Menu Planning

8 Feb

“A failure to plan is a plan to fail.”

You know who said that?  No really, do you know who said that?  Because I don’t.  But it makes good sense nonetheless.

I’ve always loved planning my daily menus; I get so excited thinking about all the yummy things I’m going to eat the next day, and it saves me tons of time in the morning when I’m packing a lunch in a hurry!  I end up eating more fruits and vegetables, and I also find that the days I plan my meals I tend to be more creative than days I just do whatever.  As an added bonus, we tend to lose less food to spoilage since I’m constantly re-assessing what we have and what needs to be eaten before rotting.

Menu planning is something you can keep very very simple (just writing down roughly what you’re going to eat) or you can be very detailed with (counting calories and grams).  Which option you choose will depend on how much time you have in a day, what your goals are, and whether you enjoy it or not.

Below are some techniques that have worked for me in the past.  Give them a try!  Start with the first 2 steps and you’ll see how big an impact it can have on the variety of your diet and thus quality of health, how much time it can save you (in the long run), and how much money you’ll save in food spoilage due to more efficient meal planning.

Preparation: Make a list of foods in your fridge and pantry that you’d like to eat this week.  Put notes beside those foods that are going to spoil soon, and leftovers.

Step 1) You don’t have the resources or the desire to get fussy with this stuff, but you do want to start eating more consistently, and more healthfully.  Write out basic ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Don’t worry about planning each ingredient of each meal – just write out a general guideline.  And don’t worry about snacks… they’ll figure themselves out.

Breakfast Omelet
Oatmeal
Lunch Salad
Dinner Fish
Vegetables

Step 2) Start including snacks.

Breakfast Oatmeal
Omelet
Snack Toast
Soup
Lunch Salad
Beans
Post-Workout Whey
Peanut Butter
Banana
Dinner Fish
Vegetables
Snack Yogurt
Cereal

Step 3) You already have a general idea of what you’ll be eating, but you want to start changing up your ingredients.  Start giving details about the ingredients in your meals.

Breakfast Omelet
Mushrooms
Oatmeal
Blueberries
Snack Toast
Tomato Soup
Lunch Garden Salad
Black Beans
Post-Workout Whey
Banana
Peanut Butter
Dinner Tilapia
Broccoli
Snack Plain Yogurt
All-Bran

Step 4) There are two parts to this step: The first is to start including things like cooking oils, dressings, and any “extras” you’re adding to your food (like butter or maple syrup).  The second part is to count the number of servings you’re getting per day for the following: fruits, vegetables, protein/dairy, carbs, healthy fats (nuts and oils), and “Other” (for things like dressings, butter, sugar in coffee, alcohol, and cheat foods).

Breakfast Egg Whites
Mushrooms
EVOO
Oatmeal
Blueberries
Maple Syrop
Snack Toast
Butter
Tomato Soup
Lunch Garden Salad
Vinaigrette
Black Beans
Post-Workout Whey
Banana
Peanut Butter
Dinner Tilapia
EVOO
Broccoli
Snack Plain Yogurt
All-Bran
Honey
Fruits – 2   Vegetables – 7   Protein/Dairy – 4   Carbs – 4  
Fats/Nuts – 3   Other – 4
 

Step 5) Ready to take it to the next level?  Then let’s start counting calories!  This means including the serving sizes of each ingredient and the calories associated with it.  You’ll have to start measuring (or at least ball-parking) foods, and research calories through calorie-counting sites or books.  There’s a steep learning curve, but once you get the basics down this becomes fairly easy.  Plus, all packaged food has nutritional information on the labels, so you’ll only have to research fresh ingredients like produce and meat.  This step is very useful for people trying to lose weight, as it’ll give you a better idea of how much you’re eating.

Meal Qnt’y Item Calories
Breakfast 6 Egg Whites 90
1/2 cup Mushrooms 9
1 tsp EVOO 30
1/3 cup Oatmeal 120
1/2 cup Blueberries 40
1 tbsp Maple Syrop 75
Snack 2 Toast 170
2 tsp Butter 70
1 cup Tomato Soup 110
Lunch 3 cup Garden Salad 40
2 tbs Vinaigrette 50
1/2 cup Black Beans 100
Post- 1 scoop Whey 120
Workout 1 Banana 110
1 tbs Peanut Butter 100
Dinner 3 oz Tilapia 110
1 tsp EVOO 30
1/2 cup Broccoli 12
Snack 1/2 cup Plain Yogurt 80
1/3 cup All-Bran 80
1 tbs Honey 60
Fruits – 2   Vegetables – 7   Protein/Dairy – 4   Carbs – 4  
Fats/Nuts – 3   Other – 4
 

Step 6) The final stage of craziness involves measuring your ingredients and counting grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fats.  Only start this process if you know the calories of your staple foods off-hand, and if you have a good calorie-counting resource (such as a reliable website or book) as this can be very time-consuming otherwise.  When I get to this stage, I general follow the same format for a couple days and just change a few ingredients here and there (like the veggies in my omelet or the fish I eat for dinner).  That way I’m only spending an hour every 4-5 nights on my menu.  This step is extremely useful for athletes and people who have plateaued in their weight-loss.

Meal

Qnt’y

Item

Calories

Fat

Carb

Protein

Breakfast

6

Egg Whites

90

0

0

21

1/2 cup

Mushrooms

9

0.2

1.5

1

1 tsp

EVOO

30

3

0

0

1/3 cup

Oatmeal

120

2

20

4

1/2 cup

Blueberries

40

0.3

10.2

0.5

1 tbsp

Maple Syrop

75

0

18

0

Snack

2

Toast

170

2

32

6

2 tsp

Butter

70

8

0

0

1 cup

Tomato Soup

110

2.5

19

3

Lunch

3 cup

Garden Salad

40

0

8

2

2 tbs

Vinaigrette

50

5

2

0.4

1/2 cup

Black Beans

100

0

19

6

Post-

1 scoop

Whey

120

0

1

29

Workout

1

Banana

110

0

29

1

1 tbs

Peanut Butter

100

3

3

8

Dinner

3 oz

Tilapia

110

2.5

0

22

1 tsp

EVOO

30

3

0

0

1/2 cup

Broccoli

12

0.2

2.3

1.3

Snack

1/2 cup

Plain Yogurt

80

8

14

0

1/3 cup

All-Bran

80

1

22

3

1 tbs

Honey

60

0

17

0

TOTAL

1606

40.7

218

108.2

Fruits – 2   Vegetables – 7   Protein/Dairy – 4   Carbs – 4  
 Fats/Nuts – 3   Other – 4
 

So, what are you going to eat tomorrow??

-Tess

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