Ideas for weekly meal planning - start with lists of good choices...then mix!

In looking for ideas for weekly meal planning, for starters remember that you're goal is losing weight through healthy eating. Secondly, look at exactly what meals you're going to plan - are your meal planning ideas going to focus on main meals, or all the meals for each day? And then use your master lists to mix and match across the week.

Ideas for weekly meal planning - a master list

You're looking for ways to lose weight, maintain health and organized meal planning so that you know what you're doing without having to think too much...and so you've got the right ingredients in the house.

It's a good idea to develop a master list of foods to work with a low fat shopping list that you can use each week, and which you can add to as you find foods and ingredients that you like.

When trawling through ideas for weekly meal planning, you can then combine these into a list of dinners, or lunches, snacks, or all three.

Start with the vegetables and fruits. List what vegies and fruits you like, and the family likes, as many as possible.

Do the same with meats, fish, chicken cuts and for meals that you've already adapted to low fat, and that you know everyone likes.

That way you'll have three lists - a vegetable and fruit list, a meats list, and a general grocery list to work with. Having master lists, means you can use the same ingredients in different ways without having to think about it. You'll already have it planned out. Everyone in this house knows when I haven't planned my meals...there's a good chance they'll get the same vegetables all week, because I can't come up with any variations at the last minute! When I plan, I already write up variations, and the people in my house notice...and appreciate not getting stuck with the same thing each day!

Now you can start work on what you're going to do for the week.

Meal planning ideas - start with one set of meals and go for variety

You may decide to start with breakfasts. Using your master lists, go through and set out breakfasts for the coming weeks. The thing about doing all the breakfasts at once, or lunches, or dinners, is that you can put in as much variety as you like. I know some people have the same breakfast every day, I like to mix them up, and pick a selection for the week that gives a variety of nutrients and tastes.

For example, a set of ideas for weekly meal planning for breakfasts in this house may be: grilled tomato and avocado on multigrain, porridge with mixed berries (for those that don't like berries, maple syrup, honey, or even sugar), weetbix with chopped banana, a fruit smoothie (for this I need berries for some and bananas for others), boiled egg and bread soldiers...and so on.

Now you can set these meals out with an allocated day, or you can just put the list on the fridge with a heading of "Breakfasts" then pick one each morning, knowing you've got the stuff in the fridge.

Then work on lunches, dinners and snacks. Again look for variety, but also remember to take into account what's happening in your life. There's not much point coming up with great ideas for weekly meal planning, then not being able to follow through because you've set yourself a roast and vegetables with a red wine gravy, on a day when you've got meetings after work, or the kids have sport. You'll just get frustrated and abandon the whole notion...which defeats the purpose of meal planning at all.

Ideas for weekly meal planning - getting an overview of what, if anything, is missing

One of the great things about having your meals for the week set out in front of you, is not only that it's easier to shop, but also you can see where there's any missing bits, such as not enough fruits or vegetables...and you can also see how much high fat, salt and energy foods you're putting in your mouth.

Not so long ago, feeling very rushed, I listed down the meals for the week, including lunch box snacks for the kids. I knew I didn't have a lot of time that week, so I listed down the prepackaged snacks that would be easy...boy, wasn't that an eye-opener, not only was there so much high energy food going into those kids lunch boxes...but the expense of buying them was downright shocking!

So, I decided it was worth a couple of hours of baking, for some healthier alternatives. Saved me money too, and I felt much happier about the choices.

One of the most noticeable things about having the lists for each day in front of you, is you realise that their isn't enough of the fruit and vegies in the mix. There's often a lot of protein and carbohydrates, but low starch, high water, fibre and nutrient rich vegetable and fruits are often a little sparse.

You should be eating a minimum of 2 pieces of fruit (you can use fruit in natural juice and dried fruit, but they are more concentrated in sugar and don't tend to fill you up so much), and 4 serves of vegetables a day.

Try to fit them in. Make sure you're getting protein and carbohydrates too, but when you're generating ideas for weekly meal planning, try and fit in the fruits and vegies. I've found that if I concentrate on the fruits and vegies first, I've actually eaten quite a lot...of good healthy, filling food. Also check out your daily needs of protein and carbohydrates, I bet it's not as much as you think.

Put all your days meals together and look for where you're missing things: fruits, vegetables, some nuts, have you included fish, red meat, white meat.

Really if you plan your meals around getting your nutritional needs over the space of a week, you'll probably find you're eating more food than you thought possible....but it's lower energy, higher nutrient food. So while the bulk of it will fill you, your energy intake will actually be lower than what it would be if you ate the same amount of high fat, high energy packaged foods.

Ideas for weekly meal planning - start hoarding your plans

Every time you plan your meals, whether they be for full days, or just dinners, or snacks, or lunches, keep these plans in a folder, or on your computer somewhere. Over time you'll build up your own ideas bank, which you'll be able to mix and match at any time, saving you time when things are hectic.

Something to remember too, is that dinners can be breakfasts, breakfasts can be lunches and so on. For example if you have a nice pasta and sauce dish for dinner one day, and there's leftovers, it can be breakfast another. One day's breakfast of boiled eggs and soldier toast can be turned into a dinner of cos lettuce, homemade toast croutons, chopped boiled eggs, salad onion, avocado a lemon and lime vinaigrette.

There is no rule that a meal is only appropriate for one time of the day! On a cold winter's night after a long day...this household enjoys thick porridge with warmed berries and bananas and a nice hot chocolate made with low fat milk!

Mix and match your meals to different times of the day...the ideas for weekly meal planning are endless!

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