Article at a glance
- Plan a 3 – 4-day meal rotation to avoid unnecessary trips to the store
- Create detailed food shopping lists to avoid unnecessary buying.
- Cook double to eat for lunch the next day to eat better and save money on cafe meals.
- Reduce food waste by careful planning and finishing what you have.
- Keeping your fridge clean and organised to keep track of what’s in your fridge and avoid waste.
- Indulge in an 80/20 ratio of a healthy balanced diet and indulgent meals.
Do you find food takes up a lot of your time? You recognize the value of healthy eating but find it challenging to maintain a consistently healthy eating pattern? Do you find yourself buying unnecessary snacks during shopping? What about food waste? Do you throw away shameful amounts of food?
Don’t worry. You are not alone. Even as a nutritionist and healthy eating enthusiast, I find myself inconsistent. Takeout is easy, and that salad in the fridge just seems blah.
But the research links many modern-day diseases not down to just genetics, but to diet and lifestyle choices. This pushes me to want to refine my discipline and create a method for meal planning that is flexible, interesting and healthy for my health and wellbeing.
Food waste is another issue. People across the world are starving, and here many of us are throwing perished food away. A twenty-first-century irony. It’s also wasting your money. Many of us are trying to make more, and there is no reason to literally be throwing money away.
Considering health, food waste and money, I have come up with a meal planning method that anyone with access to a pen, paper, Google or even some cookbooks can use.
Plan a 3 – 4 Day Rotation
Going grocery shopping in this day and age is more of a bother than it should be. Don’t know about you but I am not a fan of the crowds, the overabundance of decision making impairing options and the ever more bad eating temptations. For this reason, a 3 (or even four) day rotation that minimizes trips to the grocery store is ideal.
Grab a pen and pad (we have a dedicated set in the kitchen) and get your fav cookbook, Google or Pinterest app.
Choose 3 – 4 meals you like.
I am a plant-based nutritionist and to ensure we are getting all we need we choose 2 – 3 meals that contain some form of beans or legumes and 1 meal that’s only veg.
Consider these points when choosing meals:
- Choose a variety of ingredients
- Search meals with chickpeas, beans, lentils or meat alternative as the main ingredients. A plant-focused diet is Earth-friendly and also directly correlated with fewer incidences of the most common diseases in our society today.
- Focus on complex carbs rather than simple carbs. That is whole grain rice and pasta, beans and legumes and veggies. Avoid white carbs that have been heavily processed.
- Raw ingredients for gut health. Salads are not dull and can be an easy way to get a punch of nutrients. Just look at this list of Heart Plant-Based Salads for some inspiration.
- Colour baby! A colourful meal is almost always a good shout.
Don’t forget snacks
Healthy snacking is a great part of any healthy diet. Sugary snacks, potato chips or other processed foods are a big no-no to a healthy sustainable diet. Here are some ideas for healthy snacks
- Organic nut butter on a seeded whole grain bread
- A handful of mixed nuts and seeds
- Fruit (low sugar if you are looking to shed a few pounds)
- Frozen fruit and veggie smoothies with added greens or superfood powders.
You can get a bit jazzier by making big quinoa or chickpea salad and scooping a small side to snack on during the day. This is great for those working out a lot or have high energy requirements.
Put it into Action
Ok, you have chosen your meals and snacks. Now what?
First, Take your trusty pen and paper and at the top, list your meals according to the day, for example:
- Saturday: Easy Thai Noodles and peanut butter toast with hemp seeds
- Sunday: Vegan style breakfast fry up (hey, plant-based can be indulgent too!), and falafel wraps for dinner.
- Monday: Stuffed squash and cucumber + tomatoes and seeds salad snack
- Tuesday: Lentil Soup and berries green smoothie snack
Yo! Wheres the lunch at? This is the best not-such-a-secret secret ever. Double up on dinners and use the second batch for lunch the next day.
There are several reasons we have incorporated this into our meal planning:
- We are less likely to be consistent in making lunches in the morning.
- This way we are guaranteed a healthy meal at work/school the next day.
- We save money buying lunch at the cafe at work or school (aka The Latte Factor book on finances.)
- We have more free time in the mornings!
An example of a meal 4 day meal plan. L = Lunch, D = Dinner & S = Snacks.
- Sunday: L – Curry, D – Falafel Wraps, S – Salad Sandwich on whole wheat
- Monday: L – Falafel wraps, D – Lentil Stew, S – Salad Sandwich on whole wheat
- Tuesday: L – Lentil Stew, D – Chinese Stir Fry, S – Mixed Berries Green Smoothie
- Wednesday: L – Chinese Stir Fry, D – Random Tapas Leftovers with wraps, S – Mixed Berries Green Smoothie
As you can see, we have a great balance between a plant-based protein with chickpeas and lentils and a good mix of cooked and raw veg in the stew and with salads.
If you happen to have leftovers after lunch ( as we do sometimes with the lentil stew, freeze it for a day that you don’t have snacks or one of you has gone out).
*A note on breakfast: We rotate our breakfast with oats with nuts and seeds, berry smoothies with greens and non-flavoured protein and yummy chocolate protein smoothies. High protein breakfasts are super for blood sugar stability and giving you the energy you need for a successful day. Not a breakfast person? Smoothies are a great way to pack in loads of nutrition while not really eating.
Secondly, list all the ingredients.
Go through all the ingredients and list them. When you come across ingredients that have been listed, simply add a line next to it. (or however, you choose to keep track of the quantity) REMEMBER TO DOUBLE UP!
Go to the grocery store.
There are a few tips here to making this a successful trip that doesn’t end up in frivolous spending on unneeded treats and goods.
- List dry store stock ups before going (coffee, olive oils, seeds etc.)
- Eat. We ALL know the situation of going shopping hungry and buying out of hunger. Seriously. Go in full and satisfied, and you are way less likely to purchase crappy unhealthy foods.
- Stick. To. The. List. Go in solo or as a team on a mission. Buy only what’s on the list, and that’s that.
This is really important. People are literally dying of hunger across the world, and life is getting more and more expensive each minute. So make sure you are not throwing food away. We have tested some ways of making sure we use all our food wisely.
The amount of food lost or wasted costs 2.6 trillion USD annually and is more than enough to feed all the 815 million hungry people in the world – four times over.Global Food Waste and its Environmental Impact
The ingredients list may not be 100% correct. We have found sometimes we are short an item or two and have to nip in the corner cafe to get them or we have some leftover. A great way to make sure you use all your food is leftover meals
Nope, doesn’t sound appealing but once you find your best meals its the best thing since lazy Susans. Our go-to leftover meals are either a sassy stir fry mash-up with rice noodles or roasted veggies sandwich with sweet potato fries. You may have to buy an item or two to fill a small gap in the meal, but again, it’s better than wasting loads of food. Stews with added beans, chickpeas or lentils are another great way to use up leftover veg while getting loads of protein and nutrients.
Love your refrigerator
Our fridges have become this grim store space of food long by their sell-by dates and a full isle of condiments.
We aim to clean our fridge at least twice a month, or if we are feeling rather proactive just before we do our food shop, so we put in our new edibles in a nice clean fridge with plenty of room.
Make sure to finish condiments before buying new ones. If you purchased something you not vibing, give it to a neighbour or coworker you think may appreciate it. No, it’s not weird. When did reducing food waste become weird? Surely allowing something to sit in your fridge for months (and perhaps even years) is a lot weirder than giving it to someone who will eat it?
Healthy does not mean restrictive.
One of the biggest challenges people face to eating healthier is that they think it’s restrictive and boring.
Herbs and spices are extremely underrated and when used in cooking, no matter what, makes meals delicious. Not only that, herbs and spices are fantastic sources or antioxdents and nutrients – powerhouses in fact.
Processed food, that is high fat, salt and sugar that trigger sensory pleasure points in your brain have desensitised our brains to natural flavours in food. Once you “detox” your palette from high fat, salt and sugar, you will unlock the beautiful flavours of natural food and eating healthy will become an absolute pleasure.
But plant-based diets are restrictive?
Yup maybe like 5 years ago, but these days you can enjoy a vegan diet without even noticing the difference. There is a massive soar in alternative products available to enjoy.
But I must caution – just because these alternatives are vegan, they are not necessarily healthier. So if your primary goal is a cleaner, healthier diet, then I would stick to the kind of meal plan discussed above in the example. Use chickpeas, lentils and beans with loads of vegetables and complex carbs, and you can’t go wrong.
Please do indulge!
Life is not lived on wither end of any spectrum. It’s about balance. And in the case of eating, the 80/20 rule is the absolute sweet spot.
80% of the time you stick to your meal plan and stick to whole foods, natural ingredients.
That other 20% of the time you enjoy a tremendous vegan fry up (homemade hash brown, mushroom and onion fry up, baked tomatoes, steamed spinach and toast) or even a great pizza!
There are enough studies to show that following an obsessively strict diet (unless for medical reasons) is not mentally sound, nor is it actually consistently followed. If you allow yourself bi-weekly or weekly indulgences, you are more likely to stick to the times of well balanced healthy meals.
If you are struggling to get your meal plan together or have specific health goals (weight loss, acne, insomnia, heart health) get in touch with me.
My passion for health and my belief for the massive impact it can have on your life is something I want ot offer anyone I can.
If you are interested, record a 5-day comprehensive food journal along with 3 goals and get in touch.