There are millions of websites filled with recipes and meal plans devoted to specific diet plans - paleo, gluten-free, Weight Watchers, Whole30, primal, vegan, Atkins, and on, and on, and on...
Each website has gorgeous pictures of mouth-watering food, and meal plans to get you through the week. And I'm not knocking any of them.
I love food. I love to cook. I love to cook delicious food on my diet plan du jour, and websites like these have provided me with inspiration, great recipes, and some real winners in my recipe box.
When you are starting a new diet plan and trying to figure out what you can eat, these sites can be a real lifesaver and time saver by helping you to figure out meals and calorie counts or macro counts and ideas for foods that you and your family can all eat and love.
But the sheer volume of possibilities can be overwhelming once you get started. So I am going to make a little suggestion: once you find a few sites and a few recipes that you love - repetition is actually going to help you out. And by that I mean once you find a few recipes that work for you, then set up your meal plan so that you make those recipes over and over throughout the month.
For example, since starting the DASH diet challenge, my daily lunch when I pack a lunch is almost always mixed greens sprinkled with lemon juice, deli turkey or chicken, an apple, and a cheese stick. It's simple, it's easy for me to pack in the morning, I don't have to put a lot of thought into it, and it's a snap to enter into my online food diary. My breakfast on weekdays is similarly boring - two boiled eggs, a cup of low sugar yogurt, and an apple or grapefruit.
I'm tempted by all the beautifully prepared bento boxes on Pinterest, but to be quite honest, I don't have the time.
Dinner is where I get more creative, but since I and my family all have long work and school hours, something that can be made in the Crock-pot is most often on the menu.
It may seem a little boring when there are so many recipes to explore and try, but there are advantages to a "boring" menu rotation.
Let's face it - most of us are living very hectic lives. It's hard to stick to a diet when you are trying to plan a complicated menu and create something "new" every day. Creating a menu plan once that follows your diet plan and incorporates all the appropriate macros and micros, and then sticking to it week in and week out will make your shopping, your planning, your documentation (if you keep a food diary), and your meal preparation so much easier and simpler.
If you already know what you're going to make for breakfast, lunch or supper, you're less likely to think, "Let's just get a pizza tonight because I don't know what to cook" (guilty!) You don't have to devote head space to figuring out dinner because you already know.
One week you're hitting all the markers on your diet and the next, you're way off, and then you wonder why the diet isn't working for you. Changing up what you're eating every day or every week can lead to getting off plan and your diet going off the rails. When you eat the same meals each week, you're creating consistency for your body.
By following a meal plan that stays the same or similar over a period of time, you gain control over your eating behaviors, the calories you take in, your macros and micros, and your portion sizes. When you are working on changing your way of eating, feeling in control of what you are eating goes a long way to making the changes stick.
Ironically, when you establish a standard meal plan, you actually gain some flexibility. When you know what your daily caloric and macro intake is going to be, you can then plan for treats that will fit into your diet without worrying that you will exceed the diet's limitations.
Creating a meal plan that works with your budget and then repeating that meal plan can help you save money as well. You're not constantly having to stock your pantry with items you use infrequently or purchasing food that you find out you don't like. You get a sense of how much of an item you will use during the week or the month and stock accordingly.
Consistency is a key to forming good habits. You stand a better chance of improving your eating habits by being consistent in the foods you eat, just as exercising at the same time every day will help you to build an exercise habit.
"But variety is the spice of life!" I hear you saying. You can build variety even into a "boring" meal plan in several different ways:
- Allow yourself a daily "treat" that you change up each day
- Allow a weekly "cheat meal" or date night meal (even if your date is just with yourself)
- Eat a consistent daily breakfast and lunch, but change up your dinner meals daily or weekly
- Eat a consistent meal plan throughout the month, and then change to a different meal plan monthly
Have you found a "boring" meal plan that you like, or a tip you would like to share? Comment below!