The key to eating healthy foods is having healthy foods to eat, every day. The way to having healthy foods to eat takes just a little planning and preparation. Follow these easy steps to help you have healthy meals every day, and save money too!
- Plan a weekly menu
- Look at your schedule each week and plan meals accordingly.
- Be realistic about how much time you have to prepare breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. For example, don’t plan to make a time-consuming meal for dinner when you are running kids around in the afternoon or have to work late that day, etc. This may lead you to just run through a drive-thru instead of cooking. Instead, plan a quick, easy to put together meal, like crockpot tacos, that take only minutes to assemble.
- Look at cookbooks or websites for meal ideas. Figureweightloss.com has some great recipes!
- Check grocery store ads for sales and coupons – this is a great way to save money and to see what is fresh and in abundance for the week.
- Write down each balanced meal (especially lunch and dinner) for the week on a calendar.
- Balanced meals include protein, vegetables and/or fruit, grains and dairy.
Plan quick, healthy breakfast foods that always include protein for those busy mornings. Ex: Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, high protein (low carb) drinks, eggs, ham, etc.
Plan for lunch: Make extra dinner to use as leftovers for lunch or have easy to assemble ingredients, such as low-sodium lunchmeat and low-carb tortillas to make a quick wrap.
*Tip: Save your weekly menus and rotate them out. Be sure to note where to find the recipes you use.
Make a grocery list to shop for the week
- Check the refrigerator, freezer and pantry for ingredients you will need to buy for the week based on the menu you made
- Don’t shop hungry! – It is easy to buy too much or make poor choices when you are hungry
- Only purchase what is on your list – this will help keep food cost down and keep you from grabbing something unhealthy just because it looked good at the moment.
- Keep most of your shopping around the perimeter of the store. Most of the processed, high sodium foods are in the middle aisles.
- Read food labels and compare key nutrients, like protein, carbohydrates, calories and sodium.
Plan 1 -2 hours on the weekend to prepare for the week
- Boil eggs to use for breakfast, snacks, egg salad.
- Wash and cut up fruits and vegetables ahead of time will help during those rushed mornings or evenings.
Cook large batches of food and freeze into single portions
- Low-carb muffins/pancakes: make double batch and freeze in a single layer or between wax paper. Can defrost in seconds in the microwave.
- Cook a whole chicken, pork roast or beef roast in a crockpot with a little stock and any seasonings you like. Remove meat and cool. Discard bones, fat and/or skin. Shred meat, and freeze in single portion size freezer bags or spread out on a cookie sheet (in batches if necessary), place in freezer for 10 min., then place in a large freezer bag (this method makes it easy to defrost and pull out as much or as little as you want at a time).
Make meals work double duty
- For example: Grill extra chicken for dinner and pair with roasted veggies. The next evening, use the leftover chicken and veggies for a stir-fry or use to make chicken quesadillas.
Keep a few pre-cooked foods on hand that can be put together for a quick and easy balanced meal when time is at a minimum
- Frozen vegetables – these are just as healthy as fresh and without the sodium that is in canned vegetables
- Pre-cooked chicken breasts or shrimp – use these to make quick fajitas or stir-fry
- Canned beans – use for fast and easy quesadillas on low-carb tortillas, or use as a side dish. Make sure to rinse beans when possible to reduce sodium intake.
Remember: Once you have a planning and preparation system in place, you will save time, money and calories in the long run!