"By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail."
You may have noticed that meal planning has come up a lot on the blog and it's because (at least for me) it's been the best method to sticking to a balanced, healthy diet. I've received a few questions about my meal plan so I thought it would be fun to put together a Frequently Asked Questions post! But let me first start off by saying that meal plans are not for everyone! Some people don't like the restrictions, eating a lot of the same things, or planning out every meal! Some people ___(fill in the blank)___. I totally get it!
This blog celebrates all paths to healthy living, so just putting it out there: I don't believe meal planning is the only way to lose weight (or get healthy). I do it because it works for me. Everyone is different.
Here's a bit more about my experience with it!
Does it take a long time to meal plan?
It takes about a half-hour to sit down and figure out what I'm going to eat for the next week, but I don't consider that a long time. For me, that half-hour saves me time and effort thinking about my diet during the week.
I also like looking at my calendar and seeing what's ahead and when it may be difficult to eat clean (such as at upcoming events like weddings and baby showers).
How do you choose what foods to eat?
I eat the foods I like that I know have nutritional value.
How do you determine when you are going to eat certain foods?
I try to take into account several factors such as when my sweet tooth usually hits (mid-afternoon!) and when I workout. I know I need an afternoon snack because when I return from the gym around 3:30, I'm famished. I love protein shakes after a workout! They feel like a reward!
I've also been trying to incorporate some general information I've read or heard from personal trainers about the best time to eat carbs (including fruit) and when to load up on protein. I'm still learning these principles so I don't incorporate them as often as I should (i.e. I do not count carbs), but I do hope to become more knowledgeable.
Do you meal plan for your husband?
I try, but everyone's meal plan is going to be different. He can't eat salad for lunch everyday, and he isn't interested in chicken breast and veggies for lunch either. He likes his turkey sandwiches and I make him what he likes. I do try to sneak in healthy foods (chopped cucumbers and strawberries or baby carrots), and I also try to make a balanced dinner (one that includes greens)! It's up to him if he decides to eat more after dinner (which he usually does!) but I don't try to control anyone's diet but my own.
How do you avoid eating the foods that aren't on the plan?
This is the trickiest part because in life, things come up! I just try to use my head and be honest with myself about what's acceptable and what's not... Additionally, I try to set myself up for success! There are certain sweets that my husband is not allowed to buy because they're too tempting for me (i.e. soft and chewy chocolate chip cookies)! He can, however, have oatmeal raisin cookies, because they don't tempt me; so that's what we have in the house.
At work it's definitely harder! We have office parties all the time and there's vending machines everywhere; even a frozen yogurt dispenser in the cafe! I've definitely had several slip-ups at work (too many!), but lately, since trying to stick to the meal plan, I've done several things to try to counteract the temptations:
- I always have Extra dessert gum in my drawer! It helps with my afternoon sweet tooth a lot!
- I buddy up with others who are dieting and/or trying to eat healthy. We commit to not going to the ice cream social (yes-- they have freggin' ice cream socials at my job!!), and it's way easier not to go when there's some accountability involved!
- I go to the gym, almost everyday. (I'm very fortunate that I'm able to go to the gym during the day.) This definitely helps me make better choices. The gym is where I feel motivated that I CAN DO THIS!!! Lol. So when I come back, I'm a lot less likely to blow it.
Is meal planning the same as dieting?
I don't think meal planning is dieting, but it's similar. First of all, it doesn't feel like a diet. I'm eating a lot of calories (approximately 1500/day) and I'm eating foods I love. That's the beauty of creating your own meal plan- you include the foods you like to eat!
Plus, the meal plan is just a guide. I'm lenient with myself-- to a point. I might switch around when I eat something, like my protein shake, or switch the day I plan to have my cheat meal (if plans change, for instance), and I also allow myself a few small cheats. As an example, my boss brought in ribs and I totally had a bite! I didn't eat a ton, but I didn't want to be rude either! I can't isolate myself from life!
Where did you get the idea to meal plan?
My personal trainer back in 2011 advised that I try only eating a handful of certain foods. She knew I was struggling with a busy schedule (dinners with friends and lots of family events). In between I didn't know what to eat. I wasn't taught healthy eating principles growing up (unless Five Guys has a lesson I don't know about!?). So one day she wrote out a very simple meal plan: oatmeal for breakfast, greek yogurt for a snack, salmon and chicken breast for dinner, lots of broccoli, halves of sweet potatoes, and brown rice. (It's all the same foods I eat today!) For whatever reason, something clicked. I rotated those foods and ... well, you know the rest of that story! I felt fantastic on my wedding day!
Anyway, I hope this information helps you to develop a healthy eating system for yourself! If you have other questions that I didn't answer here, please feel free to leave them in the comments and I will respond!
Also, I really appreciate the support of my readers, ESPECIALLY those of you who have reached out via email or text! You're inspiring me, and giving me confidence in my goals and the future of this blog! Thanks for being so great!!!