The unhealthiest eating takes place when you are hungry, stressed and unprepared. Think of this as the ‘triple threat’.
Hunger + stress + being unprepared = poor decision making and overeating
Planning ahead will put you back in control of your everyday eating and your health.
When taking a patient history, I always ask patients to share how they decide what to eat day to day and week to week.
It turns out that those people who plan their meals and snacks tend to choose healthier foods and better manage weight than those who eat ‘on the fly’ or choose whatever foods are most convenient.
Here are some ways you can use this ‘planning ahead’ strategy to boost better eating habits:
1 – Do Meal Planning at Least a Day Ahead
Before the day begins, think about what you want to eat and drink; write it down or record it in an electronic tracker such as MyFitnessPal, My Plate or CalorieKing.
Or if you prefer old school methods, use a blank meal-plan template found online to write down meals and snacks.
Planning for the entire week is even more beneficial. Once written, your meal plan becomes your road map for an extended grocery shopping list and the week ahead.
2 – Include Healthy Snacks in Your Planning
Planning snacks as a part of your healthy eating routine is a winning strategy.
Think of snacks that combine some protein that has staying power (and won’t stimulate your appetite) with vegetables or fruits that are fiber-rich and come in their own natural wrappers. There are many grab-and-go options such as a yogurt cup and berries, some almonds and a sliced plum or a hard-boiled egg and some cherry tomatoes.
3 – Plan before eating out or attending a celebration
Though you have less control when going to a family celebration or eating outside the home, you can give some advance thought to help set yourself up for success.
Take time to look up a restaurant menu ahead of time or offer to bring a healthy dish to a party.
I also highly recommend eating a light snack before going out so you don’t arrive hungry.
Though not every day will go as planned, the more you plan ahead, the more control you will have over your daily diet and your health.
If you find planning dinner meals to be a challenge and you’re looking for new ideas to whip up quick, healthy meals in minutes, you can check out my blog on what’s for dinner at our house.
Robert Kushner, MD