Meal Planning

"Make plans and not excuses" - Jerry Traylor

September is here and with that the return to the academic calendar.  Whether you are in school or have children in school or do not, most of us have more of a set routine when Fall begins.  We leave the more relaxed days of summer and our schedules often fill with many different commitments. Our lives are fast paced and we juggle work, family, and activities. This can send our best efforts to lose weight right out the window.  We see ourselves slipping back into old habits, skipping meals, eating junk, and relying on fast and convenient food.

It is time for a change! Start to plan nutritious and healthy meals for yourself and your family. This truly can be done and it can impact your life for the positive:

Let’s face it, going out to eat or driving through a fast food restaurant gets expensive - especially when you do this night after night or even 2-3 times a week. I remember one of my patients who told me she did not cook and she and her husband ate every meal out; her oven was used for storage; she had never turned it on!

Save Time
Meal planning can save you time in the long run. How long does it take to come home and then go back out and eat at a restaurant? How long do you wait in line when going through a fast food drive up?

Most restaurants do not use the leanest cuts of meat, low calorie sauces, and fresh produce as you would at home. Processed foods are full of sodium, fat, and preservatives; many can have High Fructose Corn Syrup in them. When you prepare foods at home, you can choose healthier ingredients and create a meal that is calorie as well as heart healthy friendly.

Family Time
Cooking/preparing a meal can be a great way to spend time together and enjoy good conversation; likewise sitting down together at the table does wonders for bonding and increased communication.  Studies have also shown that eating together as a family can decrease the risk of obesity and can even lead to improved performance in school!

So how does one get started?
Take some time on a day off and look at your calendar for the next 5-7 days; who will be where and when? Plan some basic meals for lunch and dinner. For example, on a night when the kids have activities, putting a meal in a crock pot that morning may be ideal. On a quiet Sunday, you may want to make a pasta sauce or a pot of soup that will provide for several meals during the upcoming week. Make a grocery list. Then, go to the grocery store to get the needed ingredients. This eliminates the need or impulse to go out on the spur of the moment as you are prepared!

Kathleen Baskett, MD is the Medical Director of Weight Management at St. Vincent Healthcare. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and the author of “Moving Forward: The Weigh to a Healthier Weight”.