Meal Planning for Beginners

By Beth Ricanati, MD for
Planning ahead for dinner can make you and your whole family happier and healthier – and save you money.

Meal Planning for Beginners

My column has a simple mandate: wellness every day. In the more than two years that I’ve been writing this column, I feel that I’ve learned as much as I’ve taught, and I’ve been able to practice what I preach on a daily basis. (Well, mostly. Nobody’s perfect.)

Sometimes this has been hard to accomplish. I get busy, I have deadlines and children and laundry to deal with. Sometimes I don’t want to think about dinner. Sometimes ordering takeout seems easier. But ordering takeout is not a solution. As is my aim with every column, I want to find a simple act that is a solution. One small thing that makes being well seem not so overwhelming, so insurmountable. 

In this case, the answer is meal planning. So simple, and so overlooked by most of us. I remember my mother used to plan out our dinners for the week, make a grocery list and shop accordingly. I veered in the opposite direction. How could I possibly know on Sunday night what we’d want for dinner on Thursday? I realize now that she was onto something.

Whether you’re overworked, tired, worried about your nutrition (a proxy for your health) or your child’s health or your partner’s health, bored from eating the same thing every night, or all of the above, meal planning is a magic bullet. It boils down to this: Think, then do. A few minutes of planning ahead could be the smartest thing you do this week. Instead of wandering the grocery aisles and grabbing whatever is at eye level, instead of spending more money than you had budgeted, instead of throwing away more unused food, you can run down a list of exactly what you’ll need for the week. You’ll be ahead of the curve, under budget and healthier for it.

September just happens to be Meal Planning Awareness Month, so why not give it a shot? It doesn’t have to be a gourmet meal every day. Keep it as simple as you need to, especially in the beginning. Use one of the many accessible resources at your disposal: Beyond cookbooks, apps, websites (like YouBeauty!) and Pinterest are great sources for recipes or overall meal ideas. Maybe it’s easier for you to cook one or two days a week? No problem: Just freeze it for later. If time is an issue, you can purchase pre-cut fruits and vegetables for quicker prep.

Studies show that families who eat together more than three times a week are healthier and less likely to be overweight. They’re more likely to eat a diverse diet, rich in all those great foods I like to write about that do so much for us to prevent and treat disease. And, their kids are more likely to be emotionally healthy, too. A healthier and happier family just for thinking about dinner ahead of time? Now that’s easy everyday wellness.

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