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Why is meal planning important, anyway? Your friend can’t stop talking about it and you’re wondering what the big deal is. Meal planning is one of those game-changing habits that people keep talking about, but why? Stay tuned, we’re about to uncover the incredible benefits of meal planning.
The Benefits of Meal Planning
Ready to learn about how meal planning can benefit you? Let’s get into it.
Makes Meals Intentional
This one is important because I truly believe that good health doesn’t happen by accident. It requires intentional choices because we are constantly bombarded by foods that offer little to no nutritional value.
When you don’t plan your meals, you risk grabbing whatever is quick and convenient at the time. Let’s face it, most of the quick and convenient options available in today’s food system require that you trade nutrition for convenience. A big benefit of meal planning is that it allows you to have both.
When you plan meals in advance, you aren’t forced to rush. This allows you to plan meals that are nutritionally complete and ensure you’re getting everything you need over the course of a day.
Helps You Stay on Track
When you plan your meals intentionally, you make choices based on your health goals. Whether that’s bulking up, leaning out, or simply improving your overall health. These planned meals aren’t coloured by your emotions or mood after a stressful or tiring day.
When you bypass these potential decision-altering situations, you’re able to stay on your plan rather than choosing whatever is easiest in the moment. Think of your meal plan as a map that’s going to help guide you to your desired destination.
A major benefit of meal planning is that it gives you a big picture snapshot of your week from a nutritional standpoint. It’s easy to forget about as you go through your day with many different tasks requiring your attention. But once you have all of your meals for the week (or longer) set out in front of you, it becomes really easy to identify foods that are being neglected or opportunities to add a little more nutrition to your day.
This can be especially helpful for those who are new to plant-based eating. You can sit down with your meal plan and ask yourself the important questions. Do I have iron-rich meals? Have I included a vitamin C source with each of those? Am I getting enough leafy greens? You get the idea. Taking a step back to look at the big picture can help you ensure you’re meeting your nutrition needs.
We all know stress is detrimental, not only to your health but also to your sense of overall well-being. A huge benefit of meal planning is that it can significantly reduce your day-to-day stress.
When you plan your meals for the week, you can come home to a game plan that you’ve prepared for. All of the ingredients you need will be on hand, leaving you free to turn on the tunes and crank out a delicious meal.
No more staring into the fridge while you try to cobble together a meal from the mish-mash of ingredients you have left after winging it at the grocery store. No more getting frustrated with yourself for forgetting important ingredients.
The average person makes hundreds of food-related decisions each day. Each decision you make erodes the well of willpower that you have for that day. Once your willpower has run dry, you’re far more likely to make less-than-stellar decisions that you may feel crappy about later.
By the time dinner rolls around, your willpower is likely to be running pretty low. Another benefit of meal planning is that it reduces the number of decisions you need to make in the course of a day. Allowing you to bypass willpower all together and avoid decision fatigue. Save that precious mental energy by going on (well planned) auto-pilot at mealtime.
Allows for Support
If cooking is a task you don’t particularly enjoy or don’t feel you have enough time for, meal planning can help with that too. Once you have a plan in place, it’s much easier to recruit help in the kitchen.
Don’t be afraid to recruit your partner or teenaged child to help in meal preparation. Go over the menu for the week and decide which tasks can be handed off. Maybe it’s prepping some of the ingredients, starting a component that takes a while to cook, or even just cleaning up the dishes so you have a tidy kitchen to start with.
Reduces Food Waste
Have you ever wandered the grocery store without a list? You fill your cart with all the foods you like to eat, you may even have some meals in mind as you do so. But, if you don’t have a plan for how you’re going to use them, at least some of them are likely to wind up in the trash.
A huge benefit of meal planning is that it allows you to know exactly what you need so you don’t waste money on food that you won’t end up eating.
We all know food waste is costly, but meal planning can help you save money in other ways as well.
When you plan your meals and prepare a shopping list, grocery shopping becomes an easier task. Your mind isn’t as busy trying to plan meals and make all the decisions while you shop, so it becomes much easier to avoid the impulse buys that your grocery store bombards you with.
Meal planning is also proven to help you eat at home more often. Something we all know is more economical and healthier too. With a meal plan in place, you can avoid eating out simply because you’re too exhausted to try and figure out dinner. The plan is already in place, all you have to do is execute.
Pro tip: If the idea of cooking after a long day of work sounds like a cruel form of torture, batch cooking might be for you. Check out the post linked below to learn more about batch cooking.
If I tried to add up all of the time I’ve wasted walking around my kitchen trying to figure out what to make, I think the number would make me feel a little sick. Let’s face it, time is one of those resources you never get back.
A huge benefit of meal planning is the time savings. Sure, it does take a little time upfront to sit down and actually make the plan (unless you let Scientific Meal Planner do the work for you). But once you have your menu for the week, you’ll actually spend a lot less time in the kitchen than you used to.
No time wasted figuring out what to make. No time wasted running to the store once you realize, mid-meal prep, that you’re missing an ingredient. (Been there!)
Instead, your time in the kitchen will be more focused, so you can get your meal cooked and get on with the more enjoyable parts of your life.
Pro Tip: Want to save even more time with meal planning? Save your menus to reuse in the future. After a month or two you’ll have a nice rotation of plans to use any time you want.
Allows for Batch Cooking
If you think meal planning is beneficial, let me introduce you to her cousin, batch cooking.
Batch cooking takes the benefits of meal planning and amplifies them. You think it’s easy to get dinner on the table when you have your menu set out, try coming home to a meal that’s already made and just needs that final heat and serve. Talk about making weeknights easy.
Once you have your meals planned for the week, you open up the possibility of batch cooking either full meals or meal components to make the rest of your week that much easier.
For more on how to get started with batch cooking, check out this post.
An Option for the Time Crunched
What if you want all the benefits of meal planning but don’t have the time to create this master plan? Well, my friend, there’s an amazing tool that can help with that.
Looking for a done-for-you meal plan that ticks all of the plant-based nutrition boxes for you? Check out The Scientific Meal Planner.
This web-based meal planning app generates meal plans that help you tick the boxes of Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen. The best part is, you can start for free! The base meal plan tool is offered for free as a public service to help people along their plant-based journey.
If you love it, you can upgrade to premium to access convenient features and controls like setting a calorie range, avoiding allergens or ingredients you dislike, maximum cook time and more.
This is a powerful tool that enables you to reap the benefits of meal planning without having to do any of the actual planning. Check it out or learn more about it here.
Related: What Is the Scientific Meal Planner?
The Bottom Line (TLDR version)
Why is meal planning important? Because it makes your life easier in so many ways!
It can help you make meals intentional so you can stay on track with your health goals by bypassing willpower and helping you maintain variety and balance in your diet. Meal planning can help you reduce daily stress and allow you to get more support in the kitchen if it isn’t exactly your favourite place to be. It will help you save money, reduce food waste and save time, that precious resource we never seem to have enough of. Finally, meal planning opens the door to another life-changing habit, batch cooking.
So, if you’re ready to bring more ease to your day, hop on the meal planning train and see what it can do for you.
How is meal planning making your life easier? Let us know in the comments below.