Whether you’re preparing dinner for one or cooking for the masses, the benefits of meal planning are abundant. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), planning ahead increases the likelihood that your meal choices will be healthy ones. And according to WebMD®, menu planning is a “great way to make sure you’re eating a balanced diet and meeting your nutritional needs.”
Keep reading to explore these and other benefits of meal planning, plus several ways to promote healthy eating plans.
Benefits of meal planning:
Eat better: Eating well takes work—especially when you’re on the go. Planning ahead encourages you to buy foods based on your healthy meal plan—not what’s driving your taste buds at the time. You’ll also be much more likely to prepare a healthy meal if the ingredients are already in your fridge or pantry.
Save time and money: With menu planning, you know exactly what to buy, making shopping on a budget quick and painless—no more impulse purchases, wasted food or unplanned trips to the store. Another benefit of meal planning: It allows you to cook in bulk and freeze leftovers for a later date.
Decrease stress: Running a household can be stressful. Finding time to prepare a nutritious meal between work, the gym, picking up kids, homework and more can be overwhelming. Knowing what you’ll cook and when takes the stress out of mealtime planning.
Tips for successful meal planning:
Develop and stick to healthy meal plans by following these helpful tips.
- Develop a recipe portfolio: Spend a little time each week looking for recipes to add to your collection of favorites. Don’t forget to include sides, salads and the occasional dessert, too. Whether housed in a pocket file or pinned on Pinterest®, choose a storage method that’s easy for you. Expand your portfolio by asking employees and patients to share their favorite recipes on your social channels. Reward contributors with prize drawings for logo’d recipe book stands, casserole coolers or oven mitts.
- Use a template: Try planning one a week at a time. Jot down what you’d like to eat for the week on a menu planning calendar or template. Use this template to create your shopping list so you’ll have everything you need to create a variety of healthy, nutritious foods.
- Multitask: Why spend more time at the stove if you don’t have to? That ground beef you’re browning for Monday’s spaghetti sauce will work great for Tuesday’s tacos. A little multitasking will allow you to reduce the time you spend slaving over the stove.
- Make the most of leftovers: Want a night off from cooking? Casseroles, soups and stews make excellent leftovers. Prepare a little extra and add them to the menu later in the week. Or you can freeze the extra portions and save them for another time.
Meal planning is an easy, effective way to make healthy food choices and reduce mealtime stress. Encourage your staff and patients to give it a try. They may be surprised by the results.