From my own experience, and with talking to others, I think it’s safe to say that preparing a weekly meal plan can become a hassle after awhile. Sure it’s part of the process, and does eventually become routine, but some weeks I’d rather eat cereal every night than sit down and plan out one more dinner…again. Do you feel me?
Unfortunately we can’t ignore meal planning, especially when trying to change our eating habits and lose weight. In fact, next to meal prep, a weekly meal plan is one of the most important weight loss strategies. It provides structure and organization to the food you eat every day. A meal plan let’s you plan out calories and other nutrition for the week, and most importantly, keeps you focused on the prize. If weight loss is your goal then creating a weekly meal plan needs to be part of the process.
Changing your eating habits isn’t easy and trying to do it without structure (aka a meal plan) is almost impossible. Good news though, there is a way to make meal planning easier – create rotating meal plans. I talked about rotating meal plans early in my blogging days but want to expand on this concept as it pertains to weight loss.
Rotating meal plans are exactly what they sound like. Basically, you use the same meal plans over and over again. This might sound boring but truthfully it’s only as boring as you make it because you’re the one who puts the meal plans together. You can choose to fill it with familiar basics or a bunch of new recipes. Personally, I recommend doing a little of both so you don’t become overwhelmed.
Also, it’s not one meal plan that’s used every week it’s about 4-6 different meals plans that are rotated. Actually, you can create as many meal plans as you like but I think that’s a good number to go with.
So how does this simplify weight loss?
Like I said, creating a weekly meal plan is essential to losing weight. If you try to start the week with no meal plan then it’s likely you’ll fall into the “hot zone” and depend on old unhealthy habits. For example, if you don’t have dinner planned (and ideally prepped), and it’s been a long day at work, there’s a good chance the pizza man will be called. Believe me, I’ve been there many times. A meal plan keeps you intentional with the food you eat because you planned ahead of time.
Rotating meal plans add structure to your eating habits that can be quite helpful (and powerful) when trying to lose weight. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed when starting your weight loss journey. Up until this point your eating habits were most likely very unstructured and out of control. You ate what you wanted and when you wanted. Creating a meal plan is the first step in getting food under control.
A rotating meal plan system takes the stress out of trying to create a new meal plan every week. This makes it more likely you’ll stick with the plan even when life gets busy and overwhelming.
Creating a rotating meal plan system does take extra time up front but once it’s done you’ll save time (and stress) week after week. All you need to do is grab the meal plan, grocery list, and head to the grocery store.
Tips When Using a Weight Loss Rotating Meal Planning System
Research healthy recipes and plan out calories (or points) ahead of time.
I think the one big benefit to a rotating meal plan is your daily calories (or points) are figured out 4-6 weeks at a time. That’s huge. I know it takes a lot of effort just to plan a week of meals with nutritional information so it’s no wonder why people throw their hands up when life gets busy. Having a 4-6 week rotating weight loss meal solves that problem.
Most recipes found on healthy food blogs or other websites have the nutritional information included. Same goes with healthy cookbooks so it shouldn’t be an issue to find the nutritional information for recipes. Pinterest is a great way to find healthy recipes. Type in something like “healthy chicken recipes” and you will get 1000s to choose from. Create boards with your favorite recipes and then pull from those when putting together your meal plans.
If you need help figuring out nutritional information then use an online nutrition calculator such as My Fitness Pal, Lose It!, or even Weight Watchers.
As important as meal planning is it’s one of the first things to go when time is limited. However, taking the time to sit down and plan a months worth of meals will ensure healthy meals, that meet your daily caloric needs, are planned out ahead of time. I recommend planning all meals and snacks. Every bite, sip, and lick count when trying to lose weight so don’t leave it up to chance.
If planning 4-6 weeks worth of meals sounds like too much then try planning 2 weeks at a time. Or, another option is to plan 1-week at a time and start rotating meal plans after you hit the 6th week. Just make sure to save the meal plans and grocery lists.
A great way to save meal plans and grocery lists is by using Plan to Eat. With Plan to Eat you can upload all of your recipes, drag and drop them into a meal planner, and then generate grocery lists. Also, Plan to Eat shows all of the nutritional information (as long as it imported with the recipe) in the planner. This is huge when planning out a weight loss meal plan. I wrote more about this feature in this post.
After you create a meal plan in the “planner” section you can save it as a menu. Click on the menu tab.
Click “create menu”.
Give the menu a name and add the dates of the menu you want saved. When you want to use it again just drag that menu back into your planner. All the recipes will load into the week you choose.
From there you can print out a grocery list.
In my experience, and opinion, Plan to Eat is the best way to save recipes and easily create rotating weight loss meal plans.
Plan for easy meal prep
A meal plan means nothing if not somewhat prepped ahead of time. I can write out a beautiful meal plan with all these delicious healthy recipes but if I don’t make them then what’s the point? Life is busy and having food prepped ahead of time will make certain that healthy meals will be ready when you need them.
Meal prep doesn’t need to be complicated. It can be as simple as cooking up shredded chicken or taco meat, putting together protein snack kits, preparing mason jar salads, boiling up hard-boiled eggs, or whatever will make life easier during the week.
Also, rotating meal plans help you look ahead when preparing food for the week. For example, if this week you want to have Buffalo Chicken Subs and in 2 weeks you’ll eat Buffalo Macaroni and Cheese then you can make a batch of slow cooker buffalo chicken and freeze half to use in a later meal plan. Another example is freezing chicken in different marinades to use throughout the month.
There are so many options with meal prep. The key is to do what works for you. My advice is to prep ahead of time the meals or snacks that will make the biggest impact on your week.
Check out this tutorial for more information on meal prep.
Recognize if your diet is lacking in certain areas.
Rotating weight loss meal plans keeps you intentional with your diet. You can view upcoming weeks and decide whether or not you need to adjust foods based on your needs. For example, if you need more fruits and vegetables then add smoothies the next week. If you’re feeling a little bloated then cut some carbs out. If you have parties to attend then plan accordingly.
We all live very busy lives and it’s easy to get off track. Over the years, I’ve learned the importance of having systems in place to keep a healthy lifestyle a priority. If you consistently struggle to find the time or motivation to meal plan then I encourage you to give rotating meal plans a try.
Have you tried rotating meal plans before? What are your thoughts? Any questions?