Let’s talk meal planning and why it’s important. For one, we all know that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Arming ourselves with practical strategies ensure that we have sufficient fuel to get through the day. After all, the foods we consume affect our health just as much as, if not more than, exercise.

You can’t out exercise a bad diet,

so let’s take a look at some ways to avoid unintentional self sabotage.

Meal Planning vs. Meal Prep

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What’s the difference between meal planning and meal prep?  Meal prep is a weekly effort to ensure that you have meal prepared ahead of time. It has been all the rage for the past few years.  Chefs and personal trainers lay claim to meal prepping, and it has definitely caught on.  People usually meal prep lunches, and sometimes batch prepare dinners, usually on Sundays.  Let’s take our knowledge a step further and get into meal planning.

Meal planning isn’t about 21 Tupperware containers on your kitchen counter. It’s about variety and planned cooking breaks.

All meals are prepared in large enough quantities to double as lunch the following day.  It’s less about doing it all on Sunday, and more about knowing what you’re doing ahead of time so you can avoid snack attacks.  Some of us don’t really want to eat the same thing all week, and prefer to cook more often. Meal planning is truly a vital precursor to meal prep.  It means you have planned ahead to know what vital nutrients you need.  You take time to write down and ensure that you’re eating your macros – the big good food groups – and  micros – the vitamins – in your daily meals that you have prepared. Meal planning is a game changer. The short time this will take is totally worth it.

Here are five steps to get the most out of your meal planning:

1. Get a Planner

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Invest in a planner or at least a 30/31 daily calendar for the month.

2. DESIGN Your Days

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Sunday Fun Day (fun family dinner recipes), Mondays are always leftovers, Tuesdays are chicken/beef meals, Wednesdays are always leftovers, Thursdays are slow cooked meals, and Fridays are takeout. Apply this pattern EACH WEEK for the month.

3. DEVELOP Your Meals

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What kind of chicken on Tuesday? Baked? Chicken alfredo? What sides – include one complex carb (e.g. brown rice, sweet potatoes) and one veggie per meal.

4. RELAX on Your Weekends

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Leftovers from the week! Top it off with your Sunday family or foodie dinner.

5. BUILD Your Breakfasts

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Give yourself a break. Your family can fend for themselves most days if it requires more than a breakfast shake or cereal. I recommend greens and shakes. Then, write in MAYBE 1 day a week you might prep a batch of breakfast wraps, tacos, or frittatas – easy items for plastic baggies on the go.

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Now, your WHOLE calendar is full. You can plan this in about 20 minutes with your favorite recipe app open for ideas. No more stress of deciding what your next meal will be. No more last minute takeout runs that cost twice as much as cooking at home, plus gas money. No worries about MSG and unreasonable levels of hidden salt and sugar either. Totally worth the planning time investment. Redefine your food experience. Do it again next month.

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