Planning what you’ll eat in advance and cooking at home are skills that will help you both reach your weight loss goal and maintain your new weight. During Phase 1 of the Ideal Protein protocol, your meal planning will be made easier because many of your meals and snacks will be based around Ideal Protein foods. Even so, if you sit down for a few minutes and plan out your meals and snacks in advance, it will be easier for you to stay on protocol.
Benefits of meal planning
Successful meal planning doesn’t have to be time-consuming, and it offers many benefits, including:
- Less mental struggle and temptation to overeat or eat unhealthfully.
- A sense of control over your eating.
- Less likelihood of grabbing take out or ordering a pizza on busy days—and let’s face it, most days are busy!
- Saving money. You’ll spend a lot less if you buy food on sale and in season. Having a meal plan also reduces trips to the store and impulse purchases.
- Saving time. When you know what meals and snacks you have planned ahead of time, you may also be able to save time on cooking prep. For example, while you’re making dinner, chop some extra veggies for lunch or snacks the next day.
- Reduced stress levels—no more wondering what to cook for dinner!
Meal planning made easier
Many people plan enough meals for a week at a time, but if that seems overwhelming, start by planning two dinners and go from there. Hint: if you double the recipes for each meal, you’ve just planned four dinners! And remember, you can always review your meal plan with your Ideal Protein coach if you are unsure about anything.
- Develop a list of your family’s favorite meals. Once you’ve built up this list, use it to plan most of each week’s dinners. If you like, try a new recipe once or twice a week to keep things interesting. Some people even create a template of types of meals, such as slow cooker, stir-fry, “Meatless Monday,” etc.
- Take inventory of what you already have in your fridge, pantry, and freezer. Knowing what you have on hand will save money by keeping you from buying duplicates. This is when you make sure you have all your Ideal Protein favorites on hand!
- Keep a running grocery list handy, on paper or on your smartphone, to keep track of any staples you need to pick up. This helps streamline your grocery shopping time, so you’ll be less tempted by items not on your plan.
- Take into account your schedule. If you have an especially busy week, you may not have as much time to cook. Slow cooker meals, or a meal featuring leftovers instead of a complicated menu may be the ticket. You can also take advantage of batch cooking—cook enough for more than one meal, store in the freezer or refrigerator, and then heat and serve.
Once your meal plan is finalized, make a grocery list and stick to it. Organize your list by store section. If you’re pressed for time, many grocery stores stock pre-chopped or spiralized vegetables, individually prepared salads, fruits, and so on. And remember frozen vegetables are often just as nutritious as fresh ones. Just be sure to avoid packages containing fat-filled sauces.
Meal planning will help you continue to make changes to your eating habits, and become more aware of smart food choices. Taking the time to plan your meals each week is one positive way to support your weight loss and take control of your health. (We’ll have more articles about meal prepping in upcoming weeks—stay tuned!)