6 Strategies to Take the Stress Out of Healthy Meal Planning

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If you surveyed people on the street, reality-show style, and asked whether they’d like to plan and eat healthy meals throughout the week, the overwhelming majority would likely answer yes. Most of us, whether or not we feel we have the time, at least want to plan to eat well. Yet research shows that 53 percent of American dinners are planned within just an hour of eating, and only 24 percent of them are made from scratch. Clearly, our desires and our reality don’t always match up.

Planning a week’s worth of good-for-you meals (and actually sticking to your plan) isn’t some unattainable health unicorn. Though it may require some effort, this practice is possible — and totally worth it! Here are our top recommendations for tweaks to work it into a busy lifestyle.

1. Follow foodies. Use your feed for food! Following health-conscious food bloggers on social media puts gorgeous images of healthy meals in front of your eyes every day. It may inspire you to try recipes you wouldn’t have seen otherwise. When something healthy appeals to you, take note by bookmarking it or adding it to a Pinterest board to try in the near future.

2. Work with what you’ve got. Begin meal planning by taking inventory of whatever’s in your pantry or fridge. Got some canned tuna, a bag of frozen mangoes, and a half cup of chicken broth? Then you have a starting point! (Just maybe not all those things together.) Alternatively, if your pantry’s so empty tumbleweeds are basically blowing through it, start by browsing local grocery stores’ weekly ads online. Identify some healthy ingredients, whether from your own stock or from what’s on sale, that you want to create meals around. Black beans. Barley.

Tilapia. Asparagus. If you don’t already have a go-to recipe for each one, sleuth around the healthy food blogs you’ve begun following orcookbooks you have on hand. Once you’ve identified practical, doable recipes and listed ingredients, it’s time to shop! (And when you do, make a commitment to stick to your list, avoiding unhealthy impulse buys.)

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