Meal planning puts you in complete control of your (and your family’s) nutrition.
You decide whether to use butter or olive oil. You decide whether to use agave or artificial sweetener. You decide what you want to eat, and just how healthy you want to be.
If you plan and prepare your meals, you will know what is fueling your kids. If you notice that your kids aren’t reacting well to a certain meal or food, then you know where to begin to protect the problem.
And meal planning is almost a necessity if someone in your family needs to follow a special diet. If someone suffers from diabetes, celiac disease, allergies, or any other number of diet issues, meal planning can be a lifesaver!
Concerned your daughter isn’t eating enough? Worried your son is eating too much? Worried that you might not be getting enough calcium? Worried that your kids are eating too much sugar? Each of these viable concerns can easily be addressed with meal planning.
By devoting time out of your busy schedule to meal planning, you can become more aware of what you are eating. You will have time and opportunity to read labels, observe calorie counts, and be aware of daily nutritional values.
Meal planning also allows you to modify familiar or favorite recipes just to make them a little bit healthier. Plan to throw in a few extra veggies, and you’ve doubled the nutritional value of your meal! Or plan to use whole wheat to make your pizza crust. Or, when possible, treat your family to organic food. It often tastes better and packs an extra nutritional punch!
Planning your menu ahead of time also helps you take advantage of seasonal produce. Be sure to utilize what is available in your current season. Fresh food is the healthiest (and seasonal food is often the cheapest, too). In the spring, treat yourself to mustard greens, strawberries, rhubarb, and fiddleheads. In the summertime, stock up on cucumbers, summer squash, tomatoes, blackberries, and raspberries. Then in the fall, enjoy winter squash and apples. (Or whatever is in season where you live and eat!)
I think we all know that fast food is the devil when it comes to healthy eating. Again and again, fast food has been linked to a multitude of health problems including obesity. If nothing else, meal planning will save you from relying on frequent fast food meals. Fast food is so convenient – it can really help out in a pinch. But if you’ve planned ahead, you won’t get yourself into that pinch.
You can also use your meal planning time to educate your children about nutrition. They don’t even have to know that they are learning, but if you involve them in the process, allow them to ask questions, and seek out ideas together, you will be helping to foster healthy eating habits that will stick with them for the rest of their lives.