To some, meal planning and intuitive eating seem in conflict. What if your body is craving something that isn't on your meal plan that day? What if you are hungry and need an extra snack? I meal plan AND eat intuitively (well, most of the time). I just do meal planning a little different than the traditional planning out all your meals in a rigid, very structured way.
My meal plans are never based on calories, and I never follow it perfectly. It's simply a guide for me during the week to help me save time and money. I meal plan and take time for food preparation on the weekends, so I save time during the week. As much as I love cooking gourmet-at-home meals, I don't always have the time or energy to spend a lot of time cooking at the end of the day. Meal planning gives me an idea of what it's my fridge, recipes to choose from, and it makes cooking easier and quicker than if I were to go into each meal without any idea. I mostly plan out dinner ideas, and breakfasts and lunches are a variety of go-to meals and what sounds good to me that day.
Meal planning saves me money on my food budget too, which is a big one for me! Without an idea of what I can make for dinners during the week, I may overbuy and underbuy food, especially produce. I can easily get excited and buy all the veggies in the store without an idea of how to use them, so planning helps me prevent food waste and save money.
Here are 5 of my top meal planning tips:
- Make time to plan and prepare food. Fit it into your schedule. I share a flexible meal planning guide and tips in my 30-Day Mindful Eating Challenge here.
- Prepare food for meals and snacks. This week, I chopped carrots and bell peppers to eat with avocado hummus, made a massaged kale salad, roasted a whole chicken + made broth, roasted asparagus and sweet potatoes, and made homemade larabars. Doing it all at once saves me time during the week, and I have healthy foods in the fridge!
- Cook once, eat twice. Leftovers are awesome for lunch the next day!
- Use the freezer. You can make large batches of foods, and freeze the extras, such as chilis, shredded chicken, or soups.
- Make ONE new meal each week. It's easy to get stuck in a rut of eating the same few meals, but mix it up. Browse Pinterest, cookbooks, or your favorite food blogs to find a recipe that sounds really good to you. Don't choose a meal because it sounds healthy but because it sounds delicious! Obviously, many meals are both.
- For more tips, see below!
How do I meal plan AND eat intuitively?
Keep it flexible. The other night, I had planned out having leftovers of this delicious Mexican Sweet Potato Quinoa Casserole from Fit Foodie Finds (it was really good!), but I just didn't want to eat it again. I asked myself what sounded good to me, and salmon was what popped into my head. Luckily, I had salmon on-hand, so I made a simple dish of baked salmon, roasted sweet potato, and asparagus. It satisfied me more than the leftovers would have.
It's really important to listen to your body's cravings for foods. If you're craving one food but eat something else, chances are you may go back to eat the food you're actually craving or a bunch of other foods to try to feel satisfied. I'd much rather eat the food I'm craving and enjoy it. For me, this means some meals don't have vegetables, but I trust my body enough to know that most of my meals will include vegetables.
A meal plan is simply a guide; if you something else, let yourself have it!