Your stomach is often considered a second brain. It’s heavily linked to your central nervous system and impacts a lot hence why doctors often prescribe to eat healthily and exercise in order to combat issues like anxiety and depression. Eating healthy isn’t that easy these days (or cheap) but here’s some advice on how to develop a healthy meal plan that fits in with your lifestyle.
1. Compose a list of foods that you can eat or want to include in your diet
When looking at your diet, you want to know what foods you can eat as well as what you want to include. A lot of people have certain foods they need to avoid and that can become a nuisance when creating a meal plan. At one point, the list of foods I could eat was so small that it was a little depressing but it does make you creative and helps push you to find ways of giving yourself variety.
You may also notice that there are things missing from your list of foods that you’d like to include like more vegetables or more protein options.
2. Compose a list of meals that you like
Once you’ve got the list of foods, its a good idea to make a list of meals that you already know and like. It helps build a strong foundation for your meal plan as you can see what foods from step 1 you’re able to eat and what foods you haven’t yet ticked off.
3. Look up other dishes to try out
Looking back at the foods that you like, you can look up different recipes online that centre around certain foods or just in general. There are a lot of people who have specialised diets and offer vegan options that are a healthier alternative to other things. There are also resources from chefs online that you can access for free for recipes and that you can then alter slightly. For example you may find a chicken dish but change up the vegetables used.
Basically, this step lets you fill in the gaps and give you more options to ensure you have a well-rounded diet encompassing all your nutritional needs.
4. Divide the meals into three categories: breakfast, lunch and dinner
It can be overwhelming when you have a lot of recipes to look through but the best thing to do, is divide them up into options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. That way you can also see how many options and the variety you have for each. If you feel you’re lacking in a category, you can look up more recipes to add to the collection.
5. Find snacking options
It’s important to have different snacks available during the day to keep you going in between mealtimes. When we say snacks, it’s easy to think of crisps and chocolate. When creating a meal plan, you want to give yourself healthy alternatives. Fruit is a good option, but it is high in sugar and often quite acidic so it’s not a great option as a regular snack. Instead, you may look at raw vegetable options (like carrots, peppers, etc.) or baked goods.
Again, you can research healthy baked goods such as low-sugar biscuits, or muffins. Honestly, right now, I haven’t got the snacks part down but it helps having something home-made as you know what’s in it and you can batch cook as most things last at least a few days.
6. Give yourself three different options for mealtimes
The final step to making a meal plan is to… make the plan! It can be tempting to decide your meal for every day but it helps to listen to your gut. On the day, you may fancy something else entirely and that could be some nutrition your body needs (i.e. a food higher in iron). By giving yourself three options every day, you allow yourself some freedom to actually enjoy your meal plan.
Ultimately, you know your body best, but having some kind of meal plan in place helps you to eat healthier and feel better. It helps with budgeting, reducing waste and using your time effectively. Any time that the plan doesn’t suit you, change it up. The main goal is to give your body the nutrition it needs.