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Top 5 Benefits of Meal Planning

Meal planning can help reduce stress and emotional eating.  And even save you time.

One of the benefits of meal planning is that you feel better about your eating.

You know how at times your eating fluctuates between a never-ending cycle of eating everything that is not nailed down and eating “healthy” or at least what you think makes you “healthy”.  While you want to eat better you still find yourself giving in to your “guilty” pleasures.

When you have a meal plan, you can have more control of your eating, even when you are too tired and stressed.

Honestly, I struggle with getting meals on the table sometimes too. What I have found that helps decrease the stress in the kitchen and save time is meal planning.

What is meal planning

Meal planning is a process where you think in advance about what meals will look like for a given time span. By thinking in advance, you can plan so you have your supplies and food on hand.

Human nature wants to take the easiest way out. If you have no meal plan, the easiest decision is to grab something you are familiar with even though this may not meet your goals or leave you feeling good about your decision in the long run

Why planning is important

Meal planning is important for setting you up for success. Feeling good about your meal selection comes with a little bit of advanced planning.

Consider how you would feel if you took a trip in a car to another state but had no mapped route to follow.  There is fear about how long the trip will take, will you take a wrong turn and get lost, or run out of gas?

The fear-based worries could be decreased by mapping out a route in advance. With a route to drive that helps you get to the destination with minimal stress, while not running out of gas.

When you think in advance what your meals will look like, you can make better decisions that support your health goals and save money. Meal planning is a strategy that offers benefits to help you live a life you feel better about

Here are 5 benefits of Meal Planning

1. Meal planning helps decrease stress

Advanced meal planning helps decrease stress by removing many last-minute meal decisions.

You know how hard the last-minute food decisions are when you are tired after a long day of work.

Knowing you have a plan in place removes barriers and decreases anxiety and stress about meals. Food provides nutrients to the brain to help with keeping emotions more stable.

Meal plans help with stress by:

  • Creating an easy-to-follow strategy
  • Maximizing planning time
  • Planning times that decrease hunger
  • Remove the stress of not knowing what is coming
  • Providing nutrients to support your hormones and emotional state

Knowing you have a plan in place removes barriers and decreases anxiety and stress about meals. Food provides nutrients to the brain to help with keeping emotions more stable.

You feel less stress in the kitchen when you know you are eating what helps your body feel good physically and mentally.

2. Meal planning helps improve your nutrition

Having a plan for meals helps improve your nutrition because you can more easily make decisions that support your health goals. Often the last-minute decisions, when you are hungry and tired, are almost always the fastest meal you can grab and think about at the time.

When you have a pattern of choosing convenience foods and grabbing food on the fly, those decisions are what are at the forefront of your mind.

While you can still make decisions that work for your nutrition goals, these decisions are harder. You know what I am talking about, these are not the times you think about MAKING food. 

By having meals planned, your decisions can be reduced to a few simple questions:

  • Do you go with your planned meal?
  • Can you grab your easy prep meal in the fridge?
  • Do you go off the plan and grab something else?

When you go off the plan and grab take-out foods, the options open wide with meal selections. Eating out decisions include many more reasons for choosing foods, which often center around economical value and your favorite foods at these locations.

As a result, food decisions are harder to make.  Portions are typically substantially larger, and you may find intuitive eating more difficult with so many options.  For more on intuitive eating, see the article  What is Intuitive Eating.

Thinking in advance about your meals helps you think clearly about the food and nutrients that help to nourish your body and mind.

By reducing the choices, you must make, you can think strategically about the nutrients that support your nutrition needs and work with your hunger.

3. Meal Planning helps you manage your hunger

One of the benefits of meal planning is it helps you manage your hunger because you can plan regularly spaced meals and snacks, so you do not get too hungry.

Just like a car trip with a planned route for stops and gas, a meal plan helps you with a planned route and fuel. Biological hunger is the true physical hunger that drives eating and fueling your body with energy, AKA-food!

Letting your body get too hungry, creates a challenge in making decisions about eating. When you have no advanced plan for meals, you often find yourself too hungry by the time you need to eat a meal.

This is a problem because when your brain is not fueled well, you just cannot remember well. Not to mention your ability to process how easy meal preparation could be. Basically, at this hungry point, you are wanting something you know is fast, easy, and does not require much thinking.

A strategic plan that has meals mapped out for easy execution provides a ready-made plan so you can get food in to stop hunger before getting too hungry. By removing the biological hunger and doing planning in a more relaxed frame of mind, you can think more clearly, and you are not fighting the real, strong, physical drive to eat.

When you are not physically hungry, you remove the urgency from food, which has a positive impact on your emotions.

4. Helps reduce emotional eating and feel better

Planning meals helps in reducing emotional eating and feeling better by decreasing decisions about food when you are in a heightened emotional state.

You are more likely to emotionally eat and feel out of control around food when you are BOTH hungry and emotional.

Kathryn Martinez, Confidence in Eating

Since meal planning can be done at any time, you can use your best times to plan meals, which is when you are NOT in a heightened emotional state.

When your mind is swirling with racing thoughts and you have to make food decisions, there is more anxiety. This ramped-up emotional state often leads to impulse decisions about eating that do not feel good.

Having a meal plan designed in advance means fewer decisions you have to make with anxiety.

By developing a meal plan to nourish your body that you can follow, you can get the nutrients in your body that helps your feel-good chemicals work best.

5. Meal planning saves you time

One of the many benefits of meal planning is saving you time by segmenting planning and food decisions. By planning multiple meals at one time, you can simplify the preparation process.

Just like the car analogy, advanced planning saves time and helps with being more efficient. With a meal plan, you list out the items you need for the meals. This list is used to check supplies you have on hand all at once.

No more digging in the pantry daily to discover you are missing an item. The advanced warning of needed supplies is better than halfway thru cooking. This efficiency transfers to the grocery store trip also. You will be more efficient by reducing the multiple trips to the grocery store.

You may even be able to batch prep items at the same time when you have an advanced plan. One meal can accomplish prepping for the next meal. Imagine how good it would feel to use pre-chopped bell peppers for a meal or two.

Opening the fridge with ready-made items is freeing

Seeing nutrient-rich meals you plan for yourself in your fridge feels great! Not only does this practice save you time but think about how much better you will feel emotionally.

Meal planning is a way to save you time, help you feel better emotionally, and helps with hunger.  Reviewing the top reasons meal planning help above is one way to remind yourself how much benefit you can receive from meal planning.

5 Benefits of Meal Planning

Sometimes people find it challenging to make meal planning work for them. That is why clients often work with me so we can develop a customized meal plan strategy they need. If you would like some support in developing your own meal plan strategy, schedule a discovery call with me. During your call, we can discuss how we can make that happen for you.

Kathryn Fink Martinez

Conquer food fear and overwhelm! My passion is helping guide people who are embarrassed about their struggle with food and teaching them simple habit changes that lead to a life with more energy, happiness, and the freedom to eat the foods they truly enjoy. Find a realistic food and exercise approach and remove the uncertainty about what to eat. Get started with some of the free resources on my Confidence in Eating website, especially the Bariatric Success Guide., Emotional Eating Quiz, and Binge Eating Quiz resources. I offer telehealth nutrition programs so you can live your life knowing how to nourish your body, mind, and soul.

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