3 Benefits of Meal Planning

meal planning, cutting red peppers

One of the most common challenges I hear from my clients when it comes to feeling confident with their health and nutrition, is meal planning. Feeling like they are in a "rut," bored with their routine meals, wanting to mix it up and try new foods, but are not sure where to start. These are often the comments clients say to me when we start to focus on meal planning.  

Whether they are on a mission to lose weight, expand their meal selections, or have established a new diet routine for personal or medical reasons, having a plan for what to cook throughout the week can be a great way to guide clients toward making more nutritious meal choices which can further save time, money, and lead to improved health. Meal planning might seem overwhelming for some people who prefer to spend most of their time out of the kitchen, however once you understand the benefits to meal planning, you’ll be well on your way to a healthy meal regimen.

Let’s dig a bit deeper into the benefits of meal planning:

1. Improved nutrition

Planning your meals in advance will lessen that last-minute stress of “what am I going to cook tonight?” and decrease the chances of swinging through the drive-thru or ordering take-out. Buying pre-packaged, highly processed foods will become a thing of the past after you spend a little time setting up a schedule for healthy, well-balanced meals for your week. 

2. Saves time & money

With less take-out delivery and fast-food stops, you will quickly start seeing the cost saving benefits to pre-planning your meals. When you plan your meals, you develop a specific grocery list to ensure you have all the ingredients you need to prepare those meals. This will leave you with more efficient and budget friendly trips to the grocery store. Meal plans can often be structured in a way to include leftovers so you’ve got lunch or tomorrow night’s supper covered, further keeping you from being stuck in the kitchen for every meal!

3. Expands meal options & cooking skills 

Ever feel like you are "stuck in a rut," cooking the same few meals week after week? We all have our go-to favorite dishes, but meal planning will keep you from continuing the cycle of repeat meals and introduce some new, healthy options for you and your family. This can not only expand the ingredients and/or dishes you try, but also broaden your cooking abilities by trying something new. I often encourage clients to try at least one new dish a week they’ve never cooked just to mix things up!

There is no "one size fits all" approach to meal planning. What works for me or other clients may not work for you. I encourage you to meet with me to uncover strategies that are most effective for you and your lifestyle. Sounding a bit too complex? Well, to further assist you in this meal planning process, I have teamed up with EatLove to create individualized meal plans that include your own personalized meal preferences and are geared to support your specific nutrition needs. Just in case you need more, look for my next blog where I talk about the benefits of using EatLove! 

Jenny Cutler is a registered dietitian at Mettler Center. Have a nutrition question? Ask the Expert or request a FREE 15-minute Meet the RD appointment or call (217) 356-6543.