Just think…starting next week, you can come home from work feeling excited to cook and eat the amazing meals you have taken a little time to prepare. By planning ahead, you will provide healthy meals for yourself and your family… and hallelujah! You won’t have to stress about what the heck you should fix for dinner!
Anyone can become a great meal planner. Your old way is to plan tonight’s 5:30 dinner at 4:45, which means you might resign to road tripping to your favorite fast food joint. Trust me, I know the feeling. You come home from work tired and lacking the energy and enthusiasm to plan, shop for, and cook a healthy and happy meal. At some point however, we have to stand our culinary ground and come to terms with the fact that, to take responsibility, we need to plan in advance. Meals that happen when we roll the dice for dinner usually prioritize convenience and end up being more expensive and less healthy.
Menu planning can be a simple process, so let me show you how. In learning to eat healthily, I have discovered how to turn ordinary ingredients into something extraordinary. Here are three simple Happy Diabetic meal-planning tips. Ready, set, go!
# 1: Plan to Cook and Eat at Home Often
OK…I admit it. I like to eat out, too. But, having worked for most of my career in restaurants, I can tell you that you should only trust yourself and your mama to prioritize good health. Restaurants are becoming better at paying attention to nutritional information, and that is good, but pleasing your pallet and handling your credit card are undeniably still the primary focus of a restaurateur. You have to be a little defensive when it comes to eating in a restaurant. Be aware that portion sizes are completely whacked-out. When the restaurant commercials on TV feature the grilled shrimp swimming in butter and the all-beef fried taco smothered in cheddar cheese, you need to shake yourself from the trance and say, “That meal is not for me!” You can make food at home that is delicious and far more responsible! Healthy planning and eating belongs to only you, and as you further develop your skills in the kitchen you won’t even miss those high caloric restaurant meals!
# 2: Write Down Your Meal Plans
For me a Sunday day off works best. I turn off the TV for an hour and grab my iPad and/or a piece of paper and a pencil. I put on some of my favorite music, assemble my favorite cookbooks and web sites, and go to work! I think about my week ahead, my work schedule, and the people that I will share meals with. For example, I am meeting friends on Tuesday evening, so I know on that night I will need to cook a simple meal as I won’t have much time. Or, maybe I can cook a little extra on Monday to have leftovers to eat on Tuesday. Let’s see…what fresh produce do I already have on hand? I take a quick inventory of my staples and the spices in the pantry. Then, with the artistry of Picasso, I start to visualize colorful plates and write down the list of ingredients I will gather on my shopping trip. Remember: If it isn’t written down it doesn’t exist. Make time for planning ahead!
#3: Prep meals and ingredients ahead of time.
Another reason meal plans fall apart is because real life crowds the time needed to prepare those meals we want to eat. I like to take some time on the weekend, when I have a few extra minutes, to prep some of my meals and snacks for the week. For example, I like to buy 3-5 lbs. of chicken breasts at a time – a far greater quantity than I need for one meal, but which eliminates multiple trips to the grocery store. I’ll marinate, season, and bake or grill the lot. After they cool, I’ll slice and bag them, 4-8 oz. per freezer baggy. Now I’ve got portioned cooked chicken ready to go. For what, you ask? Chicken soup, chicken tacos, chicken enchiladas, Mediterranean Chicken of Love (a favorite recipe in my Cook Fresh, Live Happy cookbook!), a broccoli and mushroom chicken bake, chicken chili, chicken salad with avocado, chicken fajitas, Olive and Garlic Chicken of Love…you get the idea. Even the littlest bit of food preparation can put you ahead of the cooking curve, and if/when that unexpected glitch in the schedule occurs at meal time, you will be SO pleased that you worked ahead. Good job, me!
I hope you’ve found these tips and steps inspiring and helpful on your journey to healthy and convenient cooking at home – Bon Appetit!
Get more great tips on from Chef Robert on his podcast and stay connected on social media!
Podcast: The Happy Diabetic Kitchen Podcast