A big issue that you may face, especially after COVID-19 and the UK lockdown, is that you are eating less healthy, or you’re bored of eating the same meals for the last 18 months and you don’t know how to change them. Did you know a lack of variety can do the same damage as eating too much sugar or bad fats? Unhealthy food choices have been linked with chronic diseases such as strokes, coronary heart disease, cancers and type 2 diabetes (1).
Do you Struggle To Find Enough Time To Plan Your Meals?
Many busy workers and parents don’t have the time to create well-balanced, varied, and healthy meal plans (especially when there is always a Deliveroo or UberEats around the corner). Meal planning can be a valuable technique for overcoming time constraints and encouraging a better diet. From writing a shopping list ahead of time to batch cooking, meal planning is a very useful method. Meal planning helps people who have a busy schedule save time and have nutritional meals. This can take away the pressure and stress of thinking of meals on the spot, eating a takeaway or food that doesn’t help you achieve your health and fitness goals. By using a planner to organise your food list you will manage your time better while out shopping. If you’re cooking for the rest of your family you can always ask for their preferences or, if you cook for yourself, you can always ask your friends, how about you each take a turn cooking for one another? This way you and your friends can catch up and share something you love.
Smart Tips For Meal Planning For Beginners:
We asked our Nutrition Coach Jade to share her top tips she gives clients on how to maximise meal prep:
When planning the week in advance, think about your social commitments and write them in on your planner first. Are you eating out or planning a takeaway?
Plan your proteins next - get a variety of protein sources across the week
Pick a new recipe or food to cook with each week to prevent boredom and add variety to your diet!
You can write out a plan for the week ahead by creating a planner on Excel, write it down on a piece of paper or on your phone. Even better, we designed a fancy one with our team at Performance For All that has all of our Nutritionist top tips for meal planning for you to help you through the next year. There is even space for a shopping list! I am super proud of it - meal planner
Why Is Meal Planning Important?
Portion sizes are the key: A study conducted in 2009 by the Sorbonne University has found that meal planning and food portions can lead to healthier habits including; eating more fruit and vegetables, avoiding processed food, like pizza or sausage rolls (5). Using containers for meal portioning is a great way to prevent overeating, this can be very beneficial to those wanting to achieve weight maintenance or weight loss. You can always prepare a substantial supper with at least 4–6 portions to benefit from this strategy (2,3). You can try this method by preparing suitable portions of food into containers and keeping it in the fridge or freezer, following reheating food guidelines and serving it when ready.
Variety in your diet: By having a good variety in your daily plate you can provide your body with all the essential nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. Did you know that you can find plenty of Vitamin A (which helps eyesight, the skin, and the immune system) in cheese and eggs? You could also find Vitamin B (to help turn food into energy) in peas, and wholegrain bread. Don’t forget Iron which is equally important and you find it in red meat or kidney beans! (6,7,8). Based on research you are recommended to include a variety of foods in your eating palette. For example, including plenty of protein and fibre into your diet. It is recommended that you include 30g of fibre in your daily diet (10). Fibre rich foods help keep you fuller for longer, which will also help you feel satisfied with smaller portions. Did you know that how much you eat is equally important with what you eat? The reason behind is because the food choices that we make are essential in helping us to meet our health and fitness goals (3). A good and simple example of “foods” that are high in fibre and are nutrient rich are fruits and vegetables (9,3). To help prevent boredom, you can implement more than one or two recipes per week.
Making use of your freezer: Cooking large quantities of foods and freezing them for later is a smart way to save time and avoid waste. To make your meal planner more enjoyable, try including healthy foods you like, or finding recipes for your favourite dishes that are more nutritious! Freezing your food is a good choice when you have run out of fresh food or if you don’t have time to cook something from scratch. For example, simple necessities like hearty soup, fresh bread from scratch, tomato sauce, and whole meals like lasagne, soup, enchiladas and breakfast burritos may all be prepared by cooking in advance and freezing (11).
Take home message ... meal planning is one of the best ways to monitor what you eat and if you’re getting the nutrition you need. Have a go at planning what you will eat this week, using Jade's top tips.
Are You Still Struggling To Make Your Meal Plan?
Don’t worry we can help you further, get in touch with us to find out Jade’s upcoming availability for 1:1 sessions. During a Zoom Nutrition consultation, she will go through your current eating habits and analyse if you are getting your recommended food groups in and in what proportions. Jade’s nutrition approach is to always think what she can add into your diet not take out.
Written and researched by Ilektra Lampraki - MSc Marketing student (Content Writer at Performance for All)
Edited by Sophie O’Neill - BA Creative Writing student (Content Writer at Performance For All), Abie Richardson (Business Assistant at Performance For All), Jade Mottley Sport Scientist and MSc Human Nutrition student (Head Coach at Performance For All).