Saturday, July 24, 2010

Let's Plan!! The Whats, Wheres, Whens, and Hows to Your MealPlan

On Monday, I gave you the information you needed in regards to eating.  I discussed eating 6 times a day, and I touched on what to eat and how to plan.  Even though there was a lot of information in that post, there was still room for more detail...that's where today comes in.  I'm going to talk you step by step in creating your meal plan and better help you understand the foods that make up your six meals a day.

My usual planning day is Sunday.  I deliberately decided to do this post today, so that you can put this into action starting tomorrow.  If Sunday will work for you, then you'll be ready to get started.  If another day works better for your planning - then just adjust accordingly.  Here we go:

If you like working on a computer, the best tool to use for your planning is Excel.  If you're not familiar with Excel, you can use Word and create a chart.  If what I just said makes absolutely no sense at all to you - then you may be better off writing your plans in a journal or creating a plan on paper.  Whatever you decide is up to you - and neither way is better than the other.  I use Excel because I am very comfortable with computers - and doing it that way is the easiest for me.  Whatever you decide, it's best to create something that you can refer to often - so try to create something that can be placed on the refrigerator or another place that you can use for easy reference.

You need to create a chart with Monday - Sunday down one side.  On the top, you need six boxes.  Rather than naming your meals "breakfast, lunch" etc.  Use the times that you will eat your meals.  Each week, you may have to adjust the times - but there's nothing wrong with that.  The times I use are:  8AM, 10:30AM, 12:30PM, 3PM, 5:30PM, and 7:30PM.  If you get up early, and like to eat breakfast at 6:30AM, then start your times then.  The key is to eat every 2 - 2 1/2 hours. 

I told you on Monday that I start out by first planning dinners, or the 5:30 meal, because that's the "big" meal of the day.  I gave you some recipe ideas on Wednesday that would be great to start out with.  Maybe you have some recipes of your own that you want to try..that's great!  Just remember to shoot for eating 1 pork and beef dish each week, and fill the rest of the days with chicken, fish, or turkey.  I'm not going to provide a list of dinners, because that's basically what I did on Wednesday, although if you find you do need some help - don't hesitate to ask.

Before I move on, I need to mention more about "free day".  Sunday is my free day, you can chose whatever day is best for you.  This week, I moved my free day to Friday after receiving an invite to eat dinner at a friend's house on that night.  I knew that I would end up eating things I shouldn't - so I just switched the two days.  On my meal planner, I had filled in the 5:30PM spot on Sunday as "FREE DAY!"  Once I made the switch, the meal I had planned for Friday is now on for Sunday.  When planning my free day, it's hard to know in advance what I'm going to do.  The point is to only allow yourself one meal to be "free".  I always put it on my planner to be the 5:30PM meal - because the majority of the time that's the the meal that I will use.  If I use another meal - such as cooking breakfast for the family, or going out to eat lunch, then I eat what I had planned for me to eat for those meals at the 5:30PM meal.  Just requires a little switching around - and that's totally fine.  Just remember even though I call it free DAY, it's really more of free MEAL.  You get one meal to splurge on, one day a week.  You can decide which meal, what you're going to eat...just make sure that you keep to your schedule for the rest of the meals and that you keep 7 days between your free days.

OK, that's one meal out of the way...just 5 more to go.  I realized very early on that trying to come up with 42 different meals each week is downright impossible -  maybe not impossible, but close enough!  I can come up with 6 different dinners (free day I don't plan for in advance).  That leaves 35 meals that I still have to plan...still too much.  Also, if you go to the grocery store to buy foods for 42 completely different meals each week - you'll find you'll have one heck of a grocery bill waiting for you at check-out.  What do you do?  Eat, skip, repeat!  The best way to do it is by finding 2 or 3 (I would start out with 2) meals that you like - and then repeat them every other day.  I'll use my 8AM meal as an example:

Monday:  Kashi Go Lean cereal and 1% milk
Tuesday:  2 eggs (substitute), 2 slices whole-grain toast
Wednesday:  Kashi Go Lean cereal and 1% milk
Thursday:  2 eggs (substitute), 2 slices whole-grain toast
Friday:  Kashi Go Lean cereal and 1% milk
Saturday:  2 eggs (substitute), 2 slices whole-grain toast
Sunday:  Kashi Go Lean cereal and 1% milk

With the handy-dandy copy+paste feature, my meal plan for the 8AM meal is complete in about 30 seconds.  Then I move on to the 12:30PM meal (I use 3 varieties for this):

Monday:  Tuna salad sandwich (made with fat-free mayo, pickles, and banana peppers)
Tuesday:  Healthy Choice steam bowl
Wednesday:  Ham and cheese pita wrap (use whole grain pita and fat-free cheese)
Thursday: Healthy Choice steam bowl
Friday:  Tuna salad sandwich (made with fat-free mayo, pickles, and banana peppers)

Saturday:  Healthy Choice steam bowl
Sunday:  Ham and cheese pita wrap (use whole grain pita and fat-free cheese)

That's 14 meals done - just 21 left...and those are the "in-betweens".  Not only do I repeat my in-between snacks each week, but I usually stick to the same 4 "snacks" every week for a few weeks.  You don't have to do this, I will give you some options for other things but my snacks are:  apple slices with natural peanut butter, 1/2 cup of cottage cheese and 6 Flatbread crackers, a Myoplex Lite shake, or a homemade protein bar.  That's it.  I randomly place those 4 meals on the open spots left on my meal planner.  If those snacks don't really appeal to you, you could use things like homemade protein shakes (use protein powder and mix it into 1% milk and add some frozen berries), 1oz of peanuts or almonds, hummus and flatbread crackers, protein pudding (mix a scoop of protein powder into your favorite fat-free pudding mix) with mixed fruit, ham slices and string cheese.  There are lots of options - you can get as creative or as simple as you like.  Just be sure you're eating protein and carbs with each meal.  Just eating an apple or another piece of fruit won't suffice, because there is no protein in apples. 

There you have it - all meals COMPLETE!!  You have now created your first meal plan - it only gets easier from here.  Once the first plan is created, the weeks that follow you will find much easier.  There are many weeks that I leave the entire meal plan the same, except for the dinners.  Some weeks, I change my breakfasts and add something like protein oatmeal (oatmeal with 1/2 scoop of protein powder) to the line-up.  Some weeks, instead of eating Health Choice steam bowls, I'll stick to eating sandwiches all week or eat ham slices with steamed veggies or maybe turkey slices with 2 string cheeses.  It all comes down to what variety you want.  Remember, this is a life change, so it's highly unlikely that you'll keep the same food plan for long - but once you get used to the foods that you can eat, you'll find it much easier to rearrange the meal planner to your liking. 

Now it's time to make your shopping list.  Now, if you have an iPhone - then you MUST download the app ShopShop.  It's a tool that lets you create shopping lists - as many as you like.  Then, while you're in the store you just touch the item, and it marks it off for you.  If you don't have an iPhone, there's nothing wrong with a regular shopping list.  Now, how you create your list is entirely up to you.  I like to categorize my items by areas of the store.  I'm pretty familiar with my local Wal-Mart layout, so I can design my list so that I'm not going back and forth from the front to the back of the store to find items.  I have separate lists for extras (things not found in the food section like my supplements), dairy, deli, center aisles, meat, frozen, and produce.  I create my shopping list the same as I create my meal plan - I start with dinners, then on to breakfast, then lunch, then in-between meals.  Write down all of the ingredients you need (checking as you go to make sure it's stuff you don't already have).  If you're making the foods for the entire family, be sure that you write down how much you're going to need.  I will say that there's nothing wrong with buying the "family size" meats.  They are usually cheaper in regards to dollar per pound, and you can separate the meat once you get home into Ziploc bags to use the following week.  You will find, after you get through your first initial week that your list may be smaller the following week - that's because you still have stuff left over from the previous week.  My regular items, things I buy each week, are usually the meats, milk, bread, frozen items (like veggies and Healthy Choice meals), and produce.  I often find that items such as cheese, cereal, crackers, spices, etc. last 2 weeks - if not more.  When you go to the grocery store - ONLY BUY WHAT'S ON THE LIST!! I don't know how I can convey how important this is.  There's nothing wrong with buying things you know you've forgotten - like laundry soap or toilet paper - but when it comes to food, if it's not on the list - DON'T BUY IT!!  That bag of cookies may look delicious, or you really think you need a couple boxes of mac & cheese for "just in case" - but you DON'T!!  When preparing your shopping list, consider items that you might need for the rest of the family - BUT DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES BUY THEM JUNK!!!  If you want snacks for your kids - opt for healthy snacks.  You don't want the lure of temptation reeling you in.

To end, I just want to re-emphasize that you shouldn't be concerned about the costs of healthy eating.  Many people believe that they can't eat healthy, because it's too expensive.  It's true that some healthier items are more expensive than the junk versions - but when you take into consideration how much you spend on junk food each week and then apply that to shopping more healthy, you may be very shocked to hear that your groceries cost less each week.  Also, with the constant craze of healthier eating, many companies now offer their "fat-free" or "lite" options at the same price as the regular items.  I notice this when I buy my dairy products.  A 1/2 gallon of 1% milk costs the same as 1/2 gallon of whole milk.  My fat-free shredded cheddar costs the same as full-fat shredded cheddar, fat-free cottage cheese is the same as regualar cottage cheese, and so on.  There are some items that cost a little more.  I used to buy the $1 white bread.  I now buy the Sara Lee 45 Calorie Whole-Grain bread for $2.38.  I no longer buy the $2.50 bag of chips each week - so that takes care of that.  I now opt for spending an extra $1 - $2 on natural peanut butter over the regular peanut butter and the Kashi cereal over the sugared bagged stuff.  I don't buy a 12 pack of coke costing $3.98 - so money issue solved.  You will start to see that omitting the bad stuff and replacing with good stuff is much more valuable - not only to your checking account, but to your health.  Think about how much it costs to go to the doctor!!  Still not willing to pay that extra $1 for the healthier option? You might want to consider it.

That's it for today.  Tomorrow, I'm going to share this week's weigh-in results and measurements and talk to you about weighing in.  Is the scale really a great idea?  Guess you'll have to find out tomorrow.

Till next time.  ;)

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