Meal Planning - with Jen McDaniel RD

At the end of a long day, the last thing you want to think about as an athlete is what's for dinner?This question is especially tough when you have no idea. We all know that planning meals for the upcoming week saves us time and energy, yet there are good reasons why it doesn't get done. Some of the challenges include menu idea fatigue, lack of time, and a desire for "perfect" meals. While I often fly by the seat of my pants at dinnertime, I have found the following strategies to make meal planning easier: 

1. Meal idea fatigue 

As creatures of habit, we find ourselves throwing the same foods in our grocery cart week after week. Chicken again? As the primary meal planner, grocery shopper and cook, I understand how hard it can be to come up with new menu ideas that you as an athlete and you and even your family will enjoy. So how can we generate new ideas without having to subscribe to a meal planning service? A good place to start is to spread meal planning over the course of the week. Take a few minutes to indulge in a magazine with recipes or when you scroll through Instagram or Pinterest take note of the meals that sound good to you. The next step is to create a simple and easy place to save your ideas. I use the notes app on my phone. If you do this a couple times a week, you generate a running list for inspiration when you sit down to plan for the week.

Assigning a daily theme to a night of the week can help as well.  In our home, Mondays are "Meatless Monday" and Friday is "Healthy Fast Food Friday". By narrowing down your options, you make it easier on yourself to generate meal ideas. 

2. Meal-planning is time consuming 

I would argue that you save time by planning how you are going to fuel for the week's future activities. My favorite time-saving tip is the organized shopping list. Keeping an organized grocery list in the kitchen makes it available to all family members to add foods when something runs out. If you organize your list by grocery store aisles, it helps speed up grocery shopping. 

Furthermore the best way to cut down on time is to keep it simple. Build your meals based on protein choices, add in a healthy dose of veggies and a quality carbohydrate source and you have an easy template to speed up the process.  

3. Letting perfection stop you in your tracks.

Finally, you aren't letting perfection get in the way of progress are you? Don't be stuck in the mind set that meal planning = home cooked, perfectly presented,  made-from-scratch meals. It could mean subbing frozen veggies on Monday with your leftover protein from the weekend, store bought rotisserie chicken with veggies on Tuesday, and a big batch of slow cooker chili on Wed! I know it can be easy to get caught up in Pinterest perfection, or maybe reminisce about the homemade meals mom cooked. However, the goal of meal planning is to keep it simple, and to help you cut back on making poor food choices that will derail your training gains.

Looking for more help with nutrition? Check out McDaniel Nutrition Therapy!