables and protein (fish, chicken, tofu, beef etc.) you will prepare for the week. Then, after you purchase your food items, decide on a day to prep, set aside 1-2 hours and start cooking! (Time will vary depending on the complexity of your meal choices.)
Even if you’re often short on time, there’s always a way to work it in to your schedule. For instance, there will be some mornings during the week that I will bake chicken (about 25 minutes) while I shower and get dressed for work. Before I leave, I will place the chicken in a Tupperware container and separate it into individual servings when I get home.
Here are some batch cooking suggestions:
When choosing starches for the week, I encourage my clients to batch cook quinoa (a super grain!) to eat as a side dish or top a salad for the week. Another nutritious starch to keep on hand is sweet potatoes. All you have to do is cut them into wedges, drizzle with olive oil and roast at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.
Include a good source of protein into your daily meals such as chicken, turkey, fish or tofu. A good serving size typically is 4-5 ounces per meal. You can grill a couple of chicken breasts or bake fish (only keeps well in the refrigerator for 2 days) for either lunch or dinner, and boil off some eggs as a snack. I keep a carton of eggs around just in case I decide to incorporate a veggie omelet into your weekly plan.
Don’t forget, vegetables should always be included at lunch and dinner. Make this recommendation a reality. Purchase spring mix to incorporate into your lunch. For dinner, choose two different vegetables, such as broccoli and asparagus, and rotate them as options for the week.