How Planning Can Make Healthy Eating EASIER


By Melinda Maryniuk, MEd, RD, CDCES

For most people, planning ahead is the single most important thing they can do to control what they eat for meals and snacks.  When you shop from a list or plan your meals ahead of time, you’re more likely to stick to your goals.  Consider taking time to prepare snacks for the week or do meal prep so meals are not only ready-when-you-are, but also in the right amounts (to avoid having larger portions or seconds).  Planning ahead also means checking a restaurant menu before you go or offering to bring a dish when going to a neighbor’s for dinner.  It also means planning time for physical activity – and sticking to it!  Think about the ways you can be in more control of what you eat by taking the time to plan ahead!

What to Do:

  • Create a list of go-to meals and snacks (along with the shopping lists of ingredients needed) that fit your meal plan.

  • During the weekend, think about your week ahead. Is there a day in the week that you know is going to be challenging either emotionally or time-wise? Is there a way you can meal prep a healthy meal for that day or do you have something healthy in the freezer you could eat? Thinking through your week ahead of time and brainstorming solutions can help avoid problems before they arrive.

  • Even if you don’t have time to plan for the full week ahead, writing down what you plan to eat the following day is helpful for many people. Committing to a plan on paper will help you stick to it.  Include the portion sizes and snacks.

  • Always have a shopping list when you go to the grocery store and try not to shop on an empty stomach. Sticking to your list will help you avoid impulse buys which are usually not so healthy.

  • Keep ingredients for quick, low-calorie meals in your pantry or freezer so you can throw together something quickly instead of ordering out for pizza. For example, frozen chicken breasts or shrimp can pair well with a bag of frozen veggies for a stir-fry.

  • On days when you know cooking is going to be a challenge, consider using a meal replacement shake or snack bar for lunch or a healthy choice frozen meal for dinner to help control calories.

  • If you know you are going out to dinner, check the menu online before you go and decide what will fit into your meal plan. Having a plan and committing to a healthy option ahead of time will help you feel less tempted by unhealthy choices once you’re actually at the restaurant.

  • Prepare meals and snacks ahead of time and put them in perfect-portion freezer containers or snack bags so they are ready to go.

  • If you learned you’re someone who eats mindlessly when they are bored, make a list of other activities! Quick ones that can redirect your attention from having an unwanted snack include: brushing or flossing your teeth, checking your email, jotting a quick note off to a friend (or reaching out to your weight-loss buddy), or popping a piece of chewing gum in your mouth.

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