An Intuitive Guide to Meal Planning
Co Written by Georgia Gray
You might be thinking that the act of meal planning is too structural to fit in with the principles of Intuitive eating. For that reason, I like to think of it as menu planning, or providing yourself with a menu of options for the week. To understand it a bit differently, let’s talk about the difference between a meal plan and menu planning.
Meal plans vs. menu planning
- Provide a rigid structure on what and when to eat meals
- Usually prescribed for calorie control or weight loss
- Mostly followed in the short term however become unsustainable
- Often lack variety
- Can be associated with feelings of guilt or failure if not followed strictly
- More flexible guide of what to eat during the week
- Reduces pressure always having to think of what to eat each week
- More centred around organisation and preparation of meals and snacks
- Provide a menu of options to choose from more intuitively
- Not focused on calorie counting
- Generally more sustainable to continue in the long-term.
Ok, so now that we’ve painted a picture of the difference, let’s talk about the how of menu planning and where to start. Below I will share some tips to guide you on how to take an intuitive approach to menu planning.
Preparation is key. A big part of menu planning is about making sure you are prepared with all the ingredients in the cupboard to allow you to make all of your favourite meals during the week. Try setting aside time each week where you can, to go to the supermarket.
Stock up on staple items. So you are at the supermarket, but don’t know what to buy? Try stocking up on all of your favourite staples that you often find yourself incorporating into a number of meals. This could include selecting a range of grains, vegetables, fruit, dairy and meat. Canned beans, tomatoes and tuna are all things that I find easy to use in a number of meals. Cheese, yoghurt and pasta are a few more examples of other great staples. Even keeping some meat in the freezer.
Try out new recipes. This can help to give you ideas about how to incorporate new flavours and ingredients into your meals. It’s also a great way to explore different tastes and cuisines, and find out what you like!
Get baking. Baking can be a great way to have fun in the kitchen and create some extra snacks to have throughout the week. Try making a big batch of your favourite muffins, cookies or slice. Putting away some extras in the freezer can help on days when you need a quick snack.
Experiment with new flavours. Cooking is all about being creative. Experimenting with different combinations of herbs and spices can be a great way to incorporate some fresh new flavours into your meals.
Allow yourself to be flexible. Sometimes you may not have time (or feel like) making a proper meal at lunch or dinner time, and that’s okay. Similarly, if you have plans with friends, remember that it is okay to eat things that are a bit different than what you would usually have at home.
Get creative with leftovers. If you are anything like me, you might find the thought of eating the same thing day after day a little boring. Leftovers don’t have to be this way! Simply adding a few extra ingredients and toppings, or making them a side to your next meal can help to keep things interesting