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Healthier eating starts with planning

Just about everyone likes the idea of eating healthier, but where do you start? Well, before you reach for that kale & quinoa smoothie, reach for a pen and paper because a simple meal plan is a winner. It’s easy, there are no rules and you’ll be pretty impressed with just how powerful a tool it is when it comes to healthy eating success.

A healthy meal plan is… well… a healthy meal plan. It involves thinking ahead and making a list of what you’re going to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. This might be for a few days, the working week or a whole week or fortnight.  Planning meals and snacks is a key part of healthy eating, but will also help you with budgeting, shopping and avoiding unhealthy temptations.

To start with you’ll want to make a plan based on what sort of eater you are, e.g. some people prefer three main meals without snacks while others go for smaller meals with morning and afternoon tea.  So with that pen and paper, write down what you’ve eaten for the last three days to work out your patterns.

With that in mind, now comes the fun part. Starting with tomorrow, list all the slots you need to fill – breakfast, lunch, dinner, morning tea, dessert, post-workout snack… whatever you need to get through the week. Then, start to fill them with meals/snacks and all the details, for example Morning Tea – a slice of fruit toast with a scrape of unsaturated margarine. If you already have some healthy options that you enjoy, then absolutely include them, but pay particular attention to the times where your choices could be improved.

As a general rule, be realistic about how much time you have to prepare meals and try to eat a variety of vegetables and fruit every day, at least five serves of vegetables and two serves of fruit. If that seems like a lot, there are all sorts of nifty ways to get them into your meals that you can check out here.

When it comes to breads and breakfast cereals, go for whole grain whenever you can. And try to avoid foods with added sugars, saturated fats and salt/sodium.

The 5 building blocks of food is actually a great place to get an understanding of different food groups and how much of everything you should be eating.

To keep things interesting, you can find healthy new ideas at our recipe section, or give our colour meal wheel a spin. As you discover dishes you love, keep a record of them so that you create a solid bank of healthy meal options. Any of the recipes you save on this site will be stored in your online profile.

Now, once you’ve got your list of healthy meals, break it down into ingredients for a shopping list. To give your plan the best chance of success, just check you’re being realistic about the time it will take you to prepare all these recipes, and also the cost.

When you’re happy with your list of ingredients, check your fridge, pantry and even your garden for the items you already have. For the rest, it’s time to hit the shops – just don’t forget your list.

Here’s why.

Every time you go to the supermarket, you are fighting temptation. As well as a tendency to buy more food than you actually need, those chocolate bars, chips, sugary snacks and the latest yummiest dessert thingy are impulse buys and they’re very hard to avoid, especially as the supermarkets can put the basics, like bread and milk, at opposite ends. But you have a plan. Print out our healthy meal planner, fill it out and stick it to the fridge. It will help you create a shopping list with exactly what you need to buy and nothing else, and you only need to go to the supermarket once or twice a week.

The other advantage of using the healthy meal planner is you don’t spend time at work or in front of the fridge at home wondering what you should eat.

So give the healthy meal planner a go. The important thing is to just start.