When you’re learning how to meal plan, creating a healthy meal plan can seem overwhelming. It’s one thing to prepare healthy family dinners, but it’s another thing entirely to switch your entire diet to a healthy lifestyle.
If you’re trying to create healthier recipes for your family, these tips to make a healthy meal plan will be so helpful!
What is a Healthy Meal Plan?
The most difficult part of choosing to follow a new healthy diet can be deciding on what to make. That’s where healthy meal planning comes in.
The first step is to decide on a few favorite dishes and some staple ingredients.
Healthy meal planning also includes eating different foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner throughout the entire week so that you don’t get bored with your food or have a hard time sticking to your eating plan.
A good way to start is by making an inventory of all the healthy foods in your home and then creating a grocery list from that inventory.
How Do I Create a Healthy Meal Plan?
There are many meal planners on the internet, but all of them have their own take on what makes up a healthy diet.
These are the seven steps to create a healthy and satisfying weekly meal plan.
1. Know your dietary needs and decide what your eating habits will be for the week
Are you vegetarian? Do you eat dairy? Are you on a diet, like Weight Watchers? Will you be cooking meat or getting takeout? Remembering what foods to eat each day is hard enough without having to think about how those foods might be prepared.
So make a list of all the healthy meals you could possibly want to eat. Break it down into meals and snacks.
By identifying your food preferences and needs ahead of time, you can save time when going to the grocery store and have more specific choices for preparing food at home.
2. Establish a budget
The goal of a healthy meal plan is not just to save money but also to know what you are eating.
In order to set a budget for a healthy meal plan, you first need to take into account the number of people in your household.
Next, you will need to account for the types of food that you enjoy cooking and eating.
Take into account any dietary restrictions or any allergies that might affect the list of foods that can be included in your meal plan. Often, allergen-free and organic foods are more expensive, so it’s important to plan for that in your food budget.
It is important to note that it is usually cheaper for families of four or more people to cook together and purchase their food in bulk. The more people involved in the process, the more bargaining power you have when purchasing groceries.
Finally, you can calculate how much it will cost per person.
It is possible to eat healthy on a budget. Here’s how to create a cheap weekly meal plan.
If you’re watching your budget while trying to meal plan, get the Organized Kitchen Binder for an all-in-one place to store your printable meal plans, kitchen inventory sheets, and recipes.
3. Plan meals around your favorite ingredients
A healthy meal plan should include things that you enjoy eating and will not restrict your diet.
Above all else, you want to follow a diet that’s sustainable, so don’t be afraid to include some of your favorite ingredients and make substitutions when needed with healthier alternatives.
- Start with a few ingredients that you enjoy eating, such as chicken, avocado, and broccoli.
- Make a list of recipes that use those ingredients (such as chicken cacciatore or avocado toast).
- Choose a recipe from the list or create your own.
- Break the recipe up in monthly grocery shopping lists and assemble your pantry accordingly.
- Add in a few of your favorite ingredients to spice up the food (tomato sauce, bacon).
4. Prepare a shopping list for needed ingredients
Creating a shopping list is a chore that many people put off.
To get organized, start by writing down all of the items you need to buy and then breaking them up into categories (see an example grocery list below).
You can also make a note of the prices of each item. If you see it on sale, buy a large quantity.
5. Shop and prep food in advance whenever possible
Plan the cooking day in advance (e.g., Monday or Sunday).
Grab all the ingredients required for that day’s recipe, clean out the fridge, then start cooking the recipe.
Keep in mind that fresh ingredients will give you more nutritional benefits and often taste better than canned or frozen foods.
That said, cook in batches whenever possible. I often batch cook chicken for the week, and freeze it in pre-cooked one pound packs for easy meal prep on busy weeknights.
Freezer meals are also a great way to prepare entire meals in advance. I love using MyFreezEasy’s Clean Eats menu or allergen-friendly recipes to create a done-for-you healthy meal plan.
The best part is that MyFreezEasy’s meal planning app gives you step-by-step instructions to quickly prepare and freeze healthy freezer meals for another day.
6. Identify which days are busiest for you and plan accordingly
Mark your schedule on your meal planner, and prepare easier recipes on your busiest nights.
7. Bon Apetit!
Printable Healthy Meal Planner
If you’re trying to use a healthy meal planner for weight loss, get the Fab and Fit Meal Planner and Fitness Tracker to create a healthy meal plan and track your weight loss goals.
Healthy Meal Plan Ideas for a Grocery List
Here are some of the items you might want to include in your basic grocery shopping list for healthy meals:
- Grains, such as quinoa, brown rice, and farro
- Dairy and Eggs
- Baking Supplies (try to use healthy alternatives, such as whole wheat flour)
- Healthy Fats, such as olive oil
- Spices, including minced garlic
What is my Ideal Healthy Meal Plan?
Most people think that losing weight is a hard process, but it is not impossible.
First, it’s important to know what your current lifestyle looks like. Figure out your current daily calorie intake and determine if there are any patterns in the food you’re eating. If you know that you’re eating more than you should be every day, then it might be time for a change in diet or exercise routine.
The process of losing weight is difficult, but not impossible. It will take a lot of work and discipline to get the results that you want.
If you are serious about changing your lifestyle, here are some steps that may help you lose weight by creating your ideal meal plan:
1) Find out how many calories you should eat each day for your specific height, weight, and activity level.
Our bodies need a certain number of calories to maintain their current weight. The problem is that most people consume too many calories every day.
If you are trying to lose weight, the first thing you need to do is figure out how many calories your body needs in order to maintain its weight.
So, how do you find out how many calories your body needs in order to maintain its weight?
The answer to this question varies based on your gender, weight, and height.
The U.S Department of Health and Human Services recommends that women consume at least 1,200 calories per day to maintain their weight. Men should consume at least 1,800 calories per day.
Next, find out what your macronutrient ratio is (that is, how much protein versus fat versus carbohydrates). A macronutrient ratio is the percentage of fat, carbohydrates, and protein a person should consume.
To find your macronutrient ratio, you can use a simple online tool like MyFitnessPal. This app can give you your macronutrient ratio based on the foods you eat each day – just plug them into the app.
2) Start eating healthier foods and drink more water. Once you get a better idea of how much you should eat and how much you’re currently eating, it’s time to eat healthier.
One of the best ways to lose weight is by changing your diet, or “changing your macros.”
A good macronutrient ratio is a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. It’s important to maintain this balance to ensure that your body can use the nutrients appropriately.
Without good macronutrient ratios, the brain and muscles won’t receive the nutrients they need to be healthy and strong.
Your macronutrient ratio is what determines if you need to lose weight, maintain your weight, or gain weight.
The percentage ratios for a good macronutrient ratio are:
- Fat: 20%
- Protein: 30%
- Carbohydrates: 50%
3) Cut back on your sugar and alcohol intake.
In addition to eating healthier foods, it’s also important to reduce the amount of unhealthy foods you consume.
In particular, alcohol and sugar are doing you NO favors, so you’ll be able to see tangible results almost immediately if you cut them from your diet.
What is a Good Menu for Losing Weight?
In order to lose weight, you need to eat healthy food.
A good menu for losing weight would include healthy, balanced meals with vegetables, fruits, proteins and carbohydrates. It is important to drink enough water to stay hydrated as well.
Foods that are high in protein and low in fat will help you keep your metabolism going. Also, avoid foods that have sugar or a lot of carbs like pasta, bread, rice, corn and cereals.
- High protein: eggs, beans, fish;
- Low fat: chicken breast with the skin removed;
- Healthy fats: Extra virgin olive oil; nuts like almonds or walnuts;
- Avoid sugar: processed foods like cereal bars or cookies;
- Avoid carbs: pasta, breads and other cereal grains
A good menu for losing weight is one that has a balance of all three macronutrients.
For instance, a nutritionally balanced breakfast would contain protein, carbs, and fat. Protein can be in the form of eggs or peanut butter with some fruit on toast. Carbs are in the form of whole-grain toast or oatmeal with honey and almonds. A fat source would be an avocado or bacon on top of eggs.
Another good breakfast option for weight loss would be a protein shake with low-fat yogurt, strawberries, bananas and blueberries.
A good lunch meal for weight loss would be a turkey sandwich with alfalfa sprouts on whole wheat bread.
For dinner, a similar meal to lunch would work well. A pasta dish made with light tomato sauce and lean ground beef or chicken breast meat is another option.
Snacks should include nuts and whole grains like popcorn or chips made with soybean oil.
A menu plan is usually a diet plan that has specific instructions on what you can eat and when you can eat it. It helps to keep track of what you are eating because it lays out all the food and drink choices in front of you so there is no room for confusion.
Next Steps to Creating a Healthy Lifestyle
In addition to following a healthy meal plan, eating healthier foods, and avoiding or reducing the amount of sugar and alcohol you consume, there are other things you can do to follow a healthy lifestyle.
For more information, check out these tips and resources: