How to Meal Plan Without Losing Your Mind, Part 2
I received SO MUCH feedback from part 1 - and loads of questions via email, social media, etc. - that I decided to expand on a few things. With that in mind, here are 3 more tips to make meal planning, and sticking with the plan, even easier. Remember, I’m not a nutritionist, dietician, doctor, whatever other fancy professional - I’m just sharing what has worked for me and what I’ve gleaned from my experience.
[Some weekends, I don't have hours to spend prepping food so I make it simple - throw greens & frozen veggies in Tupperware, portion out leftover proteins, cook rice in the rice cooker, etc. Simple, easy, and enough to get me through the next few days.]
1. Keep it simple: I touched on this before, but I’ve found that I more likely to stick with the plan and not spend hours upon hours in the kitchen if I keep things simple. I’m pretty boring in the food department most days - just plain seasoned beef and roasted brussel sprouts make me perfectly happy - but that may not be the case for you. One great way to make your meal prep and planning easy, but still have variety is to make some sauces that you can add to things. You can make your own barbecue sauce, mayo, etc. and simply add whatever your heart desires. My absolute favorite resource for this is Well Fed & Well Fed 2 by Melissa Joulwan. She is the queeeeen of easy, delicious (and paleo friendly) sauces and recipes. Cooking with Coconut Oil is also a great resource for simple, easy, preppable meals as well. Keep it easy - you don’t have to make bourguignon or some complicated meal (unless you want to) for every day of the week.
[I highly recommend gluten-free chocolate covered pretzels as a post squat and heavy yoke snack. The best. Are they something I would normally eat 80% of the time? Nope but I wanted them and I ate them and I lived to tell about. No guilt.]
2. Use “preemptive cheats”: This is a concept I learned from Jill over at JillFit and it’s one that has saved my sanity. Rather than having one all-out “indulgence” day, I break it up into 2 small meals or items a week - one mid week and one on the weekend. It’s pretty rare that I have a full on huge meal but instead, I usually have 80% or so of the meal “fit my macros” (since that is my approach to nutrition) and then have 20% be whatever I want whether that is some delish appetizer with dinner out with my husband on our date night or some peanut butter cup ice cream at home. Planning out my day in advance helps greatly here because it gives me the flexibility to make changes as I go. That approach doesn’t work for everyone but I’ve personally found it to be quite helpful. Even if you don’t track macros, I find it helpful to have an idea of what I’m going to eat that day and where I want to indulge. I also don’t kill myself over this - if I want a cookie, I’m going to eat a cookie and just adjust accordingly. This way, I’m not trying to whiteknuckle my way through on willpower alone (which is so not realistic) and I’m not spending all of my mental energy thinking about when I get to eat some ice cream. I know that I can simply have some, adjust accordingly, and move on with my day. No guilt required.
[this has nothing to do with food but I really enjoy walking the yoke]
3. Enjoy your food: If you had chicken and broccoli, then don’t make yourself 5lbs of chicken and broccoli for the week just because it “seems” like something you should do because everyone else is doing it. Make food that you actually want to eat! This may sound a bit obvious but I can’t tell you how many people (particularly women) I’ve talked to who say that they loathe eating whatever they made because they don’t like it. Life is waaay too short to eat food you hate, so don’t. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to food and nutrition and it certainly does not involve surviving off of lean chicken parts and mini trees. Again, the more you enjoy what you’re eating, the less “restricted” or constrained you will feel and that just makes life a whole lot more enjoyable. Even if you’re working at changing your body composition, food should not occupy your thoughts 24/7 - you should be able to build something intuitive and easy. Easy isn’t bad - easy means you have energy for other, more important things. Be mindful, but not consumed. And if you have trouble or need help finding that easy intuitive plan, get someone to help (oh hey, I can meal plan for you!).
Any other tips you would add?