The Importance of Planning Meals

You eat in a variety of places – your home, work, restaurants and even your car sometimes.  Since high calorie foods are everywhere, it is important to take the time to plan ahead of time to make sure you have healthy options available. If eating at a restaurant, consider asking for their calorie information before ordering.

Pre-package your fruits, vegetables and even salads for several days at a time in order to have them when you’re on the go.  Have your water in containers to take with you and plan for the unexpected—that’s always a great way to avoid extra calories from high-sugary drinks.

Planning healthy meals throughout your day takes time—but the effort definitely pays off.  You may want to do this on a weekend when you have more time and can make a meal plan for the entire week.

To start, make a list of your favorite meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Also, make a list of your favorite snacks. Invest in a low-carb cookbook or low-carb recipes which you can find plenty of online.

Once you’ve planned your meals, make a grocery list. Make sure you choose lower-calorie and carbohydrate ingredients. Here are some ideas that may help:

  • Fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Flat bread instead of yeast breads
  • Whole wheat pasta instead of white pasta
  • Carrot sticks with hummus instead of chips and salsa

Try alternative bases for your casseroles and meat sauces. Use broth and/or water to make a sauce for your meats by using the bits on the bottom of the pan. Many great chefs use this deglazing technique instead of traditional cream sauces! For your casseroles, deconstruct them. For example, tuna casserole can be a nice piece of tuna grilled, whole wheat noodles and fresh peas. You can grill a large piece of tuna and measure off single serving sizes. You can freeze the extra pieces for a later date. You can find freezer bags that have a vacuum pump to take out extra air.

Try a non-stick cooking spray or a small amount of cooking oil for sautéing instead of frying with solid fat.
Substitute a low-fat cheese in casseroles and vegetable sauces. When using sharply flavored cheese, such as cheddar and parmesan, you can usually reduce the amount in a recipe to save calories.

If you’re using ground beef for tacos or meat sauce for spaghetti, look for a lower-fat variety such as ground round or ground sirloin or try using skinless ground turkey breast.  Once you’ve browned the meat, drain to remove excess fat.
Instead of full-fat versions of mayonnaise, butter and salad dressings, try using those that are lower in calories, total fat, saturated fat and trans fat.

Check out the frozen aisles for quick, low-calorie and low carb vegetable side dishes.  Vegetable stir fry is a great option with grilled or broiled chicken. Avoid all vegetables with cream, butter, or cheese sauces as these ingredients will add calories and carbs.
Research shows that people get full by the amount of food they eat, not the number of calories they take in.  You can cut calories in your favorite foods by cutting back on the amount of fat and/or increasing the amount of fiber-rich ingredients, such as vegetables or fruit.  Eating fewer calories doesn’t necessarily mean eating less food.

For the places where you might grab a snack or have a meal on the go (such as in the car or at your desk), make sure you have nutritious, low calorie and low carb snacks available that you can take with you.
Grab-and-go fruits: apples, bananas, grapes

  • Washed and chopped fresh vegetables: celery and cucumbers, broccoli, carrot sticks
  • Raw nuts
  • Plain yogurt
  • Low fat cheese sticks
  • Rice crackers

Take time to make a shopping list and re-stock your cabinets and fridge with healthy options.  It’s a good idea to think about stocking your office cabinet or car glove box with healthy shelf-stable treats if these are places where you snack.  You will find it easier to make better choices when you have a good variety of nutritious foods available in the places where you eat.

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