One of the biggest problems my eCourse students and readers have is meal planning. It seems so daunting and too time consuming that it can paralyze people from even trying. Many students feel like meal planning is the key to their success eating plant-based.
Although it's absolutely possible to eat a plant-based diet successfully without meal planning, knowing how to meal plan regularly, even if you don't like it, can be a very helpful skill to have. Here's 5 tips to meal plan quickly and regularly, even if you hate it.
1. Have someone else meal plan for you.
The easiest way to meal plan when you hate doing it is to have someone else do it for you! There are a few services you can order from that will send you healthy, plant-based meal plans with recipes so all you have to do is show up at the grocery store (full disclosure - I've never tried these two vegan meal planning services before nor do I get any kickbacks for sharing this with you).
This is also one of the reasons my husband and I founded Trisha's Healthy Table in Columbia, SC -- to make eating plant-based dinners easier when you're not up for planning or grocery shopping. Just order online and pick-up on the date you've scheduled and you're done!
Okay well what do you do when you actually have to meal plan but really don't like doing it?
2. Schedule 10 minutes a week to meal plan.
Schedule just 10 minutes a week in your planner (seriously! - schedule a time to plan!) to do this every week. Once you start doing it continuously every week, it'll become a habit.
You don't have to make a brand new meal plan every single week. Keep it the same as the week before, or just switch out one or two meals for something new.
3. Choose simple and quick meals
I use to make meal plans for clients (years ago) that included a different breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert and snack for every single day of the week. Problem with that was, it was too overwhelming for people to try and make 32 different food items a week (they did get a lot of recipes though!).
I don't recommend trying to cook gourmet meals, or spend 1.5 hours cooking every night, especially if you're busy. Make eating a healthy, vegan diet as easy as possible on yourself. Your meal plan should reflect this.
You can use the microwave, a rice cooker, boxed soups, an electric pressure cooker etc. to help make eating plant-based easier.
Remember all of this when you meal plan. Don't try and make more than 3 brand new dinners in a week. Stick with planning and cooking what you already know and slowly add new recipes over time (if you want. You don't have to!).
The simpler you keep your meals, the simpler eating a healthy, plant-based diet (and meal planning) is going to be. What's easier... preparing 100% whole wheat spaghetti with jarred marinara sauce with a side of pre-cut and pre-washed salad mix OR making veggie lasagna from scratch for dinner? Bake a butternut squash and saute kale and garlic while the squash is in the oven and dinner is done. You're more likely to eat healthier keeping your meals simply this way too.
4. Just focus on planning dinner.
Breakfast is generally pretty easy to eat plant-based and lunches can be dinner left-overs. You're biggest concern, and where you should focus the most energy meal planning, is dinner.
To avoid being overwhelmed, just pick 3 to 5 dinners that you'd enjoy eating for dinner that week. Then, rotate through them throughout the week. This means you might eat pasta on Monday and Thursday. Here's a few examples of quick dinners to choose from...
- Pasta (100% whole-grain), jarred marinara and a side salad
- Burrito bowl: a mix and match of rice, corn and or beans; salsa, tomatoes, romaine lettuce or spinach and avocado
- Cashew-alfredo linguini and broccoli
- Veggie burgers, oil-free potato fries and a salad
- Veggie pizza (we buy Trader Joe's whole-wheat crust)
- Bean and veggie soup
You can also make these same dinners a little different each week to make the planning easy but the taste a bit varied. Use different types of pasta for pasta night; different veggies and grains for burrito bowls; seasonal veggies in the veggie burgers and different toppings for pizza.
5. Store your meal plan on your phone or make copies
Take a photo of your list of dinners and the ingredients they include on your phone. You can also store this info on an app, in your notes or in email. Just make it accessible on your phone. That way, when you're in the store but didn't actually make a meal plan for the week (or forgot it), you'll still know what to buy and make for dinner.
If you're a pen and paper type person, make copies of your dinner meal plan. I recommend storing a few copies in your glove box, your purse, as well as your kitchen. Just be sure they make it to the store with you!
Now it's time to hear from you! Your voice matters and it's helpful for others (especially women!). Answer today's Take Control Now Question by clicking 'comment' below...