Draft written by: Amreen Bains
Reviewed and Edited by: Elena Zhang (APD)
Meal planning is a trendy buzzword on social media, what is meal planning exactly? This article will explain what, why and how meal planning can benefit your health.
Meal planning is where a person draws up a schedule of their meals ahead of time to make cooking/shopping easier and organised. Meal planning for health purposes requires a qualified professional (e.g. Dietitians, Nutritionists) who will assess your health & nutritional status, medical needs, eating pattern, food preferences and personal goals to create a weekly or monthly meal schedule. A good meal plan would be specifically tailored to you, and should be reviewed and updated periodically by a professional based on your progress. Meals plans can be accompanied by recipes and shopping lists, which makes following the plan that much easier.
You have probably seen many ads promoting a ‘special’ meal plan that promises quick results – There is no one-meal-plan for all, NO ‘magic diet’ where everyone eats the same food and achieves astronomical results. We are all different, each one of us has different nutritional requirements, different health needs, and many other factors making us and our meal requirements unique.
Reasons to consider meal planning
1. SAVE TIME
Meal prepping can save a lot of time! For example, if you work/study for long hours, or having to commute/travel long distances for work, you may not have the time or energy to cook every day, or even come up with ideas on WHAT to eat.
With meal planning, you can choose to cook up big batches of meals. You can then portion (optional) and refrigerate/freeze the food, then microwave them when it’s meal time – Voila! You won’t need to cook every day!
You might not notice how much time you are saving while meal prepping at the start, but over time, you will notice how much time you have saved and your days have become more productive and streamlined. Dedicate a day where you have some extra time to meal-prep for the entire week.
2. SAVE MONEY
Meal prepping can help you save money. When we are short of time or simply too exhausted to cook, it is tempting to opt for takeaway meals. Takeaways are generally less nutritionally-balanced compared to homemade foods, and can really add to your expenses. For example, if you order only $20 worth of takeaway 4 times per week, it adds up to $320 per month and $3840 per year!
With meal prepping & grocery shopping list, you will be able to buy exactly what you need for your meals, and can even choose cheaper ingredients/homebrand. It helps to prevent impulse-buying, which can happen when we are hungry and don’t know what to buy.
I (Dietitian Elena) use a neat meal planning tool that can calculate the cost of each meal in the plan, and they are usually only 3-5 dollars per meal, how great is that!
3. PORTION CONTROL
Portion control is an important element for a healthy, balanced diet. If you rely on takeaways for your meals, you often have no control over the food portions. When you don’t plan your meals, convenience may over-ride your decisions and you end up having too much carbs/saturated fats for your meal when you shouldn’t.
Meal prepping can help with portion control. A dietitian will be able to calculate the exact need for each type of food for your meals, and can create the perfect portion size that is nutritionally-balanced, and just the right amount for you. Through meal planning, you can also portion your food in containers for easy storage and easy access during the week.
4. REDUCE FOOD WASTE
Have you ever thrown away rotten vegetables that were forgotten in the fridge, expired ingredients that never got used, or spoiled leftovers that were stored too long?
In Australia, 7.6 million tonnes of food are wasted every year, and 70% of these foods were still edible! Worldwide, one-third of all food produced are being wasted each day! (source). Wasted food = wasted money and time. When we do not have an organised meal plan, we may buy unnecessary/excess ingredients or cook in excess portions that we end up throwing away. By planning your meals, you will know exactly what ingredient to buy, how much ingredients to use, and how many meals you can get out of one batch of cooking.
5. NUTRITIONALLY BALANCED
Every meal plan SHOULD be different to suit individual needs. Dietitian-guided meal planning can help ensure that you are meeting your nutritional needs, to prevent deficiencies, and you will also know your exact nutrition intake. A dietitian-curated meal plan is nutritionally-adequate for you; it could potentially help manage current health conditions, prevent future illnesses, improve your mood, immune system, and be adjusted to suit your taste/cooking preferences. Meal planning allows you to have all the meals that you enjoy in just-right portion sizes that include all the nutrients you need to stay healthy.
- Less stress as you don’t have to cook every night
- Saving money as you are less likely to buy takeaways
- Cook less and save more time
- Have nutritionally balanced meals
- Have the correct potion sizes
- Improve your overall health
- Less likely to impulse-buy food
- Able to achieve nutrition and health goals
- Reduce food waste
- Improving on cooking skills
Want to know more about EZ Dietitian’s dietitian-supported meal plan program? Contact us now!