by Lauren Follett, BA, RHN, Registered Nutritionist
I always tell my clients that one of the most important factors in living a healthy lifestyle is to start meal planning. If you put the time and effort into planning and buying the groceries you’re more likely to make healthy meals from scratch rather than grab something quick and unhealthy in a pinch. Sit down for 20 minutes each week and plan your meals for the following week. Look at the recipes you plan to make, and create your grocery list.
If you don’t know where to start, here are a few tips that help me decide what to make each week:
Choose recipes based on your weekly schedule. Don’t choose a new recipe to try on a busy evening where you have to take your kids to hockey or you have a late meeting. Instead, choose something that you’re familiar with, and ideally that’s quick and healthy (ie. a pre-roasted organic or free-from whole chicken with a salad) and save your experimental meal for an evening where you don’t have something going on.
Choose your meals according to what’s on sale. Using Flipp (my favourite app for checking the weekly sale flyers and price matching), go through your local grocery store flyer and choose recipes based on the sales that you see. For example, if shrimp is on sale, try my Thai Shrimp Noodle Salad. If avocados and bell peppers are on sale, plan to make a Mexican dish like black bean fajitas or enchiladas.
Choose one evening each week to try something new. Flip through cookbooks, food blogs, Pinterest and health magazines (Alive & Sage are a couple of my favourites, and they’re free at health stores!) for inspiration on new recipes and ingredients to try. This will not only expand your knowledge of healthy ingredients and meals, but you’ll become a better cook – practice makes perfect!
Shop your fridge & pantry. The other day I discovered that I had 4 bell peppers leftover from my last Costco shop that needed to be eaten ASAP so I decided to make stuffed peppers. I’d never made them before, but I knew I wanted to avoid buying any additional ingredients. I looked at what else I had in the fridge: quinoa, salsa, avocado…I searched for recipes on Pinterest using those ingredients and found a recipe for Mexican Quinoa Stuffed Peppers. They turned out really well, and now I have a new easy, healthy recipe in my weekday meal repertoire.
Choose recipes that will make multiple meals. I often choose a big slow cooker soup or stew to make on Sundays because I usually have more time during the day to prep and cook. This past Sunday I made my Slow Cooker Thai Chicken Soup and it was so nice to have dinner for Sunday & Monday done by 5 p.m.!
If you want to make some positive changes towards living a healthier lifestyle, start with meal planning. Being healthy means getting into the habit of preparing your own healthy, fresh meals from scratch and the only way you’re going to make healthy food taste good is if you practice!