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Meal Planning Tips for Healthy Eating

Updated on March 12, 2011

Are you looking for a way to improve your family's eating habits? Taking the time to plan meals ahead of time can have an impact on the quality of meals that you and your loved ones eat. After all, making last minute decisions about what to have for dinner (or any other meal) can lead to poor decisions that result in unhealthy dining choices.

When dinnertime is right around the corner and you haven't planned ahead, it's all too easy to go run through a fast food drive-thru on your way home from work or order a pizza for delivery if you're already in the house. It'll be much easier to make wise, healthful dining decisions when your refrigerator and pantry are stocked with healthy food items that you can have on the table quickly.

4 Meal Planning Tips for Healthy Eating

1. Establish a Weekly Menu – Sit down once a week think about what meals you'd like to prepare and serve over the upcoming days. It's a good idea to do this on the day that the supermarket sale circulars are published so that you can take advantage of items that are on sale. When engaging in menu planning, consider what types of foods are on special, what dishes your family enjoys, nutritional and diet considerations, and what your schedule is likely to be like for the upcoming week. Use that information to establish a realistic menu plan.

2. Use a Grocery List – Have you ever had the experience of going to the supermarket, purchasing several items, and arriving home only to find that you don't have the correct ingredients to prepare a healthy meal? This often happens when people go grocery shopping without the benefit of a list. Before leaving home, put together your menu for the upcoming week. Take stock of what ingredients you have on hand and which ones you need to purchase. Use this information to make a shopping list and follow it carefully when you are in the store.

3. Plan for Leftovers – The next time you cook dinner, think beyond the next meal that you will be eating. Instead, plan for leftovers so that you can enjoy several meals as a result of your efforts in the kitchen. For example, if you are making spaghetti for dinner, prepare extra sauce that you can combine with pasta and vegetables for an Italian casserole later in the week. Many people find it beneficial to prepare several dishes that reheat well one evening or afternoon each week. Instead of stressing about what's for dinner and having to cook every night, you can serve the items that you've cooked ahead of time.

4. Rely on Your Freezer – When you set aside time to cook, in addition to preparing enough food for the current week, consider preparing enough to freeze and enjoy at a later date. Many types of foods freeze well, including marinara sauce, vegetable soup, many types of casseroles, baked goods, and more. See Easy Meals that Freeze Well for a few recipe ideas. No matter how carefully you intend to plan, there will be times that you just aren't able to do so effectively. If you have a few home cooked meals stored in your freezer, you'll be able to enjoy a healthy nutritional meal at home even if something goes wrong with your planning efforts.

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  • BetsyIckes profile image

    BetsyIckes 

    8 years ago from Pennsylvania

    A lot of helpful tips! I'll be sure to use them!

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