Did you know that 90% of American adults don't eat enough vegetables? If you think you're part of that statistic, why not try meal planning?
When you plan your meals ahead of time, you can make sure that you're eating plenty of fresh produce so you can stay healthy. But how do you get started?
We're here with a quick meal planning guide to help you get started. Read on for our best meal planning tips.
1. Know Your Own Meal Goals
Whenever you decide to start eating healthily, you need to determine what that means for you. Healthy eating looks different for everyone (even if there are plenty of similarities).
Do you have specific body goals that you're striving for? If so, modify your meals to suit those goals.
People who are trying to gain weight are going to want to eat a calorie surplus. Many of those surplus calories should be healthy fats (like avocados, for example) instead of junk food. If they're trying to gain muscle, they may also want to add more protein and carbs so they can have plenty of energy for the gym.
People who are trying to lose fat should try to eat in a mild to moderate calorie deficit. They'll want to focus on lean protein as well as filling and fibrous vegetables that will help them feel full without eating too many calories.
If you're just trying to get healthier, aim for a balanced and nutrient-dense plate regardless of calories.
2. Plan a Whole Week at Once
Getting the hang of meal planning is tough, but aim to plan an entire week of meals at the same time. You can even cook or prepare all of your meals at the beginning of the week so that they're easy to reheat or assemble at the end.
You can plan for leftovers or plan a different meal for every day. Some people omit lunches and breakfasts from their meal plans, but we recommend planning everything (including snacks) if you're trying to get healthier.
This is going to be an adjustment, but it will make shopping for groceries easier and more affordable (even if you're buying more expensive ingredients) because you'll have a set grocery list.
Bonus tip: order your groceries online if you can so you don't get tempted by snacks while you're at the store!
3. Focus on Shared Ingredients
Here's another tip for eating healthy and meal planning even if you're on a tight budget. Focus on ingredients that you can use for several of your meals. This way, nothing goes to waste and you don't have to buy too many unique ingredients every week.
For example, let's say that you plan to make a veggie-heavy summer stir-fry on Monday. Perhaps on Wednesday, you use the broccoli and carrots leftover from that meal in a fresh summer salad or a veggie wrap for lunch.
This also forces you to be more creative. How can you repurpose ingredients to turn them into tasty meals?
4. Make Your Meals Colorful
If you're unsure about how to eat healthily, focus on how colorful your plate is. While color isn't the only indicator of a healthy meal (after all, many healthy curries and sauces are beige and many sweets are colorful), it's a great place to start.
Challenge yourself to put as many unique colors on your plate as possible every week. Red bell peppers, purple shallots, dark green kale, and other colorful veggies (or fruits) make your plate healthier and more exciting.
5. Shop for Local Produce
There's nothing wrong with buying produce from the grocery store, or even frozen vegetables, but treat yourself to local fresh produce when you're able to do so.
Local produce is great for your local economy. You're putting money in the pockets of local people instead of corporations.
The produce will taste better. It hasn't had to travel from across the country to get to you, so it will taste fresher and riper than what you could get from the grocery store.
You'll also get to experiment with vegetables and fruits that you wouldn't have otherwise tried. Farm fresh foods are seasonal, so maybe you'll get creative with some summer squash even if you haven't eaten it before.
6. Don't Deprive Yourself
One of the biggest mistakes that people make when they try healthy meal planning is that they deprive themselves of the foods that they love.
As we mentioned, you should include snacks in your meal plans. While ideally many of these snacks will be healthy snacks (we love hummus and veggies), you can leave room for some of your favorite junk foods.
When you include junk food in your meal plan, you stop yourself from binging later. You won't find yourself on late-night trips to the grocery store to pick up a pack of Oreos.
On that note, you can also plan trips to restaurants or even take-out meals in your meal plan.
One of the best things about starting to meal plan is giving yourself the opportunity to experiment with different foods. One of our best meal planning tips is to find a healthy recipe website that suits your dietary needs and start collecting recipes.
Again, try to collect recipes that use similar ingredients. Make sure that they fit your time and budget constraints. Aside from that, try not to restrict yourself so you can try something new.
You might find a new favorite food to add to your weekly rotation.
Try These Meal Planning Tips
These meal planning tips will help you create healthy and satisfying meals that won't break the budget or leave you spending hours in the kitchen every day.
Remember: your goal is to create nutrient-dense meals that suit your dietary needs. Get creative and have fun with your meals, and make sure to shop local whenever possible!
Are you looking for farm-fresh produce in Fort Meyers for your meal plan? Visit us at the Buckingham Farms Pantry! We can't wait to feed you.