One of the simplest (and tastiest) ways to advocate for your own health is to plan and prepare meals for the week. This is a practice that my husband and I started more than 30 years ago when we were first married and were on an extremely tight food budget. We still make a specific meal plan every Sunday and shop for the ingredients we need to help keep our eating as clean as possible. Below are four reasons that planning your meals ahead of time will be well worth the effort.
1. Allows you to choose the best at the grocery store
Running into the store on the way home from work when you are tired and hungry rarely leads to the best food choices. Knowing what your week’s meals will be in advance can help you choose which market will have the best choices for the food you are planning.
For example, some grocery stores are better for fish or for fresh produce than others. Shopping in advance will help ensure the best quality of food and also the best price for your budget. Going into the store with a list of specific foods – and sticking to it – is also good for your waistline.
2. Shows everyone around you that good food is important to you
When you take the time to plan a weekly menu of healthy food, you model for your family or roommates the importance you place on what you eat. When others see the effort you are putting in to eating well, they will be more likely to support your efforts throughout the week.
3. Makes it easier when you come home hungry
This is probably the best result of meal planning. As many of us know all too well, coming home hungry, to hungry kids, after a long day at work can be challenging. Having a prepared menu and knowing you already have all the food on hand to make the meal can really help keep stress levels in check. It has always made life easier in our house knowing that the first one in the door can check the menu and start putting things together, instead of waiting for the other parent to walk in and then ask, “What’s for dinner?”
4. Careful food prep lends itself to mindful eating
If you struggle with your weight, some days you may feel like food is the enemy. When you take the time to design and prepare nutritious meals, you can feel good about what you eat instead of feeling guilty. Mindful eating involves taking the time to understand the positive and nutritious side of food.
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Tracy Davenport, Ph.D., is a freelance health writer and the C.E.O. of Tracy’s Smoothie Place. She serves as the expert on a weekly radio show about health and wellness and is the author of Making Life Better for a Baby with Acid Reflux and multiple articles about the cost of caregiving. She can be found on Twitter and Instagram @drinksmoothies.