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4 Tips for Dinner Planning Without Restriction

4 Tips for Dinner Planning Without Restriction

Meal planning weekly can be a major frustration for many families. There are many variables to planning meals – what to make, the ingredients needed, the cooking tools necessary, cooking time, the weekly schedule, and more.

Then…the food rules come in. We think about no carbs, low-fat, clean/healthy eating, and low-calorie meals. These added complications can make you dread the simple question, “What’s for dinner?”

To make meal planning realistic, we need to simplify meals. There are two main issues with having a meal plan with diet restrictions.

  1. It can lead to insufficient nutrient intake (e.g., protein, carbs, fat), which creates more hunger later because the body becomes deprived of those nutrients.
  2. Having to make multiple meals. Planning one meal per mealtime is tough enough. When you add restrictions, you may need to make multiple meals to accommodate yourself, kids, and/or significant others. At this rate, you’ll be exhausted by Tuesday, spend the rest of the week ordering out, and be frustrated that you couldn’t stay on track.

Here are four tips for meal planning without restriction to make it an easier, enjoyable, and more realistic process.

1. Ditch the Restriction
We know restriction doesn’t work, and you’ll actually be more satisfied when you incorporate your favorite foods. It’s better to understand what satisfies you rather than restricting yourself at dinner and never feeling full.

Try to incorporate proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and veggies into meals. If a recipe doesn’t have one of those, that’s okay—ENJOY it! When looking for satiety, notice how you feel when all these components are part of your meal instead of always cutting one out and how you feel when you don’t have one of these components.

Examples include:

  • Protein: Chicken Breast, Ground Turkey/Chicken/Beef, Fish, Tofu, Greek Yogurt
  • Carbohydrates: Rice, Bread, Pasta, Quinoa, Potatoes, Beans, Lentils, Fruit, Oats
  • Fat: Oils, Avocado, Nuts, Seeds, Dressing, Mayo, Nut Butters
  • Veggies: Broccoli, Peppers, Onion, Cauliflower, Cucumber, Carrots

2. Make a Library of Meals
Having a meal library can make it so you don’t have to scramble every week to come up with ideas. You can try using Pinterest and creating a board of “Dinner Ideas.” Spend time adding to it and develop a library of ideas to choose from for weekly planning. Try searching words like “30-minute meals,” “5-ingredient meals,” “Slow cooker/InstaPot meals,” or meals with your favorite food items. This makes it more customized to meals you would actually make and realistic for your busy schedule.

3. Keep a Running List of Meals
Keep a list of meals – specifically ones you and the family enjoy – to use for weekly meal planning. Once you have tried the recipes you found, keep a running list on the fridge of the meals you all like. Over time, you will have options you enjoy, know how to cook, and don’t take too much time, making weekly planning a breeze. It’s a WIN-WIN-WIN!

4. Involve the Family in the Meal-Planning Process
Getting the family involved in meal planning can take away a lot of headaches come mealtime. Making and enjoying meals can feel empowering when everyone feels part of the choices.

Sit down together on a designated night and schedule when you’re going to cook based on what meals you all want to have, the needed cooking time, and your daily schedules. Taking this time to plan with everyone included is a game-changer and can make that 5 pm question, “what’s for dinner?” no longer feel dreaded.

Once you get in the groove of the meal-planning process, it can make your week less stressful, giving you more time and energy. And even more important, you will be eating meals that feel satisfying and enjoyable – without restriction!

Jennifer Braun, Registered Dietitian and Personal Trainer, opened The Nourished Life to support clients in healing their relationships with food and their body and understanding their needs and desires. Her approach is to meet you where you are and support you in living life with purpose, energy, and happiness

Call 860.506.6212, email: jennifer@nourishedlifect.com, and visit: www.nourishedlifect.com.