Our physical and mental health is more important than ever. With sickness running rampant the last couple of years, now is a good time as ever to ensure that we are doing everything we can to nourish both our minds and our bodies. Eating a healthy diet is a fundamental part of physical and mental wellbeing.
At its core, a healthy diet or meal plan is one which contains the basic building blocks of life your body needs. This means that it has the macronutrients – or protein, fat, and carbs – it needs to sustain your life. A healthy diet also has the micronutrients – or vitamins and minerals – to promote optimal health. Ideally, you hit a balance of all of these nutrients so you can start feeling great and working your best throughout each day.
Almost all government nutritional bodies agree that a healthy diet is one which is low in processed foods, these are items which are pre-prepared and not found in nature. Take for example, frozen pizza, ice-cream, cookie dough or popcorn – all of these items are high in saturated fats and heavily processed and usually have tons of sugar. The first step when moving to a healthy diet is to remove these food types from your diet (or at least reduce them to a minimum.
Secondly, a healthy diet should include regular portions of vegetables and fruit. One useful way of thinking about having a healthy diet is to think about ‘all things in moderation’, especially processed foods and those high in sugar and refined carbohydrates.
While healthy means different things to different people – some people prefer paleo, while other prefer low carb or keto – but a healthy meal plan doesn’t necessarily care about a specific diet or ideology. The primary aim is to eat things in moderation, while fueling your body to perform well and be at a beneficial and healthy weight.
While it might sound difficult – eating healthy is not as hard as it can sound – especially if you are purposely about it and decide to make a plan in advance.
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Healthy meal plans
What is healthy, anyway? That’s really something that you have to come to describe for yourself. But, conduct a quick Google search on “healthy diet” and it will return about a million results with a thousand different suggestions about what a healthy diet actually is. With so much information floating out there in the ether, and with most of it being conflicting information (are carbs bad or good? Well, it depends on who you ask…), it is no wonder that this topic can be so overwhelming to approach. Here are a few strategies we recommend using to filter through the diet information overload and find what works best for you.
First things first, we recommend choosing a diet that actually encourages eating. We all need to eat to sustain life, so if a diet is automatically recommending a 1,200 calorie goal to start – we suggest you avoid that one and move on to another approach. A 1,200 calorie diet is sustainable for no adult. Secondly, choose a diet that works with your lifestyle. For example, intermittent fasting may not work for you if you work a non-conventional schedule and only have certain windows of time in which you can consume food during your workday that don’t align with the IF suggested timing. Set yourself up for success from the get go by choosing a diet that fits most easily into your life.
It’s good to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition and overall health. You will have to do some investigating to figure out what works best for you. Some people may feel great following a paleo or keto diet, for example, while others don’t. Nutrition is a big science experiment and may take some time to iron out what is best for you.
Here are popular diet guides where you can start your research:
Foods for health
Again, what we define as “healthy” foods may differ from person to person depending on what they define healthy as being. What we consider healthy foods here in our culture may differ wildly from someone who lives halfway around the world. And one answer is not inherently better than the other.
That being said, there are foods that are more conducive to the goal of overall health than others. For example, nutrient-dense foods like vegetables, fruits, and high-quality protein sources are normally less calorically dense than other foods like chips, cookies, and ice cream.
Taking that into account, it stands to reason that if you eat more “real” foods (that is food that occurs close to its natural form) and less of those sugar and additive-filled foods it will most definitely help you feel better. But before we start to attach morality to food, which is something that we shouldn’t do to begin with, I want to acknowledge that eating only whole foods does not make you a better person than someone that eats mostly processed foods. We’re all just doing our best, right? Let’s leave it at that.
Below is a very over-simplified list of foods that are often considered “healthy” and that you can experiment with adding into your diet. Give it a go and see how you feel.
High quality meat
Healthy nuts + seeds
Real, whole foods as much as possible.
What is meal planning?
Any diet you follow requires some forethought to follow it appropriately. Meal planning will be incredibly beneficial to your success in finding a healthy diet. Meal planning is quite simply the act of planning out your meals for the week – or at least the next few days. This also requires making a list of the foods needed, shopping for the ingredients at the store, and could even include prepping some meals or ingredients.People practice the act of meal planning for many reasons.
One reason is to make the decision of what to eat easier in busy or hectic times. Another reason for a meal plan is that it can help budget and save money on food. We all know how tempting it can be to grab take out when days go awry or get busy. Meal planning helps avoid this and saves money by doing so. That is most definitely a win-win for everyone.
How to meal plan for health
The most effective way to find success while following a weight loss diet is to make a plan and then stick to it as closely as possible. First things first, pencil in this task on your calendar on a day when you have some free time. Sundays usually work well for myself, but this will be dependent upon your schedule and lifestyle.
Next, decide what meals you want to make for the upcoming week. Consult your favorite recipe blog, your cookbook collection, or Google for ideas. I use my Notes app to keep a list of what meals work for me for the next week of my life. In general, I have a couple of staple meals that I make week-to-week for ease. Then, I throw in a couple of new recipes for some variety and to fight off the repetitive meal boredom that can sometimes arise.
Once you have your collection of recipes, make a shopping list for your trip to the grocery store. I like to do a once-over of my current stash of groceries so I know what I need to buy at the store and what I already have at home. To make this task even easier, I like to order my groceries online and then pick them up at the store later that day.
The last thing that falls into the meal planning category is to do any additional prepping that makes cooking easier throughout the week. This may include pre-cutting vegetables like carrots, broccoli off of the head, or trimming Brussels sprouts. If any of your meals hold up in the refrigerator over a couple of days, you could prep them too. I personally like to prepare a couple of breakfast items like chia seed pudding or egg muffins so I can grab and go in the morning. Once this is done, you are on your way to having a successful, and hopefully much easier, week.
Of course, this is just a general outline of how the meal planning process can go. Take what strategies work for you and your life and toss the rest. The ultimate key to making any lifestyle change is finding what habits are most sustainable and doable for you and your life. If you have any meal planning tips and tricks you live by, I’d love to read about it in a comment below.
A sample 5 day healthy meal plan
Breakfast: Egg muffin cups
Lunch: Lettuce turkey wrap
Dinner: Tuna cakes with slaw
Breakfast: Chia seed pudding
Lunch: Leftover tuna cakes
Dinner: Flank steak with chimichurri
Breakfast: Egg muffin cups
Lunch: Leftover steak with chimichurri
Dinner: Pesto shrimp salad
Breakfast: Chia seed pudding
Lunch: Pesto egg salad
Dinner: Pumpkin spiced chicken thighs
Breakfast: Turkey sausage patties with lemon spinach
Lunch: Leftover pumpkin spiced chicken thighs
Dinner: Cream of zucchini soup
Healthy Meal Plans from Ultimate Meal Plans
Sometimes, you just do not have the bandwidth to meal plan for yourself. Everyone goes through moments of overwhelm, and it is within these moments that caring for yourself becomes even more important. If you want to take the task of meal planning off of your metaphorical plate, outsource it to a company. We recommend Ultimate Meal Plans.
Ultimate Meal Plans is a subscription-based meal planning service that delivers a week’s worth of meal plans to your inbox every week. Ultimate Meal Plans gives you a fully customizable meal plan to help you achieve health. You can choose the number of people you are cooking for, exclude ingredients to suit taste or dietary requirements, and you will get a fully customized set of recipes and shopping list to match.
One of the things we love about Ultimate Meal Plans is the ease of their recipes. They utilize the 15/5 rule which makes their meals simple to whip up but still delicious. The 15/5 rule means that none of their recipes take over 15 minutes to make or require more than 5 ingredients. This is especially helpful for those times in life where things are crazy and busy. The last thing you need when life is wild is for a recipe to take hours to cook and it leaves your kitchen a mess.
Start Healthy Meal Planning Today!
If you’re ready to make a lifestyle change, give healthy meal planning a try. This method will help you achieve health in a sustainable way and get you on the way to feeling much better in your body.
Other meal planning resources
We’ve built out a ton of meal plan resources on all sorts of diets. Check them out below
- Gluten Free Meal Plan Guide
- Low Carb Meal Plan Guide
- Weight Loss Meal Plans
- Banting Diet Meal Plans
- AIP Meal Plans
- Paleo Meal Plans
- Keto Meal Plans
Download Your FREE Paleo Starter Kit Today!
- 3-Day Paleo Diet Meal Plan
- Comprehensive Paleo Diet Shopping List
- 5 of Our Favorite Paleo Diet Recipes