Recently, we were going over the responses to our survey meant to gauge interest in an AH app, and we noticed something interesting. We saw a clear correlation between readers’ success and time spent meal planning. This is particularly helpful information for those of you who might have hit a plateau or wondered what you might do to make the initial weeks of AH a little less daunting.
Why is Meal Planning Important?
Any major change to your lifestyle, eating habits, and relationship to food can feel overwhelming, to the point that you may not even want to consider meal planning since you think it’ll be easier to handle if you take it one meal at a time. While these are understandable feelings, we’ve actually seen that people who spend at least a few moments each week loosely planning their meals find the transitions between phases simpler. This leads to higher adherence levels and increased overall success.
Luckily, meal planning is not one size fits all. It’s perfectly fine and productive to create a light plan. You don’t need to plan each meal down to which spices you’ll use! If you enjoy strict meal planning, that is wonderful. Many of our readers find comfort and ease in knowing exactly what each meal will be. But lots of people also prefer a little more freedom. Generally, there are three main styles of meal planning.
Style 1: Precisely plan each meal.
This type of plan closely resembles the plans we’ve created in our books. Each meal, snack, side, dessert, and portion size is clearly laid out. If this is your style, that’s great! That sense of order can alleviate a lot of chaos in the kitchen that can lead many people to slip into their old ways of eating.
If this isn’t how you like to plan meals, or if you don’t have the time or energy to spend this much time on plans, that’s fine too. Whatever works for you is best. Forcing yourself to create a detailed plan when that’s not your style can be frustrating and lead to you simply giving up on the whole program. There’s no need to add extra stress to your life!
Style 2: On Sunday, list five main dishes that you’ll make for the week, including sides.
This can be in no particular order and not planned as precisely as the first style. Then you’ll check you kitchen and purchase whatever you might need for the week in one trip to the store. An easy way to meal plan this way is to purchase a large portion of protein (for example, a whole chicken), and decide what you can do with that protein for each meal. Moroccan Chicken? Chicken Quesadillas? Chicken Soup? Chicken Salad with Walnuts? Make sure to include leftovers in you plan!
The Simplified Meal Plans might help give you an idea for how to plan your meals using this style.
Style 3: Create a list of your favorite recipes and always keep those ingredients on hand.
This is a lifesaver for a lot of readers (us too!) Once you know what works best for your schedule and individual tastes, it’s easy to keep your pantry stocked with your favorite staples. That way you can whip up something quickly if it comes down to a night that you didn’t make a plan, especially because these recipes tend to be ones that you’ve memorized since you make them so often!
This is also a great way to plan which meals you’ll make in large batches to freeze for easy dinners in the future.
You can also try out our other meal planning tips or come up with a style that works best for you! Maybe it helps if you plan desserts first to get you in the mood to plan. You might decide to cook your meals in your slow cooker to avoid having to spend large amounts of time in the kitchen. Or you cook three meals on Monday since you have time and you know the rest of your week will be hectic. Experimenting in the kitchen isn’t just for recipes—it’s also important to experiment with the times that work best for you to be in the kitchen at all.
Remember, no matter how you decide to meal plan, always leave open the possibility that things might not go exactly as you have them scheduled. Life happens. Things come up and get in the way of your plan. That’s completely fine. You haven’t failed if you veer from your intended meals. Any planning at all is a success and leads to better outcomes overall.
Let us know your favorite ways to meal plan!