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Break the Perpetual Cycle with Healthy Meal Planning!

To make healthier food choices:

  • We know to “eat more fruits and vegetables.”

  • We know nutrient dense foods will give us more energy and support greater health.

  • We know willpower doesn’t always work, that we need to make other changes to help us reach our goals.

And yet! It is still all too easy to fall back into a perpetual cycle. Yes, they’re also called habits, which is why so many programs and books and educators talk about how long it takes to “break a habit.” But, while the tips associated with habits are backed by a lot of research and they can be super helpful, the physiological response to our habits is not always addressed. We actually classify some of these habits as addictions and there are a variety of them we see or indulge in every day!

Prepared and Proactive

Since it ‘tis the time of year for sports, holiday work and life events, longer work hours to prepare for time off, etc., it’s easy to let healthy nutrition habits and behaviors fall apart. What if, however, we went into the last couple months of the year with a prepared and proactive mindset? A mindset that creates opportunities for healthy eating and healthy living amidst the chaos… A mindset that supports any potential health-focused resolutions NOW… A mindset that is focused but also flexible… Learning how to create and implement a healthy meal plan that works for you, your family, and your situation week by week can be simple, fun, and effective! And help you break any perpetual cycles that you’ve either adopted throughout the years or have succumbed to during stressful times. Whether you commit to a meal-by-meal plan or create more intention solely around dinner time, consider the tips below.

Focus on one!

  1. Baby steps. It is important to realize that any cycle doesn’t have to be broken all at once. Gradual changes are effective and, in many ways, more realistic. For example, we know how addictive sugar is. If you usually have dessert every night, rather than going cold turkey and trying to cut out sweets entirely- make it a special occasion thing instead. If you had a great day at work, enjoy your favorite treat! Another option if you are having cravings? Opt for something lighter and more fibrous, such as berries!

  2. Consult your schedule. After looking in your pantry, refrigerator, freezer, cabinets, etc. for food items you may already have (because why not save money where you can?!), write out the meals needed for the week. Create a super solid grocery list! A super basic, yet sometimes forgotten step is to simply write out who needs what and when in regards to meals/snacks. Are there mornings or evenings which may be particularly hectic? Quick prep meals or a leftover makeover may work best in these situations. A simple google search can help you decide what to do with the extras… For example, rather than making just the right amount of brown rice for your fried rice on Monday, consider making another meal that utilizes brown rice later in the week, like a chicken noodle soup with the rice instead.

  3. Ask for family input or feedback. This step can be a bit tricky, BUT it provides an opportunity for your household to work TOGETHER and for the other people in your home to get excited about eating healthier.

  4. Add the ‘healthy’ in the healthy meal planning. While casseroles, soups, and crockpot dishes are not so cut and dry, remember that balance is key. Creating a “power plate” allows for a flavorful, filling, and nutrient dense meal! Start by picking your vegetables, then add the protein and starch to complement them. Soups make this strategy simple…and the time of the year is perfect for experimenting with different combinations and flavors!

Small Steps = Big Wins

Maybe you focus on all the above – maybe you choose a couple tips that are relevant for you and your lifestyle at this moment. These tips are created to help you simplify the process. A meal plan provides guidance for your day and your week; it allows you (and anyone else who may benefit from your meal planning) to put the very fuel which nourishes your body front and center without added stress or fear or failure.

As with every healthy living transition, small steps lead to big wins. If you make a home cooked meal maybe once a week, consider creating three for the first few weeks of meal planning. If making dinners at home is no big deal and you’re already in the groove, could you plan breakfasts and lunches for the week ahead of time? But, like we said… baby steps! An all or nothing approach can leave us flustered, overwhelmed, and liable to stay in our perpetual cycles. Pick one area in which you’d like to become more intentional and focus on that!