The world has changed dramatically in the last months due to Coronavirus pandemic. People all over the world have been impacted in some extent. We changed our ways of working, our routine and our eating habits.
We are cooking more at home, which is great. However, it can also be stressed, particularly for those who are working from home and have to deal with meetings, endless to-do-list in addition to all family tasks, including cooking.
Let’s talk about it. Cooking at home doesn’t necessary mean that people are eating better. The shelves in the supermarket are full of processed products with loads of sugar, salt, fat and chemical stuff. If we don’t have a good education and mindset in relation to healthy eating, it is easier to fill our bags with all those products. Make the wrong choice has serious consequences.
Sadly, our social and environment conditions has lead us to consume each day more and more processed food, not to mention fast food. We have a thousand of excuses to eat our favorite fast food day in and day out. The consequences are obesity, poor diet, bad nutrition, disease, death.
Some facts related to poor diet and bad nutrition
According to the World Health Organization (WHO):
- Worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975.
- In 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults were overweight/obese.
- 38 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese in 2019.
- Most of the world’s population live in countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight.
Unfortunately, it is true that some countries are severe affected by poor diet and bad nutrition by lacking of healthier food. However, in most of the world WE CHOOSE to eat that fast food, we choose drink that Cooke or that packet orange juice. We choose to eat food that are high in fat and sugar. To make things worse we do not exercise as much as we should due to the nature of our current work and lifestyle.
According to the Global Burden of Disease study tracking trends in consumption of 15 dietary factors from 1990 to 2017 in 195 countries, published in The Lancet, estimates that one in five deaths globally, equivalent to 11 million deaths, are associated with poor diet, and diet contributes to a range of chronic diseases in people around the world.
The scenario doesn’t look good, does it? Luckily, there is a solution and it just depend on us.
So what is the solution? Planning is the answer.
I came from a family where eating is an enjoyable social experience and this is the way it should be. Food is part o people’s culture and it is also linked to pleasure. There is a misconception that healthy food is not tasty, which is absolutely not true. When you eat good and fresh food you taste the REAL FOOD. We need to rediscover this joy.
As we all know, when we eat well we sleep better, we have more energy, better concentration. On top of that, it helps us to maintain weight and reduces risk of many diseases such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, developing cardiovascular disease and some cancers.
Eating healthy isn’t about cutting out foods that you enjoy – I couldn’t give up my chocolate :). It’s about eating a variety of foods in the right amounts, which will give your body the nutrients that it needs. All you need to do is to make sure you get the right balance of different foods and all start with PLANNING.
MEAL PLANNING can play an essential role to encourage people to plan and prepare food in advance, and therefore rebalancing and improving their diets.
Why is meal planning important? A research published in the International Journal of Behaviroral Nutrition and Phsysical Activity, published online in 2017; 14: 12, investigate the association between meal planning and diet quality. “The results highlighted that individuals planning their meals were more likely to have a better dietary quality, including a higher adherence with nutritional guidelines as well as an increased food variety”.
The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health also endorses it saying that meal planning is a great tool to help keep us on a healthy eating track.
Benefits of meal planning
The list of benefits of Meal Planning goes on and on. Below we highlight some of them based on studies from The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Healthy Eating Hub just to mention few.
Tools and tips to plan your meals in advance
OK, got it. Planning is key to have a balanced diet, but how do I start? Meal Planning is a habit that needs to be created, and as any other habit that you are implementing it requires dedication and the WILL to do that. Use the tools and follow the tips below. Once you get into that there is no going back. It will get easier and easier. The results won’t be short then amazing. Let’s get into that.
Choose a meal planner
MEAL PLANNER is an essential tool. I truly recommend a MAGNETIC MEAL PLANNER. It’s simple and really practical to use. They often come with space for planning the menu for each day of the week; shopping list, as you plan the meals you can immediately write down what you need to buy; memo space for notes, reminders, task, appointment or whatever you want to use it for, and off course, they come with nice Marker Pens. Don’t worry, it is easier to write and wipe those boards.
It works wonders. Start by choosing the one that suits you the most. Then post it on a wall in the busiest area of the house. This might be a wall by the front door, the refrigerator door or a kitchen cabinet. The point is to make sure it is visible and accessible for all family members. After all, it is your family meal planner. Check out some suggestions below.
You can also choose digital meal planners, like “MealPlan+” from Apple stores. This one you pay a very little once and then you can have it on your phone. The advantage is that it’s integrated with a grocery list and you have this in your phone. I still prefer the old fashion way. For me a magnetic meal planner works better. If I need it in my phone I simply take a picture, but it is up to you. You can even get a piece of paper and draft you meal plan there but I think magnetic meal planners are more fun, particularly if you have kids. Choose the one that you will stick with. That’s all that matters.
Plan your weekly meals
Once you have your Magnetic Meal Planner, it is time to start to plan your meals. When planning have in mind the Healthy Eating Plate suggested by The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. It will help you to plan a more balanced diet for your family.
Get your family involved when planning. Make it fun. Discuss with them what types of foods and favorite meals they would like to eat. Consider to have specific meals for different days of the week, for example Monday – Italian, Tuesday – Vegetarian and so on. It can make it easier to plan and also everybody knows what to expect.
What I like to do when planning my meals is to check out what I have at home that I can use and then I go from there. However, there is no correct planning method, as it can differ based on food preferences, cooking ability, schedules, and personal goals. Try and see what works for you.
Have a grocery list
Can’t tell you enough the importance of having a grocery list before go shopping. I’m sure you have experienced that, buy more than what you needed or missed important ingredients for your meal. Based on the plan above see what you have at home and what you need to buy. Use your Magnetic Meal Planner and write it down. When go shopping take a picture of it and bring with you. It will save money and time.
Collect recipes and learn from meal books
Start a recipe journal and write down your favorite meals ideas, recipes, etc. Experiment different things, different combinations, flavors, tastes. Collect healthy recipes. There are a thousand of amazing books out there with endless recipes or even meal planning for beginners, vegan meal planner, weigh loss meal planner, etc. Give it a try. Play with it and have fun. Don’t forget, presentation is a big criteria when it comes to meals – did you see my dishes, didn’t you 🙂
Create a habit
As you are starting it’s important to keep consistency and create a habit. Choose specific days for each activity, for instance, choose one day of the week to plan your meals and to create your food shopping list. Then, define another day to do the shopping, maybe another day a week to do most of the cooking or try a new recipe. Start small. Aim to create enough dinners for 2 days of the week for example, but it is important to keep consistency. It will help you to create the habit.
You can have all tools available, knowing what you should do, what is better but even that you might be reluctant or do it once and then come back to your old habits. It’s all about mindset. Make the decision and be persistent. Change your mindset. A great way to do that is through affirmations, particularly, if you are implementing new healthy eating habits or starting weight loss diet.
You can do it!
At first, it seems complicated but it isn’t. Eating is a social pleasure, a family moment. I love eating and if I can eat better, save time and money then it is perfect. Bear in mind that, we as individual can do a lot to prevent poor nutrition and obesity.
Let’s do our part, let’s make it for ourselves, for our family, for our loved ones, and ultimately for the world.
Through meal planning you can, consciously, limit energy intake from total fats and sugars and increase consumption of fruit and vegetables, as well as legumes, whole grains and nuts. On top of that, engage in regular physical activity. You will live healthier and happier.
Now, with your permission, I deserve that chocolate!! Be healthy doesn’t mean you can’t have your favorite food 🙂 You just need to choose the right one and the right amount.
I would love hear from you. Share your experience!! You love learn from each other.
Medical disclaimer: This page is for educational and informational purposes only and should not be interpreted as medical advice.