Meal planning. Either you love it or you are afraid of it. Basically, it means you have majority of your main meals and snacks planned out for the week. Personally, I do not plan my meals too often, though I would like to get into it more. There are benefits and negatives to meal planning – like with everything – and it really comes down to finding what works for you, your goals and your lifestyle.
- It helps you be organised; particularly helpful for those who are busy. You know what groceries to get, you know what to cook and it takes the stress out of thinking.
- It can help save money. By knowing what you’re cooking, you only by the ingredients that you need – instead of buying random products and figuring out what to make!
- Can help you stay on track with your goals. If you have a health goal, then meal planning can help you ensure you’re eating a balanced and varied diet whilst meeting your nutritional needs. It also helps with portioning snacks and be more mindful of what you are eating.
- It can help you learn the foundations of a balanced diet, particularly if you follow a specific dietary pattern such as being began – it can help you see what it looks like and act as a guide until you are able to just prepare food instinctively.
- It can be very inflexible. Having a set structure can make it hard to be spontaneous with food, which can in turn, lead to rigidity around eating and unecessary food rules.
- It may no coincide with your body’s wants. Meal planning is great for structure, but sometimes you just want soup or a cookie and unfortunately that is not in your meal plan – so either you restrict, or eat it, which is usually followed by guilt.
- It isn’t as fun and can get very repetitive. If all you’re having is leftover for lunch, you might get a bit bored with it. It takes out the spontaneity of eating; you may even find it hard to socialise because you’re so stuck to structure!
So really, it comes down to what works for you and what feels good for you. I rarely write specific meal plans for my clients – it doesn’t teach you how to eat for yourself. Instead, if it is something you are interested in, I give you the skills you need to do it yourself (because at the end of the day you’re not supposed to need me!) I use a simple meal plan to sort out my meals for the week, more for organisation than anything else. But I keep it flexible; if I get invited out to eat, then I will. Structure is good but only when it doesn’t control your entire life. My advice is to not count calories either – it is too busy to become obsessed. Instead, include a variety of meals from all food groups, interesting and different snacks, cook seasonally and ultimately listen to your body and it’s needs. If you have just done a big workout and that light soup won’t cut it – then have something more. Remember, freedom to move and freedom to food.