Healthy eating / Taking the worry out of ‘what’s for dinner?’

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THIRTY minutes of planning can save hours of worrying when it comes to the daily question of: “What’s for dinner tonight?”.

Clare Wolski
Clare Wolski.

Without a little bit of meal planning we are left victim to what’s available and convenient, which is often highly processed, low in vegetables and not so good for long-term health.

So, to help take the pressure off, here are my six steps to healthy meal planning:

  1. Set some time. Book some time and space to plan your week. Grab a pen, paper, recipe books and/or the internet. This little bit of time and effort goes a long way.
  2. Plan in your plans! Are you going out to dinner one night? Do you have after-work commitments such as social sport or a kid’s activity? All of these things affect the time to prepare a healthy meal. If you know you’re going to be out, there’s no point planning to cook an elaborate meal. Be realistic about what you can achieve.
  3. Check what’s in the fridge/freezer/pantry. Are there things that need to be used up before they go off? Can some money be saved by using what’s already in the pantry?
  4. Pick realistic meals. This can be a great opportunity to get the family involved and help to share the workload. There’s also evidence to suggest that getting kids involved in meal planning and preparation improves their food skills, Take inspiration from recipe books, websites and blogs. Don’t make your plan unachievable by putting in new, challenging recipes every night. Maybe keep several staple meals that are easy to prepare and try just one or two new recipes a week. This way you can slowly expand your repertoire.
  5. Check your veg. Does each of your dinner meals have half a plate of vegetables? This is a foolproof way of getting a nutritious meal. If the recipe you’ve picked is a one-pot dish without much vegetable (such as lasagne or pasta carbonara) think about how to dish it up with some extra veg. Can you grate some zucchini into the meal or serve it with half a plate of salad?
  6. Create a shopping list and stick to it! Once you know what you want to cook, you can figure out what needs to be bought for the whole week and stock the fridge, freezer and pantry with all the necessities. Again, this will save you time, money and a trip down the confectionary aisle.

Voila! This weekly ritual has saved me countless hours of worry and helps me to eat a balanced meal each night of the week. Oh, and be sure to keep old meal plans. They can make for a nice fall back when you are running low on motivation and inspiration!

Clare Wolski is a practising dietitian at The Healthy Eating Hub, call 6174 4663.

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