Eating Clean/21 Day Fix: Meal Planning and Prep Tips

I’ve had a lot of people over the past couple of months talk to me about how hard it is for them to get organized with their meal plans.  Everyone seems to agree that if you plan ahead and prepare for the week, it’s a whole lot easier to eat clean and stay on your eating plan and away from temptations.  Actually putting this into practice, however, is easier said than done.

  
I think one of the major reasons that we all have such a hard time with getting organized is because it takes up so much mental energy to figure out how to organize our meals.  We are stuck in bad habits with unhealthy foods, and we’ve been eating that way for so long that it’s on autopilot.  We don’t have to think that much about it because it’s what we’ve always done.  Taking your food choices off of autopilot requires a lot more energy than we’re used to putting into this area of our lives, and it can be truly overwhelming.

I want to share some tips and strategies that I use every single week to plan out my meals and get–and keep–myself organized.  Am I perfect with this?  Of course not.  No one is!  But, I have a system that I took a week or so to think through and really put in some mental energy to set up, and now I’m back on autopilot again–but this time with healthy, nutritious choices!

Here is my basic process:

  • At the end of the week, usually Friday nights, I make a meal plan for the week.  Sometimes I do this in my calendar, but most of the time it’s on a piece of scrap paper.  I write down every day of the week and check my calendar and my husband’s to write down any events that will affect food.  Sometimes I have girls’ night out, sometimes he has a golf tournament, etc.  Then, I pick a dinner for each night of the week.  If I know I have a meeting after work on Tuesday, I’m going to choose a meal that is quick and something I’ve made before so it doesn’t take a long time.  ***I love to cook, and since I’ve been cooking for myself and my husband since college, I have a lot of meals in my rotation.  If you don’t, get on Pinterest and start searching for clean eating dinner recipes.  I have two recipe boards that you can follow–a general recipe board here and a clean eating board here.  I also follow food blogs–one of my favorites is Annie’s Eats.  She has a lot of great healthy recipes that use whole foods, and she has a quick dinner category, too.  Start experimenting!  Ask friends and family for recipes that they love.  Make a Facebook status asking people to share their favorite quick dinners.  Keep in mind that if you’re trying to eat clean, you probably won’t be able to make all the recipes the way that they’re originally written.  Think of the recipe as a guideline that you can change however you want/need to make it cleaner.

  

  • Once I’ve made my dinner plans for the week, I start my grocery list.  I like to start the grocery list before I plan out lunches/breakfasts because I have the dinner recipes right in front of me when I’m planning those.  I am famous for forgetting a major ingredient, and doing this helps me make sure I don’t forget the ground beef for burgers!
  • After I write down the ingredients for dinners, I plan out my breakfasts and lunches.  For ease, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness, I eat the same breakfast every day and I eat the same lunch all week. For my breakfasts, I know that I need banana, peanut butter, unsweetened almond milk, and unsweetened coconut flakes to mix with my Shakeology.  It’s on autopilot and I don’t really have to think about it.  Easy peasy.

  

  • Lunches can be tricky for any working adult.  Some of us (like me) have only 20 minutes to eat.  Some of us have the temptation of eating out with coworkers every day.  Some of us are in a car all day long and need something quick, and often choose a drive thru.  If you have access to a cooler or a fridge during your workday, then you can eat a clean lunch.  It takes discipline to turn down the McD’s Big Mac or your colleague’s guilt trip for leaving her to eat alone, but if you want to eat clean, that is a choice that you have to make.  I choose to eat the same lunch all week because it’s easier to make one meal on Sunday instead of figuring out leftovers every night.  I choose meals that can be put in one container so I can get all my food groups in the quickest amount of time.  I eat lunches like turkey chili with black beans and sweet potatoes, or a salad like this with quinoa instead of beans and shredded chicken added to it.  My lunches aren’t always exciting, but they are flavorful and healthy.  Again, search Pinterest or Google for quick clean lunches.
  • If you travel in a car for lunch, something that you can pick up and eat while you drive is essential.  These hummus veggie wraps would be perfect for that, or a whole wheat sandwich with turkey and veggies.  The internet is full of great and clean eating ideas!

 

To prepare my meals, I do everything the night before.  I put everything, including my snacks, in their containers and set out my breakfast ingredients so it’s faster.  I already get up at 5 to work out before I leave for work, so I’m not getting up earlier to fix a complicated breakfast!  That way I can get ready for the day and put my lunch and snacks in my lunch box quickly and be on my way.

  
For those of you who get home at dinner time and don’t have the energy to cook a meal, there are two great options to use.  One is the crockpot–put it all together the night before and stick the crockpot (with the lid on) in the fridge, and then just set it the next morning and you’re good to go.  Another great option is to make your dinner the night before and just heat it up.  For example, after you eat dinner Sunday night, you make Monday’s dinner.  When you get home Monday, you just heat it up and eat.  Before you go to bed Monday you make Tuesday’s dinner, and so on and so forth.

It’s not always easy, folks.  Sometimes I forget to prepare and run through a drive thru.  Sometimes the recipes I try are nasty and we end up at Chickfila.  But, more often than not, we are eating healthy foods at home because we prepare with this system.  You can do it!  Prepare your mind to put in some extra effort and energy for a few days, and then it becomes your new, healthy habit.

If you want more information on what you should be eating and how much, and you’re ready to invest in your health and fitness, let me know!  I’d love to help you get on track as your health and fitness coach.

I hope you found this information to be helpful.  What’s your favorite clean eating meal?  Share below!

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