As you’ve heard many times growing up, healthy eating is essential to a long, happy life, but, much like with fitness, it can be difficult to maintain a diet without a plan. Having a strategy to stick to can make your eating changes much easier to commit to. Plus, a balanced diet can help you lose weight, prevent diseases, and keep your body feeling its best.
In this article, we break down a few common types of meal plans, how to build your own healthy meal plan, and tips for sticking to it.
Different Types of Healthy Meal Plans to Consider
Meal planning commonly consists of three meals: breakfast, lunch, and dinner, alongside some snacks. Depending on your goals and personal preferences, you’ll want to do some research to choose a meal plan that’s right for you. Some plans are ideal for losing weight, like the 1500 calorie diet, while others are better for individuals with certain food intolerances or dietary restrictions. No matter your needs, there is a healthy weekly meal plan for you.
Vegetarian Meal Plan
While there are many different types of vegetarian meal plans, the most common is a lacto-ovo vegetarian plan. Lacto-ovo vegetarian meal plans eliminate animal products, aside from dairy, eggs, and honey.
Generally, vegetarians are less susceptible to diseases, have lower body weight, and tend to live longer than those who regularly eat meat.
Gluten-Free Meal Plan
Gluten is a protein that can invoke serious medical issues for those with an allergy or intolerance, though some people prefer not to consume for other health reasons.
Gluten-free diets eliminate foods that include gluten but may substitute foods that traditionally contain gluten – such as bread and cereals – with gluten-free items or gluten alternatives, like spelt and sprouted wheat.
Atkins Meal Plan
The Atkins plan focuses on lowering insulin levels in the body. Generally, this plan leads to lower weight, maintaining weight loss, and helps to prevent some chronic diseases.
The Atkins plan requires that dieters stop eating refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and candy. These foods lead to high insulin levels, which could prevent the body from absorbing glucose from the bloodstream. Instead, Atkins dieters will eat low-carb vegetables, eggs, meat, nuts, seeds, fatty seafood, and more.
Cook-Once-A-Week Meal Plan
These meal plans are increasingly popular for people with busy schedules. They involve making large portions of storable foods in one sitting in preparation for the week ahead.
Meals consist of soups, spreads, grilled meats, vegetables, pizza, and anything other healthy items that you can prepare in large batches and store in the fridge or freezer for later.
How to Create Your Own Healthy Meal Plan
Eating clean can be daunting. But, putting work in ahead of time to create a healthy and delicious meal plan will lead to much less stress once the week comes around. Here are a few steps to take when creating your new meal plan:
1. Establish an idea of what a normal week looks like for you.
Are there certain days when you have more free time than others? Could you bring meals to work or school during those times? If so, it’s crucial to plan specific meals for each part of your day, so that you aren’t tempted to deviate from your plan while you’re out. It may be a good idea to save your steak dinner for a night in and plan a sandwich for when you’re away from home. That way, you can still have fun while also sticking to your new lifestyle choice.
2. Take inventory of what food you already have.
Before putting together your healthy grocery list, check what items you have in your pantry. You can see what’s already in there and plan meals around these items. Be sure to check expiration and sell-by dates so you can incorporate items into your meal plans before they begin to go bad. Taking the time to check your pantry and fridge before you grocery shop helps you to save money, and ensures that you don’t waste food.
3. Choose a plan that includes foods you’ll actually enjoy.
There are many different diet plans, so make sure that you pick one relevant to your needs and tastes. Dieting doesn’t have to be boring, so work within your plan to mix and match different healthy ingredients to make delicious meals. Your tastes may change depending on the season, or personal preferences. You may want soups in the winter and lighter greens in the summer. Adjust your meal plan to accommodate these changes, and keep your meals fresh and interesting.
4. Pick a few recipes to build your meal plan around.
Spend some time finding different recipes online. Search for difficulty, cook times, number of ingredients, and more. Also, know how many meals you’d like to make each day. Some diet meal plans require only 2-3 meals while others could be 4-5. Once you’ve decided on a few recipes you like, you can start building out your healthy shopping list based on the ingredients needed.
How to Stick to your Healthy Meal Plan
Sticking to your meal plan can be a bit of a challenge at first. Here are some tips to help you stay on track:
1. Avoid the tempting add-on items when shopping.
The point of meal planning is to stick to it. Remember to keep your eye on the prize and do your best to only buy the food items you listed out in your meal plan. Adding tasty items that randomly catch your eye in the store usually leads to unnecessary extra calories going over budget. One way to help to help resist these temptations is to make of point of eating before any shopping trip. If you head to the grocery store with a rumbling stomach, you’re likely going to grab extra food you didn’t prepare for. Plus, you’ll be more likely to grab unhealthy foods to satisfy your hunger.
2. Pay attention to the food labels.
Each product at your store will have all sorts of different buzzwords looking to grab your attention. Words such as “natural” and “whole wheat” may be used, but an item might be full of unnatural and unhealthy additives and ingredients. Spend some time researching your food, and reading the ingredients they contain. You may benefit from sticking to a couple of brands you know you can trust.
3. Bring in friends for support.
The easiest way to commit to something is to do it with friends. Find some close buddies or family members to meal plan along with you. Even if they don’t want to work on their own plan, friends can help support your journey and keep you accountable for your actions.
No matter your lifestyle, there’s a healthy meal plan that can fit around it and allows you to still eat healthy on a budget. Whether you’re looking for a plan to gain muscle, weight loss meal plans, or to simply start eating clean, you can find a balanced diet that works for you. Spend some time searching for different recipes that interest you and suit your dietary needs. If you’re looking for recipe inspiration, check out the Fetch app to browse a variety of recipes, create meal plans, and save money when you purchase healthy items you love.