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It's important to note that meal planning should only really be attempted if you're comfortable enough with intuitive eating to not turn planning and prep into another restriction or rule around food. When you've given yourself full conditional permission to eat and are okay listening and responding to your body cues then some gentle meal planning can help to reduce stress around food and make sure you're eating foods you love, with some balance in there too.
* When will you have time to shop? What works for you this week?
* What will bring you joy and feel good this week? Is there anything you’ve been craving or yearning for?
* What’s the weather doing – external factors are okay to take into consideration!
* What have you got on this week? Will you be busy? Do you have time to cook? Are you meeting up with people? * When will you maybe have some extra time?
* How is your energy and what are your stress levels?
* Is this how I would feed a close friend or loved one?
Remember we’re nourishing our body, mind AND soul! So which types of foods can help with this this week? Is this meal plan going to make you happy, does thinking about this type of food excite you?
It might help to note down some ideas of things you want to eat or might have time to cook in a notepad on your phone/computer or a piece of paper stuck on the fridge.
Make sure you’ve planned in meals AND snacks so you’ve got options and don’t feel restricted.
Be flexible – are your plans realistic and achievable? Do they allow for changes and being spontaneous?
Have a look around your kitchen and use this to make a shopping list – this can help to make sure you have the ingredients you need and a range of foods for snacks and meals. What have you got in the fridge that needs using up?
Try to keep as much variety in your kitchen as possible – a range of protein, carbohydrate and fat containing foods helps give us balance. [Note: this isn't always possible (or necessary) and it's a privilege to be able to keep a well-stocked kitchen].
Staples that can make life so much easier when you want to create a quick dinner are things like: frozen veg and frozen fish, tinned beans/lentils, tinned tomatoes, coconut milk, dried spices (for flavour and additional phytonutrients), pasta, rice and noodles and then flavourings such as worcestershire sauce, soya sauce, marmite, vinegars, mustard, stock cubes etc. Fresh herbs can also make any dish that bit more exciting and fancy. Buying a cheap herby plant can often be the most cost effective option!
Think about versatile foods, i.e. those that can be used for meals and snacks, like granola, peanut butter or rice (which can be used for lunch, dinner or dessert!).
Look for inspiration from cooking shows, documentaries and video channels (e.g. Bon Appetit).
Try out dishes you wouldn’t have dared to when you were dieting or use ingredients that were previously off-limits.
Don’t be scared of ‘processed foods’ – these can help us SO much to cut cooking time and create easy meals/snacks when we just don’t have the time to cook from scratch.
If you have extra time to cook though can you make a double batch and freeze some for another day? Or have it as leftovers for lunch – remember it’s okay to repeat meals! Variety is about the long term not the short term.
Be kind to yourself if you can’t prioritise as much time to meal planning as you might do in an ideal world. Life is messy sometimes, which often means things take over food planning, shopping and cooking. Do what you can and remember, self-compassion is so important.