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It’s Good to Have a Plan

May 24, 2011

I got an email from a friend today who has lost 10 lbs over the past month! She mentioned that she takes her meals and snacks to work each day and it got me thinking about the importance of planning meals for long-term success.

“Having a Plan” was something that I used to stress to my patients and something that I struggle valiantly to do each week for our family. I’ve talked about it before and it makes life so much easier.

Step One: Look over your week–where will you be for meals? Do you breakfast on the go–maybe in the car after dropping off the kids or at work? Do you eat at home?  What about lunch? Is it a park day or lunch with friends? Will you be scrambling to run errands during your lunch break?   Will dinner be a family affair or a solo adventure? How much time will you have to prepare?

I look at my week and try to anticipate what we need. Breakfast is usually at home for the kids and I…unless we over sleep and I have to choose between getting everyone into the car on time and our usual sit down meal. Emergency items like bananas, crackers, drinkable yogurts, and the occasional Sonic Grilled Cheese keep us moving when we have to rush.

Lunches are a bit more varied. On the days when I meet with my trainer, I try to do something quick like an Amy’s Frozen Meal with salad or fresh fruit. I’m usually too hungry to prepare anything more complicated and since those are also the days that Leighton goes to daycare, I don’t want to rush home with my girl and plunk her on the floor while I try to cook.  I keep items like bagged salad greens, shredded carrots, green onions, packages of pre-cut veggies, and salad dressings/shredded cheese and/or deli meats on hand as well for fresh meals. Most of these items transition well into sandwiches or wraps and can even be thrown into a can of low fat soup to boost flavor and fiber for few calories.   If I am going out with friends, I try not to splurge on high calorie meals more than once per week. I have found that people are typically happy to accommodate me if I suggest sushi or a place with delicious healthy salads or soups.

Time is usually of the essence when it comes to dinner. We try not to eat out more than once per week. Still, with two small children and a busy schedule it’s hard to make it all come together on some nights! I keep bags of frozen pasta meals to go with the bags of salad. I do buy frozen pizza and tend to prefer it over the much more expensive and often less tasty delivery options in our area. I try to cook a quality meal at least 3 nights per week and I rock at utilizing leftovers. A rotisserie chicken is my friend ! I can make delicious roast chicken and mozzarella sandwiches with fresh basil and deli ciabatta bread , add it to simmering vegetable soups with a handful of pasta, top salads, or serve with a starch and veggies for a “proper meal”. My veggie friends can likely do the same with any mock chicken product on the market. Totally indispensable!

Eating on the go takes a bit more planning, but is totally worth the effort.

For park lunches and play dates, we like fresh cut fruits that are more age appropriate for younger kiddos. Pretzels, crackers, cheese cubes, deli meats are great. Get yourself a small cooler (I just picked up a 9 can capacity lunch tote ) and don’t forget the ice packs to keep it fresh. The kids are more apt to graze as they pass the table during play time…while I appreciate things that I can nibble at in between chasing little people.  Sandwiches can be cut in to fourths–easy to hold and easy to keep the remaining pieces cold until the kids are ready for more.

Things that we always have–in a very “stream of consciousness format”

An Assortment of Fresh Fruits–bananas, apples, oranges, berries. I don’t buy more than 2-3 varieties at a time and try to rotate what I do buy so that we always have different types. By buying less at once, it helps cut down on waste.

Snack Pack Fruits: pears, peaches, mandarin oranges, pineapple. I add them to yogurt, oatmeal, or salads. We snack on them and throw them in to back packs and coolers.

Dried fruit: Craisins. Apricots. Yum. Enjoy them plain, add them to cereal (hot or cold), add them to salad, make a trail mix with leftover cereal, popcorn, pretzels. Good stuff! I love to grab a few dates out of the fridge when I am craving something chewy and sweet.

Fresh Veggies: buy pre-cut to cut down on prep time. Our grocery store has started to carry bags of “mixed” cut up veggies –baby carrots, celery sticks, broccoli, cauliflower. We eat them with dip, steam them for dinner, add them to soups, salads….etc. I find that when we are busy, the extra cost is off set by the simple act of avoiding take out. I am much more likely to eat bagged lettuce than wash/chop my own. Bite size cherry tomatoes are a great snack to have on the counter.

Fresh herbs: Usually parsley, garlic, green onion, and cilantro. Adds tons of flavor to quick meals.

Deli Counter: Cheeses–cheddar, swiss, feta. Deli turkey, Rotisserie Chicken, Roast Beef.

Protein: I keep canned beans, packages of tuna or chicken, and lots of lean options in my freezer so that I can defrost the night before and have dinner ready to go.

Crackers: whole grain and little baby bite sized stuff for toddler snacks. Add cheese cubes/deli meat, veggies and dip and you have a spread that will feed everyone away from home.

Juice boxes, milk boxes, single serving cans of V-8,  reusable water bottles.  I carry a reusable cold cup most days–it’s great to make an iced coffee in the Keurig and take with me to avoid the S*bucks 5.00 pitfall!  It’s also great for iced teas and diet sodas.

Freezer: vegetables, pancakes/waffles, veggie sausage patties, Amy’s Organic Meals (taste is far superior to most frozen dinners), frozen fruit for smoothies, and NEVER anything larger than a pint of good quality ice cream. Enjoy….but no need to eat massive amounts.

If you take some time to think ahead and plan for healthy meals and snacks, you will be more successful in your goal to eat healthfully. It will cut down on fast food trips and vending machine visits that can sabotage your best intentions!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Liz permalink
    May 24, 2011 3:09 pm

    I’ve pretty much fallen off the wagon for the last month because of traveling and visiting family members, so this was a great reminder to get back on! I think just about everyone that has had success living a healthy will agree that planning and pre-prepping is essential. Making a mental meal plan each week is essential for me! I pack my husband’s lunch at least 3x per week to save money and my goal is to pack my lunch 4x per week. I also like to make big batches so that I can have leftover meals or leftover ingredients. This weekend I roasted a whole package of chicken breasts to use in enchiladas and then shredded the rest for lunch salads. If it’s ready to go, there is no excuse!

    • May 24, 2011 6:53 pm

      Travel is just the worst! I gained so much weight when I was traveling for my last job. It was just too much temptation to try great new restaurants. I would love to freeze more foods–we’re so short on space that it isn’t an option without a second freezer. I’m still twisting J’s arm for that one!

      I do freeze pulled pork and chicken. So many possibilities 🙂

  2. May 24, 2011 5:46 pm

    I totally agree – it’s all about planning ahead and being prepared. I can’t imagine how we would eat if I didn’t do meal planning.

    And we have been having a ton of picnic lunches lately, so I’m loving all of the ideas you provided for ‘lunches on the go’! Thanks!

    • May 24, 2011 6:53 pm

      picnics are so much fun! I will have to do a picture post!

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