For many of us the beginning of September means that summer is coming to an end. Of course, summer really isn’t over just yet but most of us have used up our summer vacation hours and the kids are going back to school...so, the lazy days of summer are effectively over. September usually means that schedules get more regular (and busy) and that our organization skills are put to the test. This will brings us to our Journey To Healthy Eating Challenge for September but before we delve deeper into September’s goal, let’s reflect upon our healthy eating intention for August - ensuring we get enough omega-3 fats.
Now, I love fish which are great sources of omega-3 fats. I have lived on both the East and West coast of Canada and, as such, have a huge fondness for seafood. That being said, I do still need to remind myself to include omega-3 rich fish when meal planning. Getting two servings of fish each week isn’t necessarily a challenge for me, in that I like fish, but I often need a gentle reminder to include it more often. For me, this challenge was a great way to remind me to include fish at dinnertime! Although fish at dinner may not be a strong point for me, I do eat quite a bit of canned fish for my lunches, some of which is quite rich in omega-3 fats (salmon, sardines, and smoked herring, yum!). I find canned fish is a great way to keep up my fish intake.
For those of you who may not like fish (or perhaps, it’s not super available to you), the plant-sourced omega-3 fat ALA is a good back up. Although ideally it’s best to get some of your omega-3 fats from fish (as these contain the long chain omega-3s EPA and DHA), I find it’s surprisingly easy to get plenty of ALA if you include walnuts, flax oil, ground flaxseed or chia seeds regularly in your diet.
NOW ONTO SEPTEMBER’S CHALLENGE…
September Challenge: Start Meal Planning
As I eluded to before, September’s Journey To Healthy Eating Challenge involves getting ourselves organized. Specifically, the challenge is to start meal planning. To clarify, I don't mean to follow a pre-made meal plan you find on the internet either. This challenge, if you choose to accept, is to start making your own, personalized meal plans to guide you though your weekly meals.
Now this could mean planning a few meals a week to get started (especially if you aren’t already meal planning) or to plan out all 7 days. Personally, I like to plan from Monday to Friday only, and leave the weekends open but you’ll know what makes sense to you. If you find yourself already a pro at planning your dinners but your lunches tend to be a little more chaotic, you can work on devising a plan for your lunches. Same goes with breakfast. The goal this month really is to boost our organization skills when it comes to planning our meals, whether it's breakfast, lunch or dinner or all of the above.
As I see it, meal planning is the cornerstone to healthy eating. No matter your dietary preferences or nutrition goals, sitting down to plan your meals ensures that you’ll have the right food around when you need it. For many people, poor food choices happen when quick decisions need to be made (and hunger supersedes judgement). Personally, I know that I make better choices when I’m not hungry, tired or in a rush. Sound nutrition choices are also made when healthy food options on hand and meal planning allows us to have that healthy food on hand. One study even found that those who meal plan regularly were more likely to meet recommendations for fruits, vegetables and whole grains and less frequent fast food meals.
Another interesting finding with families who meal plan is that they are more likely to eat meals together as a family and their children place a higher value on the importance of family meals. In addition, parents who plan their family meals report greater satisfaction and feelings of togetherness at meal times. Sounds pretty good, doesn't it?
Not convinced? Here are some other great reasons to try your hand at meal planning:
- Decreases stress at mealtime (especially after work)
- Ensures more balanced meals
- Decreases food waste (it forces you to buy only what you need)
- Saves you money (allows you to shop for exactly what you need and may decrease dependence on last minute restaurant meals)
- It can reduce your grocery store trips (who doesn't want that?)
I wish I could tell you that meal planning is always easy or that you’ll enjoy doing it but I can’t. I will tell you that you’ll come to realize that it makes your life easier when it really counts, as in when you (or your family) is hungry and wanting food. The decrease in weeknight stress was enough to convince me of the importance of meal planning. Maybe it will enough for you, too?
The truth is that meal planning and the strategies that work best for people often differ. Some people like sitting down and planning the whole week ahead while others prefer to do a few days at a time. Some people like to plan only dinners for the week (especially if their breakfast and lunches are mostly the same each day), while others like to plan each and every meal for the whole week. Only you know what strategy works best for you. It may even take trying out different strategies to see which is the most effective for you.
Some strategies to try:
- Set a quiet (and stress free) time aside each week to sit down to meal plan
- Keep a list of favourite meals and recipes to refer to if you feel stuck for ideas
- If meal planning for a partner or family, ask for input on meal ideas
- Use grocery flyers to get inspiration from items that are on sale or seasonally available
- Check out websites like Pinterest for meal inspiration
- Try either writing a meal plan out (with pen and paper) or using a meal planning app
- Try using theme nights to make planning easier, such as taco tuesday or meatless mondays (or any other theme you like - I have a BBQ thursday theme).
- Try planning out meals with similar ingredients so that these foods can be prepared at the same time
- Plan a ‘leftover day’ - use up leftovers from previous meals
- Try "assemble your own" meal days, in which everyone makes their own pizza, salad, omelette or sandwich
- Make extra food one night to use the next
- Use your meal plan to make your grocery list
While there are many strategies that you can use, the best thing you can do for yourself is to just start meal planning. You’ll find the strategies which work best for you, even if it takes a while. Again, you may find it helpful to start out small if meal planning is new to you - plan a few meals at a time and build up from there, if needed.
ARE YOU FOLLOWING ALONG WITH THIS CHALLENGE? MAKE SURE TO CHECK BACK ON THE BLOG AND FACEBOOK PAGE ALL MONTH LONG FOR CHALLENGE RELATED ARTICLES AND TIPS.
REMEMBER TO TAG YOUR PHOTOS ON SOCIAL MEDIA WITH #JOURNEYTOHEALTHYEATING.
Stay tuned for next month’s Challenge!
INTERESTED IN THE PREVIOUS MONTH'S CHALLENGES?
- Find January's Journey To Healthy Eating Challenge here.
- Find February's Journey To Healthy Eating Challenge here.
- Find March's Journey To Healthy Eating Challenge here.
- Find April's Journey To Healthy Eating Challenge here.
- Find May's Journey To Healthy Eating Challenge here.
- Find June's Journey To Healthy Eating Challenge here.
- Find July's Journey To Healthy Eating Challenge here.
- Find August's Journey To Healthy Eating Challenge here.