While I’m out on maternity leave, please welcome Brianne Bell, a Registered Dietitian from Toronto, Canada. She blogs over at www.frugalminimalistkitchen.com.
Intuitive eating involves listening to your body when choosing what and how much to eat. When meal planning, meals are usually planned out days or weeks in advance. Is there a way to stay organized with meal planning but still be able to incorporate using our intuition in what and how much to eat?
A “typical” meal plan might look like this:
If this works well for you, then you’re all set! Congrats on finding what works!
If you see this and shy away from meal plans because you feel stuck eating what’s on the menu, versus what you feel like eating that day, keep reading.
If you feel stressed by the thought of never being able to eat what you feel like in the moment, there are still ways to incorporate meal planning that don’t feel so rigid. You can have the benefits of meal planning, such as having the ingredients you need for the recipes, but will still have flexibility to create meals that satisfy in the moment. One way to do this is to simply make a list of the meals you’d like to eat for the week. Start by looking in the fridge and pantry and see what needs to get used up. Then fill in a few seasonal meals that you’d like to have within the next few days. Write down what groceries you need for those recipes and make sure you have them on hand.
Coming into the week, you have a list of recipes and all the ingredients you need for them. On the day of, you can decide which recipe you’d like to make! Making sure your pantry is stocked with staple foods will definitely help you keep a flexible and intuitive meal plan. Having a variety of shelf-stable foods like dried or canned beans and lentils, a variety of grains like rice, quinoa, barley, and pasta. Have a few bags of frozen veggies, fruit and meat, and spices. Also keep some hardy, long-lasting produce like potatoes, sweet potato, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, and squash on hand. Having a well-stocked pantry will enable you to pull together a meal even if what you had planned isn’t possible, or if you weren’t able to make it to the grocery store on time.
Another way you can incorporate intuition into the meal plan would be to ask yourself what do you feel like eating? Say you planned to have lemon and thyme roasted chicken, quinoa, and veggies for supper but don’t feel like eating it. Instead of abandoning the meal plan and opting for takeout, ask yourself: what do I feel like eating instead? Perhaps you feel more like a soup or a salad or an Asian dish? Since you already have these ingredients on hand, plus a few pantry staples like spices, you could easily make a recipe that more closely matches what you feel like eating. You could turn those same ingredients for roasted chicken, veggies and quinoa into honey ginger chicken stir-fry by changing the sauce and the cooking method.
To keep your meal plan from feeling like a boring obligation, try to incorporate a new recipe every so often. Some might thrive on two or more new recipes a week, while other families might prefer to stick to what they already know and only try a new recipe once in a while. It’s all okay! If you feel like you want more variety, I recommend starting a Pinterest board and collect recipes you’d like to try. This way you can save recipes as you come across them, instead of having to search for a recipe right before supper. If it’s within your budget, a meal kit delivery service could be a great option to try out new recipes and save some of the planning.
Overall, meal planning should be used as a tool to help you get through your busy days with less stress. If the way you’re currently planning (or not planning) meals is causing you stress, tune in to your needs, reassess, and try something new. Get curious and find out what works best for you and your family!
Brianne Bell is a Registered Dietitian from Toronto, Canada. She loves cooking, yoga, travel, and being outdoors. She blogs about making healthy eating simple and affordable over at www.frugalminimalistkitchen.com