If you’re looking for the best meal plan for a healthy 2023, you’re in the right place! Read on to learn the why, what, and how of healthy meal planning. Or skip the article altogether (you’ll only hurt our feelings a little bit…) and head over to our expertly designed Whole Life Meal Plan—the easiest way to cook confidently, simplify nutrition, and feel better!
Why Meal Plan?
Meal planning may sound like a trendy or cliché thing that people do when they want to lose weight or have too much time on their hands, but we promise that neither has to be the case! In fact, having a weekly meal plan can help save you time and is useful regardless of whether you want to lose, maintain, or gain weight. Here are our top three reasons to meal plan.
Saves time and money
While meal preparation itself may seem like it requires a lot of time, meal planning can actually reduce the total amount of time you spend in the kitchen and grocery store each week. Creating a weekly meal plan with a grocery list saves time spent browsing the internet for recipes the hour before dinner, reduces back-and-forth trips to the grocery store, and helps you plan for leftovers and ingredients that can be used in a variety of meals.
Meal planning also helps save you money—something many people are concerned about these days. Meal planning reduces the number of times you eat out; meals purchased away from home tend to be more expensive than home cooked meals. Additionally, reducing trips to the grocery store helps limit the number of opportunities to impulsively buy foods or ingredients.
Finally, planning your meals can help reduce food waste. Throwing away food that you purchased is like throwing away the money you used to buy it! Meal planning will reduce the amount of food you throw away which is good for both the planet and your wallet—double win!
Makes healthy eating easier
Meal planning sets you up for success. When your meal plan accounts for several meals’ worth of leftovers or ingredients that can be repurposed in a variety of ways, your kitchen will be stocked with foods that make healthy eating easier.
A good meal plan can help reduce the number of times you grab fast food on your commute home or order takeout because you already have something planned or prepared at home, which inherently makes healthy eating easier. Most restaurant meals contain fewer vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fiber and more fat, sugar, calories, and sodium than you would prepare for yourself at home.
It’s also easier to meet dietary restrictions on a meal plan because again, you get to set yourself up for success. Having a plan in place will help ensure that you have the ingredients available and/or meals prepared to meet your nutrient needs while also following the eating pattern that helps you feel your best!
Allows for more fun, flavor, and flexibility
While some people may not associate the word “plan” with “fun”, we promise that it’s possible! Meal planning can help you incorporate new recipes into your weekly rotation which can add variety and interest to your meal rotation. We know how easy it is to get stuck in a dinner “rut”, so taking time to plan ahead can help get you out of this!
Meal planning can also reduce the stress of making last-minute mealtime decisions, which can also help add fun back into your mealtime routines.
Even though a “plan” sounds rigid, it actually allows for tons of flexibility! The visual reference of the meal plan helps you adjust your weekly schedule to accommodate those unexpected events that life inevitably throws at us! A meal plan can give you comfort that you have ingredients on hand to cook for extra people, or provide you with strategies for freezing leftovers for other unexpected events!
Finally, meal plans can introduce you to new flavors while still supporting your health goals. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice one for the other!
What makes up a good healthy meal plan?
There’s no single “best way to meal plan”, but these are a few strategies we’ve found to be helpful for our families and the people we’ve worked with!
Full of plants and colors
One of the best indicators of a healthy eating pattern is how (naturally) colorful it is! The more colorful plants you can get into your meals and snacks, the better! The colors in plants signal that they are full of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, all of which help our bodies prevent and fight disease. At To Taste, we encourage a plant-forward eating pattern, which simply means that the majority of your meals should be made up of plants! It aligns with the Mediterranean Diet, which is consistently ranked as the best overall diet.
We have developed tons of colorful, plant-forward recipes that make cooking healthfully easier; check ‘em out here!
Suits the whole family’s needs
You are not a short-order cook; you should not have to prepare entirely different meals for different family members!
Your meal plan can certainly accommodate different taste preferences, especially by using “build your own” recipe concepts such as tostadas, burgers, and even pasta dishes. This concept works well for household members that have specific dietary needs, as well as picky eaters. If you have picky eaters, remember that it usually takes repeated exposure to new foods before they are even willing to try them, let alone like them.
If you are the primary cook in the house, it has to suit your needs and preferences too. As with anything, don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you are new to meal planning, it’s not advisable to try adding 12 entirely new recipes to your weekly rotation at once; that would burn you out really quickly!
Start by just practicing the act of meal planning, even if that means cooking recipes you always make. Once you’ve established the habit of meal plan, then you can move on to trying new recipes.
Fits your schedule and budget
Chances are that you don’t have multiple hours to spend preparing gourmet meals every night, and that’s totally okay! A meal plan should free up more of your time, not take it away. Meal planning often advises bulk preparing certain ingredients at the beginning of the week—beans, whole grains, vinaigrette, etc.—so that throwing together healthy and delicious meals on busy nights is a breeze.
A good meal plan also encourages making enough food for leftovers multiple times throughout the week, or to even make enough to freeze for extra busy days or those days when you just don’t feel like cooking!
Many pre-made meal plans are expensive themselves, and then are full of expensive ingredients. Thank you…next! A meal plan should fit YOUR budget, not someone else’s. Fortunately, when following a plant-forward diet, creating a meal plan on a budget becomes much easier!
Wait…but how do you follow a plant-forward meal plan??
How to follow a plant-forward weekly meal plan
If you want to learn the easiest way to meal plan, look no further than the Whole Life Meal Plan.
The Whole Life Meal Plan was designed by a team of chefs, dietitians, and a culinary medicine specialist to bring flavor, ease, and enjoyment to your kitchen. This weekly healthy meal plan was designed for anyone with a desire to cook confidently, simplify nutrition, and feel better—single people, couples, friends, and families.
When you purchase and download the Whole Life Meal Plan, you receive a customizable meal plan grocery list, access to step-by-step recipe tutorial videos for all of the recipes in the plan, nutrition advice from industry-expert registered dietitians, and a path to build your confidence to create your own meal plan using our meal plan template! This is truly a meal plan toolkit that has the power to transform your whole life!
With the meal planning principles from this article as your foundation, the Whole Life Meal Plan as your template, our base recipes as your guide, and of course, an entire internet full of incredible plant-forward recipes to try out, you are now ready to turn this advice into action!
As one final thought, be patient with yourself! It is more than okay to not be a perfect meal planner the first, second, or even fiftieth time through. Even as culinary nutrition experts, we don’t always get it right either! Keep working at it and enjoy the process.
Over time, you will develop more cooking confidence and begin to feel even better.
To YOUR taste!