How to create a healthy meal plan you'll stick to
We'll show you that it can be done!
Guest PostFebruary 02, 2024
Are you looking to kickstart the new year with a healthy eating plan? Whilst the dark days of January can leave us reaching for comfort foods, for the more motivated, a new year can be the perfect time to reset after the enjoyable excesses of Christmas.
But how can you make a meal plan that you’ll actually enjoy and stick to? Especially if you’re tight on time, it can feel impossible to create healthy meals from scratch every day. But this post will show you that it can be done, without you feeling restricted and hungry. Let’s dig in.
Get the balance right
The first thing to understand is that a healthy meal plan doesn’t have to be super restrictive. If you eat particularly unhealthily now, then it might mean a big change in your diet, but that doesn’t mean you can never have a bar of chocolate again. It’s about balance – making the majority of your meals healthy, so you have a good foundation, and then including elements from your previous meals once or twice a week so you still get to enjoy those foods. Being healthy shouldn’t mean feeling restricted or guilty about what you’re eating.
You may also want to look for healthier alternatives to things you already enjoy. For example, dark chocolate is full of antioxidants because of the levels of cocoa, making it far better than milk. Roasting vegetable peelings can make healthier crisps, and opting for natural peanut butter rather than jam on your toast can give you slow-release energy as well as protein.
Understand what you need
Each of us are unique, and as such, we need different amounts of food on our plate to stay healthy. However, there are some general rules about the percentage of the various food groups that make up your meals. The NHS recommends:
● A third of the plate should be fruit and vegetables, aiming for five portions per day (fresh, frozen, tinned, dried and juiced all count) ● A third of the plate should consist of starchy foods, like pasta, potatoes or rice ● A portion of protein (meat, fish, beans, pulses, eggs) ● A portion of dairy (milk, milk alternatives, cheese, yoghurt)
Don’t panic if this isn’t what your plate looks like at every meal, but do aim towards it across the week if you can. The overall size of your meals will depend on a variety of factors, such as your height, weight and activity level.
Work with the time you have
There is no point in saying you’ll cook something from scratch every night if you don’t realistically have the time to do that. You’ll do it for a week, and then start to slip, leaving you feeling frustrated and more likely to go back to old habits.
Instead, work out how long you can dedicate to cooking, and meal plan accordingly. If you’re short on time, batch cook base elements like tomato sauce on weekends, which you can use in several different ways. You can also use a slow cooker to prepare your dinner whilst you work, or choose one pot dishes that you can prepare earlier in the day.
If you have the storage space, you can cook certain meals and freeze them in portions – all the convenience of a microwave meal, but with far more nutritional value. Shop for your plan If you’ve written a healthy meal plan, but your cupboards are full of other snacks, you’re making it harder for yourself. That doesn’t mean you have to throw everything away when you start your plan, but rather try to avoid buying anything extra.
Using your meal plan to create your shopping list is a great way to keep a limit on the food that comes into your home. Decide on your meals for a week, write down the ingredients you need, and use this to shop. If you’re someone who is easily tempted in-store, it might be beneficial to consider using an online grocery shop service. This way, you can make sure some treats aren’t falling into your trolley as you stroll the aisles.
Take advice from the experts
If you’re on board with the idea of creating a meal plan, but don’t know what to include, it can be helpful to seek some expert advice. There is plenty of information out there, including free resources like the NHS website, which can help you better understand the different food groups. Arming yourself with this knowledge can be crucial when it comes to making long-term changes to your diet, as you can understand the benefits your body gets from healthy food even before you see physical changes.
If you want to take things a step further, you could also consult a qualified dietitian for advice and support. It’s important to understand that the term ‘dietician’ is protected by law in the UK – only people who are registered with the statutory regulator, the Health & Care Professionals Council, can use this specific term. In comparison, the term ‘nutritionist’ can be used by anyone, although ‘registered nutritionist’ is a protected term.
Changing your diet can have a big impact on your health, so make sure that you’re happy with the level of qualification your chosen professional has. If in doubt, speak to your doctor, who will have a full medical degree and can give you advice on next steps. This can also be beneficial if you have any type of medical condition that may need to be taken into consideration.
Prioritise your health this year
It can feel hard to make a change, especially if you don’t have much time or don’t particularly like cooking. But medical experts have long supported the idea of a balanced diet, and most of us slip away from this without even realising it. Take the time to assess your meals at the start of the year and get yourself back on track, prioritising your health and happiness.
This is a guest post and may contain affiliate links, but rest assured we only print blogs that fit our strict guidelines and with links to companies that we approve of.