Following a new diet is hard when you don’t have a strategy in place to help. We’re big fans of meal planning here at 310 Nutrition. Have you heard the phrase, “if you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail?” It applies here, and for one main reason: meal planning makes food decisions for you.
As you’re learning what it looks like to eat well and live a healthy lifestyle, it takes time to build new habits. Plans put parameters in place to help you learn those new habits. For instance, planning ahead to have healthy snacks in your purse will keep you from making a bad decision out of desperation. Or knowing you have a delicious, healthy meal waiting for you will help you say “no” to grabbing a fast food meal on the way home.
As an added bonus, meal planning will save you time and money. Going into the grocery store with a specific list will keep impulse purchases to a minimum. Not having to run out every other night for last-minute ingredients will save you time. You’re also guaranteed to spend less time standing in front of the fridge waiting for a hot cooked meal to materialize out of thin air!
If meal planning sounds intimidating to you, there’s good news: to get you started, there are plenty of diets that lend themselves perfectly to meal planning. Besides following basic diet guidelines to lose weight, these three popular (and healthy) diets are specifically proven to help you shed pounds. And due to their popularity, you can find a multitude of meal plans already drawn up for you. An added benefit is each of these can be easily adapted for people following a gluten free diet!
Healthy Diets to Incorporate Into Your Life
Based on what our prehistoric ancestors ate, the Paleo diet prioritizes meats and vegetables. Eating natural, organic, grass-fed, and raw foods is important. Foods given a thumbs up include meat, fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds, and healthy fats and oils. Foods to avoid are anything processed, sugar, grains, dairy products, and legumes.1
Low Carb Diet
This diet focuses on eating healthy, natural foods that are low in carbohydrates. An emphasis is put on eating meat, seafood, fruits and veggies, nuts, and healthy oils and fats. Sugar, artificial foods of any kind, processed foods, and grains containing gluten are on the “do not eat” list.2
Recently regaining popularity, the Mediterranean diet recommends eating foods common to people living around the Mediterranean Sea in the 1960’s. It’s based on research showing these people were much healthier and disease-free than their contemporaries in America. Foods to be eaten in large quantities are vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds, whole grains, fish and seafood, and olive oil. Foods avoided are red meat, added sugars, and anything refined or highly processed.3
As you familiarize yourself with the foods you’re supposed to focus on and avoid in the diet you follow, it won’t be long before you can develop a meal plan of your own. Here are a few steps…
Steps to Stick to Your Diet
Step 1: Keep a list of approved foods close.
You’ve probably figured out most of the in’s and out’s of your diet, but it never hurts to keep a reminder nearby. If you don’t already have one, create a list of foods in three categories: Frequent, Occasional, and Avoid. Use this list as your guide when looking through recipes.
Step 2: Pick your recipes.
List out the meals you need to account for, and don’t forget about planning your snacks, too! As you look over recipes, just keep your list of foods nearby to reference when you need to. Keep in mind that recipes can be altered when needed to fit your dietary needs. Pinterest is a great resource to look for ideas.
Step 3: Make your list and go to the store.
What ingredients will you need? What kitchen staples are you low on? Always check your cupboards for what you already have on hand so you don’t buy unnecessary items. While you’re grocery shopping, limit yourself to buying only what you wrote on your list and refuse impulse purchases.
Step 4: Prep for the week.
Once you have everything you need, do as much prep work ahead of time as you can. For your snacks, pre-portion them out into snack bags to grab and go as needed. For your lunches, get as much ready in Tupperware as you can. For dinners, precut veggies and meats.
Step 5: Enjoy!
Your hard work will pay off. Putting in the extra time on the front end will pay off well for you in the long run, making it easier for you to stay on track with your new healthy lifestyle.
To answer the question, “Do I have to meal plan?” the answer is, “No.” But will it help you stay on target and reach your weight loss goals? Yes. And once you’ve achieved that ideal weight, meal planning will help you maintain your new healthy lifestyle much more easily.