Ok, I realise this is a bit of a sweeping ‘miracle-cure’ statement but meal planning really can help you lose weight. And I’m not talking about calorie-counting, or cabbage soup or any of those horrendous ‘meal replacement shake’ diets. Nor am I promising that you’ll drop a dress size in 3 days, be bikini-ready in a week, or back to your pre-wedding weight in a fortnight. I’m not silly enough to make those kinds of claims (and nor should you be silly enough to fall for them).
This is about good, old-fashioned sensible eating and a little bit of advanced planning.
Here are some key ways in which meal planning can help you lose weight:
- Meal planning takes the stress out of choosing what to eat. Long-term stress is a contributing factor in weight gain. Less stress = less weight!
- Planning balanced meals means no more getting home, staring at an empty fridge and reaching for a takeaway, standard stodgy pasta supper or packet of biscuits for dinner. Less crap = less weight!
- Cooking an extra portion for dinner means you’ll have leftovers for lunch the next day – again no nutrient-void meal deals, same-old sarnies, or skipping lunch and eating your weight in chocolate buttons at 4pm (ahem!)
- You only buy the ingredients you need for the meals you have planned. That way, there’s no need to add in any ‘surprise’ items like a bumper box of Hob Nobs or a family-size bag of Maltesers. If you don’t have these foods in the house, you won’t be tempted to eat them. Simples. I recommend doing your food shopping online so as not to be tempted by the 3 for 2’s, BOGOFs or unnecessary high sugar treats.
- Meal planning saves you money. Which you can spend on some fancy new activewear to get that bum in shape 😉
It’s really simple, and I’m going to show you how I do it. I’ve even included a 5-day lunch and dinner meal plan for you and a blank planner for you to print out as many times as you like and fill out every week. For breakfast, I suggest you stick to low sugar, high protein options such as:
- Porridge with some nuts and seeds
- Smoothies or Green Smoothies
- Gluten-free or Grain-free granola
- Bircher muesli
- Paleo Bars
- Eggs with smoked salmon
- Avocado on sourdough toast
Step by step instructions on how to meal plan
Sit down on a Saturday or a Sunday with your blank planner and your diary.
In the ‘What’s On’ column on the right, write down all your plans for the week: kids’ activities, nights out, playdates, lunch dates, hubby working late etc.
This allows you to plan in meals to fit around your schedule. You might need a quick supper if you know you’ll be late home one evening, or no supper at all if you’ll be out.
Have a think about what you already have in your fridge and cupboards from last week that can go towards next week’s meals. Having a well-stocked store cupboard and some frozen essentials comes in really handy here.
The idea is that you should only need to top up your shop with fresh ingredients (fruit, veg and meat/fish) every week, and replace your store-cupboard essentials less frequently.
Getting something like an organic vegetable box delivered every week can help with planning meals around some of these ingredients. One less thing to think about!
- Brown rice, lentils and frozen peas:
- Add chicken and broccoli to make a meal grilled chicken on a bed of lentils and rice, with a side of steamed peas and broccoli. I’d add a nice squeeze of lemon and a good drizzle of olive oil over this or it could be a bit dry! A curry is also really easy to throw together with a good stock of spices. This butternut squash, lentil and spinach curry is one of my favourites.
- Frozen prawns and rice noodles:
- Add mixed veg such as spring onions, babycorn and sliced carrots and make a lovely stir-fry with tamari, sesame oil and fresh lime.
- Onions, carrots and sweet potatoes:
- Chuck these in the slow cooker with a pack of diced lamb (lamb casserole recipe) or beef and you’ve got a casserole ready for one of those busy evenings.
Plan your meals in. Try to plan a variety of different vegetables, plant and animal protein throughout the week to ensure you’re getting a good balance of vitamins and minerals. So I might go for two fish dishes, a chicken dish, one or two meat dishes and a vegetarian meal. Although as I am avoiding grains and legumes due my thyroid condition I tend to eat more meat and veg-based dishes at the moment.
You can build up a repertoire of recipes from various places and keep them folder – have a look on blogs, (like this one!), websites like BBC Food, or supplements like the Observer Food Monthly. Waitrose’s free monthly magazine usually has some lovely recipes too. Some weeks, I’ll pick up one of my cookbooks and decide to cook all my meals out of this. It’s a great way of learning new recipes and building up your skills. And actually using a cookbook!
Make your shopping list based on the meals in the planner and aim to do your shopping online.
I’m a big fan of using leftovers for lunch the next day, or building a new meal out of some reheated ingredients of the previous day’s dinner. I have included some tips on how to do this in my 5 day lunch and dinner meal plan which you can access by the clicking the link below.
I don’t like to spend hours in the kitchen any more than the next person, but at the end of a long day, I want to nourish my body with some good food. I hope I can inspire you to get meal planning, get organised, take the stress out of deciding what to eat and, in the long-term, help you to lose weight!