There are two types of people, those who know what they’re eating for their next meal and those who figure it out the hour before. Where do you fall? If you tend to wing your weeknight meals, the thought of meal planning can seem daunting. Finding time to sit down and write out your menu for the week, making a list, shopping for ingredients, and then the actual meal prep can seem like a lot. The reality is that all this upfront planning actually saves you time and money, helps with weight control, and is good for your health. Here’s why.
The Benefits of Meal Planning
1) Saves You Time and Money: When you go to the store without a plan you spend more money. The reason is you are more likely to overbuy which leads to food waste. How many times have you done the refrigerator cleanout before trash night and the wilted produce, the questionable meat, and the leftovers all end up in the trash? Did you know that the average household wastes almost 32% of its food each year? 1 That is a substantial amount of your income! Meal planning can also save you time and money by helping you avoid takeout when you're time-crunched or those trips to the store for missing ingredients where you end up spending more on things you don’t need.
2) Helps with Weight Control: It is well established that making your own meals helps with weight control. A recent study showed participants in a 40-week Weight Loss Program who frequently planned their meals lost more weight than those who did not2. Another study showed women who meal plan are less likely to be overweight and men and women who plan are less likely to be obese3. Meal planning gives you greater control over the ingredients you use and their healthfulness. Unlike eating out, when you eat at home you have a better sense of your portions and how much you consume. Where eating out often comes with extra sugar, sodium, and fat, when you cook at home there are no hidden ingredients.
3) Makes You More Successful with Your Health Goals: With any goal having a plan makes you more likely to stick with it and succeed. Meal planning goes beyond weeknight meals to include being prepared for those times you might get tripped up. If a meeting goes late, sports go into the evening, or you get stuck on a call, having healthy foods prepped in the fridge, in your purse, or at your desk ensures you have what you need to succeed. Meal planning is associated with a healthier and more varied diet3.
4) Reduces Stress: Meal time can feel stressful and not knowing what you have on hand, especially if you have people in your household that rely on you for meals, can put the pressure on. Planning ahead reduces stress and then when the questions start to roll in about what’s for dinner, you can say what you are having with confidence and start delegating on how everyone can help.
Want to start meal planning but not sure where to begin? Download our free 7 Day Zone Meal Planner and get started today.
- The Shocking Amount Of Food U.S. Households Waste Every Year. Available at : https://www.forbes.com/sites/lanabandoim/2020/01/26/the-shocking-amount-of-food-us-households-waste-every-year/?sh=6e5c70dc7dc8. Accessed: June 1, 2021.
- Hayes JF, et al. Greater Average Meal Planning Frequency Predicts Greater Weight Loss Outcomes in a Worksite-Based Behavioral Weight Loss Program. Ann Behav Med. 2021. PMID: 32301494
- Ducrot P, Méjean C, Aroumougame V, Ibanez G, Allès B, Kesse-Guyot E, Hercberg S, Péneau S. Meal planning is associated with food variety, diet quality and body weight status in a large sample of French adults. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2017 Feb 2;14(1):12. doi: 10.1186/s12966-017-04617.