Monday, January 3, 2011

Commit to Health Series: Meal Planning Will Save Your Bacon

I am a list maker. I have raised a couple of little listmakers here at my house, and I can't say I'm disappointed. No, I believe in the power of a good list. And, yesterday I realized that I've not only eaten too much and spent too much the last few weeks, but that I've been lazy too much and therefore eaten out too much. It's time to get back to list-making.Lucky for me I've surrounded myself with some good resources and I remembered the other day in the midst of eating my second piece of cheesecake that I really do like to live a healthy lifestyle. When you eat gluten free you tend to find yourself thinking an awful lot about what goes into your body. And, as most of America does at the beginning of every new calendar year, I've recommitted myself to my health. There are a few simple things I like to do that help me remember that I always feel better when I eat better. So this week I'll be sharing a few little tips on how to commit to health not only in January, but for a lifetime. First of all, if you want a healthy lifestyle and to feel energized throughout the day, it's important to eat right. And, eating right means making a plan. And I don't mean just any plan, I'm talking a weekly meal plan. For those of you who have mastered the art of making things to eat that are healthy and affordable and wheat free without one, you have my respect. But me, I just can't do it without a plan. I'm pretty easygoing with my meal plans. I write down the seven days of the week and plug in some recipes that go along with the time constraints and mostly what I have in my pantry. Then I make my grocery list from that. It usually looks something like this:

Monday: Chicken Tacos
Tuesday: Beef Stroganoff with Rice
Wednesday: Ham and Funeral Potatoes
Thursday: Chicken and Fettucini Alfredo
Friday: Waffles and Eggs
Saturday: Ham and Chicken Divan (use leftovers from Wednesday)
Sunday: Pot Roast with Mashed Potatoes

I try to mix up the protein, like not having chicken four nights in a row, and I also find myself inadvertently having "theme nights," and I'm not sure where it came from. Like Mexican food on Monday, breakfast on Friday, pasta on Thursday, stuff like that. But it's not set in stone. I learned a few years ago to be flexible and give myself the option to switch nights or have oatmeal instead if things go south, but for the most part it's worked for me. I also try to add in date night or if someone is coming to visit sometimes we plan to eat out, so I never forget to add in my nights off. This is a simple system, I know. A piece of scratch paper and a quick flip through the recipe book are all it takes. But if you need a little more inspiration, here are a few things I like as well:

*Meck Mom always has great organizational printouts like this one, which not only has a space for dinner plans but also has a spot for cleaning and exercising every day. I know, she's thought of it all.

*This is a really pretty one from Elegant Musings if you need to look at something pretty to get going.

*If you are new to gluten free eating and are having a hard time coming up with meals to make, this is a really great basic two-page list of not only ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but a list of products to avoid and a sample shopping list.

*Everyday Food magazine has a weekly menu planner complete with shopping list to go with the recipes in the magazine. Granted, it's only one a month, but if you look through a few months you can make up a great little weekly plan. Or, if you go to Martha Stewart online and click on Food they have all kinds of tabs on the side to help plan menus, find recipes, and cook with what's in season. Not all of the recipes are gluten free, but they can spark some inspiration when you need it.

*Real Simple magazine's February 2011 issue is titled, "How to Eat This Year" which is sure to be interesting. I also noticed in the January 2011 issue they have a "Get it Together Handbook" and it has a section on Dinner Made Easier complete with a copy of a weekly meal planner split into categories.

*If you're into checklists, check out this ginormous grocery shopping list from grocerylists.org.

*Keep and Share has an impressive article on gluten free grocery shopping and also a pre-printed gluten free grocery list, which is useful if you usually buy the same things every week.

Commit to meal planning. I promise you that you'll not only eat healthier, you'll make time to eat at home with your family and spend less at the grocery store.

Happy eating!

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