A wise man once said “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” (Benjamin Franklin). While this saying can be related to many areas of our lives, I feel that it relates best to food and menu planning. For those of us that have amazingly busy lives (and really who doesn’t these day?), menu planning is an essential key to eating healthy.
About 8 months ago I discovered through a series of illnesses and tests that followed, I had numerous food allergies. Of course, I felt that I already ate healthy, and was very frustrated that I could no longer eat some of my favorite foods. After a couple of months of being bewildered and questioning my doctors, nutritionists and friends about ways to change my eating habits to accommodate my newly discovered allergies, I finally made the decision that only I could figure this out. Of course, I did take their advice, but this was an inner battle and frustration that only I could defeat.
I decided to do a little research on food prep. While I didn’t spend my evenings in a drive thru line, sometimes I did opt for fast food, be it frozen dinners, sandwiches or some other quick fare, and now this could no longer happen due to the allergies. If I didn’t follow strict guidelines I became inflamed, and what felt like almost immediately, I would gain about five pounds. Eating allergens was not worth feeling like all my hard work in the gym was going nowhere. So I took it upon myself to not only make sure that I ate healthy and allergen free, but that my family did the same. My son, who is a senior in high school, became excited about packing his own lunch; this was something I never expected. He decided he was going to have salad every day and drink water for lunch. I must say this one of my happiest moments.
Now that we had decided we were all on board, the questions remained, “How am I going to find the time to fix lunches and dinners for a family of three? “How are we going to decide what to fix?” Of course the latter question was easiest to answer, it would ultimately be something that I was not allergic to and it had to be healthy (low in fat, as natural as possible, and a good protein and carb source).
Finding time was still my biggest factor, as I work a full time job as an elementary teacher, am involved in many church activities and departments and I teach around 10-12 aerobic classes per week. I knew that I would have to set aside a day to make this happen. We decided as a family that we would all have input on the shopping list and that each of us would have an assigned job on Sundays while the food prep was taking place. I did some online research about the best containers to use and how to make sure food stayed fresh.
I found divided plates work best for my lunches and a 2 cup container works well for my son’s salads. Fruits and veggies for snacks, lunches or breakfasts were placed in one cup containers. On Sundays I normally make tacos, by frying up the meat and placing in a container, if we are eating it later in the week, I place the container in the freezer and we just throw it in the fridge the night before we plan to eat it. Some other items that we make are barbecue chicken legs; the crockpot is an awesome cooking tool for these. Throw them in with a little natural barbecue sauce and forget about them until they are finished. I have also made Salmon cakes, hamburgers and chicken stir fry. The key is to keep a variety; I very rarely fix the same things two weeks in a row.
Of course food prep takes a little preparation and some time for your family to get used to the change. Ideas about preparing food on a daily basis definitely have to change as well. I found that it was best to write the daily menu on a dry erase calendar. Writing the menu out kept us from sampling or having a hungry teenager polish off a whole pan of taco meat. Of course, having food already cooked makes it much easier to eat a healthy meal, especially when family members eat at different times because of work and sports schedules. Being prepared is a necessity when life is busy!
Fitmark Ambassador 2013