The 5 benefits of meal planning

After a long day at work you get home, you are hungry, and the first thing your family asks is “what is for dinner?” For many people the answer might be a quick takeout meal. Let’s face it, shopping and cooking a healthy meal after a long day is not the easy option. The take out meal might be the easy option in this scenario, but it is usually not the healthy option. Portion control is difficult when dining out and often these meals are higher in calories.

Now picture another scenario in which you had already thought about what you were going to have for dinner and the ingredients were prepped in the fridge and ready to the thrown together for a fast and healthy dinner. Or imagine that you walk in the door to the aroma of a crock pot meal that you prepped that morning and dinner is just a matter of getting a bowl and spoon out of the cupboard.

Meal planning is asking the “what’s for dinner” question one time for the entire week instead of once per night. It is also important to note that there is no one size fits all for meal planning and the method for meal planning might differ depending on the family size, schedule, and preferences. For some this might involve reducing the amount of meals eaten away from home and for others in might involve shopping and prepping all in one day for the entire week.

Not convinced? Here are a few more reasons you should consider planning and prepping meals:

  • Saves money: dining out can be very expensive. Even fast food meals add up and they are often of poor nutrient quality.
  • Reduces decision fatigue: we have to make decisions all day long and by the end of the day most people suffer from condition fatigue. Basically the quality of our decisions decreases towards the end of the day. That means that if you have to decide between prepping a healthy meal or dining out at the end of a long day, you will likely choose the easiest and least healthy option. This is not a problem if you have already make the decision ahead of time.
  • Saves time: meal planning and prep does take some time initially, but over time it gets easier. Also, by planning and shopping for the week you will only have to go to the grocery store one time vs. multiple times. You will also spend less time staring into the fridge or pantry and thinking “what I am going to make for dinner?”
  • Control of your waistline: by planning ahead and eating at home you will have control of how much you eat and what ingredients you are using. This is much harder to do while dining out.
  • Better nutrition: many restaurant meals are high in fat and carbohydrates, but low in nutrient dense foods such as whole grains and vegetables. Planning and prepping meals at home to include a variety of nutrient dense foods will ensure a well-balanced and nutritionally adequate diet.

Need some help with meal planning and prep? UCHealth Medical Fitness will be having a 2 part seminar on meal prep and meal planning on Thursday January 11th and January 18th from 6:30-7:30 pm. This will be an interactive seminar. On January 11th you will learn how to create your own weekly meal plans and on the 18th there will be food demonstration and discussion on how meal prep can be both time efficient and affordable. Call (970) 674-6500 to sign up.

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