Meal Planning and Grocery Shopping for Success
Meal and snack planning will help you to stay on track with the Basic Principles. It is much easier to be successful with this program when you spend some time planning out what you will eat and then making sure you have the healthy foods available and prepped so you can easily eat the right foods. As you plan out your meals and snacks, jot down the ingredients you need onto your shopping list. It is probably a good idea to go grocery shopping at least once a week or more often if planning for a whole week is not possible. Try and set aside a certain day and time each week to do your meal planning and a certain day and time to go grocery shopping.
Meal and Snack Planning Tips
Check Out Recipes on the Health Plus Website:
- There are some great low fat recipes in the recipe section under Resources on the Health Plus Website: www.healthplustoday.org.
- You can add lean protein (such as chicken breast, ground turkey, shrimp, tilapia, cod, etc.) to the vegetarian or vegan recipes.
- For recipes that contain meat, you can substitute beans and/or tofu as a low fat protein source.
Make a List of Meals:
- As you find recipes/meals that you enjoy, keep a list of them so that you can rotate your meals.
- Having some variety in what you eat can help this program be more sustainable.
Super Easy Meal Idea:
- Grill some lean meat or fish.
- Add a whole grain such as brown rice, quinoa, or barley or even some potatoes (grill or oven roast after spraying with olive oil spray and adding seasonings or mash with chicken broth, nonfat sour cream, nonfat milk, and seasonings).
- Then finish with vegetables. You may want to have 2-3 types of vegetables to give you more variety. Click here for a handout called “Vegetables Made Easy” that offers cooking and seasoning ideas. For roasting or grilling use an olive oil spray to reduce that fat. Keep in mind that steaming vegetables and then adding some seasoning is always a good option.
- About ¼ of your plate should contain the protein (about 4 ounces), about ¼ of the plate should have the whole grain or potatoes and the other ½ of your plate should have vegetables. By changing the type of protein, the type of grain and/or the type of vegetables, there will be a large number of different meals you can have using this meal idea!
Time Saving Tips for Cooking:
- Consider making a double or triple portion of a favorite recipe and freezing the extra portions for eating when you are really busy.
- Precut veggies for dinners so they are ready to cook.
- Every few days, see what leftovers you have in your refrigerator.
- Try to use the leftovers for lunches or snacks.
- I like to think of snacks as mini meals which usually contain some protein along with another food group (such as a whole grain, fruit, vegetables).
- Click here for a “Smart Snacking” handout.
- Prepping snacks ahead of time (cutting up produce, peeling citrus fruits, portioning out foods, etc.) makes it much easier to grab a snack while you’re working (even when working from home) or heading out to run errands.
Fruits and Vegetables:
- Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is a great way to help meet the fiber goal of at least 25 grams of fiber each day.
- Click here for a handout about “Ways to Enjoy More Fruits and Vegetables”.
Use a Shopping List:
- Keep a shopping list on the side of the refrigerator so you can write down foods you have run out of or are running low on. Then you will know exactly what you need to buy on your next shopping trip rather than trying to remember.
- As you plan out your meals and snacks for the week, add what you need to the shopping list.
- A list will help you stay focused while at the grocery store and help prevent impulsive purchases.
Shop During Slow Times:
- Go to the grocery store during slower times. Shop during the week rather than on the weekends since grocery stores tend to be busier on weekends or shop early in the morning or later in the evening.
- Avoid shopping around 5 pm, right after payday or right before a major holiday.
Do Not Grocery Shop When Hungry:
- Make sure you eat a snack or meal before going grocery shopping!
- This will help reduce impulse buying.
- Get the cold or frozen foods last when grocery shopping, especially if you have a long shopping list.
- Grab perishable and frozen foods from the back of the shelves for more distant expiration dates.
- Look at store ads for sales on items you normally buy. Stock up on these items.
- Look for coupons on store apps.
- Buy in bulk (frozen meats/fish, frozen fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dried beans and lentils) if that fits into your budget and you have space in your pantry/freezer.
Fruits and Vegetables:
- Buy more fresh produce than you think you may need.
- Buy some frozen vegetables and some frozen and/or dried fruit for those times when you are super busy and don’t have time to cut fruits and vegetables.
- Look for sales on produce or buy produce when it is in season (since it is likely to be less expensive then). Click here for information on what produce is in season throughout the year.
- Shop at Farmers Markets for some very fresh produce that is often organic.
- If you are shopping on a budget and don’t want to necessarily buy all organic produce, click here to access the “Clean 15” list and here for the “Dirty Dozen” list from the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
- The Clean 15 are the produce items that had the lowest amounts of pesticide residues, according to EWG’s analysis of the most recent USDA data.
- The Dirty Dozen foods were contaminated with more pesticides than other crops, according to EWG’s analysis of USDA data.
- Consider buying organic varieties of the Dirty Dozen foods since organic standards prohibit the use of synthetic pesticides.
- Keep in mind that the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables outweigh the risk of possible exposure to pesticide residues.
- Rinse produce well under cold running water before eating, cutting or cooking.