The Benefits of Meal Planning

Menu planning involves eating at home more. Having a balanced diet will help meet your nutritional needs.

the benefits of meal planning

6 Reasons to Meal Plan

1. A Template of What to Expect

Instead of thinking of meal options on the spot, form a template to incorporate a variety of foods. There are many meal planning applications you can use on your phone. Search for relevant website to help you plan your meals.

Write down a list of healthy meal options to correspond with your weekly schedule. Having a template allows you to be more flexible and less stressed.
Without a meal planning template, you may find yourself looking at everything in your fridge, freezer and pantry to find out what you can make with a limited number of ingredients. If you know you have a busy schedule, try finding suitable slow cooker recipes and prepare a dish earlier in the day so it’s ready by the time you arrive home.

2. It Allows You to Try Something Different

Change up your meal options by having breakfast for dinner. You can also plan some meatless meals. Incorporate some old favourite recipes and some new ones. You will be more likely to stick to this healthy habit by trying something different.

3. Incorporate Seasonal and Local Meals

Pick seasonal vegetables and fruits and find suitable recipes to create delicious meals. Ripe seasonal produce tends to be cheaper and tastes great. Buy seasonal produce in bulk when it goes on sale. You can preserve these fruits and vegetables at home. Popular seasonal fruits include berries, mangos, peaches and nectarines which can be chopped up and put in the freezer to use at a later time. Seasonal fruits and vegetables may have a higher nutritional value due to antioxidants and vitamins.

Seasonal produce is more environmentally friendly than overseas produce because it requires less transportation, refrigeration, irradiation and hot houses. It can be challenging to find local and seasonal produce throughout the year. However, it is important to make beneficial decisions to save money and improve your health when possible.

Seasonal produce has less contaminates than overseas produce. It can be difficult to determine the health regulations for fruits and vegetables sourced from overseas. Pesticides, herbicides and fungicides are harmful chemicals that can be sprayed on fruits and vegetables.

Some countries have banned these negative chemicals. There are many countries with relaxed laws about using these substances. These countries may not enforce soil contamination tests to guarantee sufficient land and soil quality used in agriculture. There are some agricultural areas with very high amounts of heavy metal and various toxic contaminates because of nearby industrial sites. Poor hygiene practices have also contributed to contamination and infection.

Locally sourced seasonal produce appears noticeably more vibrant and brighter compared to transported and preserved fruits and vegetables. You will know exactly where your produce comes from, how it was harvested and you will feel great about supporting local farmers. Preserved and transported produce usually appears quite dried up and limp. This type of produce has a reduction in phyto-nutrients. To further the shelf life of out of season produce, large markets and grocers buy it after it has been gassed, irradiated of germs and preserved in wax.

Vegetables

Some great winter vegetables include Brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, and celery. Some popular spring vegetables are broccoli, cabbage and carrots. Great summer vegetables include beets and bell peppers. Fall vegetables include many types of squash, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, butter lettuce, cauliflower, and Chinese long beans, radishes, jalapeno peppers, Swiss chard, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, turnips and mushrooms.

Fruits

Many winter fruits are citrus which are quite rich in vitamin C to prevent infections like colds and flu’s. Citrus fruits help protect our immune system. They are high in fiber and flavonoids.

Winter fruits include:

  • Clementines
  • Date plums
  • Dates
  • Grapefruits
  • Kiwis
  • Mandarin oranges
  • Papayas
  • Oranges
  • Passion fruit
  • Pears
  • Persimmons
  • Pomegranates
  • Red currants
  • Tangerines

Some spring fruits are:

  • Strawberries
  • Apricots
  • Honeydew
  • Limes
  • Lychee
  • Mangos
  • Oranges
  • Pineapples
  • Rhubarb

Summer fruits like stone fruits contain extra beta-carotenes and various carotenoids to help protect against sun damage. There are many long term effects of sun damage from UV exposure such as accelerating skin aging, causing pigment changes and changes in the skin cells. Modifications in the skin cells can lead to skin cancer. It’s important to protect yourself against harmful UV exposure and sun damage by wearing adequate clothing, lots of sunscreen with enough SPF and eating summer fruits rich in carotenoids.

Great summer fruits include:

  • Cherries
  • Asian pear
  • Black crowberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Boysenberries
  • Black currants
  • Grapes
  • Elderberries
  • Figs
  • Mulberries
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Raspberries

Some fall fruits are:

  • Cape gooseberries
  • Crab apples
  • Cranberries
  • Guava
  • Huckleberries
  • Kumquats

4. Think of The Plate

You should have lots of fruits and vegetables on half of your plate. Choose colourful fruits. For optimal health, you should eat many different kinds of vegetables.

A quarter of your plate should contain lean protein. Some popular types of lean protein include poultry, fish, beans and nuts. You should limit your consumption of red meat and cheese. Resist bacon, cold cuts and various types of processed meats.

Select whole grains to cover the rest of your plate. Choose from many whole grain options such as whole-wheat bread, brown rice and whole-grain pasta. You should limit eating white rice and white bread which are refined grains.

If you are bringing a lunch, make sure you incorporate all essential food groups and the right amount of everything. Think of eating healthy by looking at the food pyramid. You should have well balanced meals.

When cooking, use healthy oils such as olive and canola. You can even use them on salads because they have less fat, sugar and calories than many standard salad dressings. Make sure to avoid all trans fat, especially in processed foods.

5. Think of Others

People with Allergies

Ask others to find out if they have any food allergies or preferences. You may need to make changes to your planned meals. Some people may be sensitive to peanuts, tree nuts, milk, wheat, shellfish or soy.

Children

If you have kids, you may be familiar with the question, “what’s for dinner?” Help them decide on multiple healthy meal options throughout the week. They will be more likely to eat what you have made for them.

6. Get What You Need

You won’t have to look for meal ideas while you are at the store. Meal planning allows you to buy only the food products you need for preparation. You will be able to resist impulse purchases on prepackaged foods.

By having weekly meal plans, you don’t have to buy any prepackaged meals. As a result of not buying prepackaged foods, you will have less waste. Each week, think of some entrees, side dishes and healthy desserts. You won’t have any leftovers because of each the weekly meals will be consumed in due time.

You will feel better by being more frugal and preparing healthy meals at home. The more you get into the habit of meal planning, the easier it will be to carry out on a long term basis. Feel free to make some adjustments as you establish this routine. By having weekly meal plans, you will be less stressed. You will feel better about eating right on a regular basis.

Samantha Merz

Samantha lives in Vancouver, BC. Samantha is an avid volunteer in the community, enjoys singing and playing badminton.

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