Welcome to the Vegetarian Times Plant-Based Health Plan. Over the next four weeks, we’ll be giving you four building blocks of healthy habits and lifestyle updates to start the new year off fresh. Our guide for this project is Ashley Kitchens of Plant-Centered Nutrition. Ashley holds a Masters in Public Health and Nutrition from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has worked as a registered dietitian in 2012. She focuses on coaching clients towards a plant-centered way of eating, using a holistic approach and intuitive eating practices. Maybe you decided this was your year to go plant-based (welcome!) or you just want to reset, take good care of yourself, and prioritize yourself and your health – either way, the Plant-Based Health Reset is here to help with tips and recipes to cook each week.
Illustration: Ksenia Zvezdina
Plant-Based Health Reset, Part 2: Organization, Strategy, and the Joy of Meal Planning
Meal planning is the process of creating intention for your meals. How you do it is up to you, but the goal is the same: front-loading meal decisions so that you have the food you want ready to go when you need it.
Last week we talked about the importance of mindfulness and how it plays an integral role in your plant-based journey. What’s also important is strategy and organization. This week we’re going to discuss how you can find the joy in meal planning, it’s benefits for a plant-based lifestyle, and steps you can take today to use it to your advantage.
Meal planning is the process of creating intention for your meals over a period of time. It can be for the week, for the month, for a few days. It’s completely up to you how you want to approach it. The intention is to front-load your meal decisions so that you have the food you want teed up and ready to go at a later time. Meal planning is an invaluable tool that can help you set yourself up for success.
Benefits of Meal Planning
Meal planning only takes up to 15 to 30 minutes of your time to map out what meals you will be cooking – but a little time yields a lot of benefits.
Here are some of the benefits you can experience when meal planning:
- Keeps you organized throughout the week
- Saves money – it’s easier to grocery shop with intention, preventing purchases that you don’t need or want.
- Reduces stress by providing structure and encouraging consistent eating habits
- Saves time and prevents last-minute trips to the grocery store
- Saves energy and frustration by avoiding the same ol’ “What’s for dinner?” question every night.
- Helps you make more aligned food choices. When you plan, you are making deliberate food decisions rather than desperation choices, which often lead to convenience foods or other impulsive food decisions.
- Helps you reduce food waste (like that bag of greens that’s still sitting in your fridge *wink wink*).
- Results in you getting to eat more deliberate and varied plates of food.
Illustration: Ksenia Zvezdina
Plant-Based Health Reset, Part 2: Action Item
This is a great time to start meal planning – or improve what you’re already doing. This week, try these simple steps.
1. Make a Plan to Plan Set aside up to 30 minutes to plan out your meals for the week (or your desired time frame). Make it enjoyable, grab a mug of tea or glass of wine, and cozy up with your favorite recipe finding platform.
2. Find Your Recipes Create a list of recipes that you will enjoy cooking, that sound tasty to you, and that contain ingredients that will stay fresh through your planning period. Remember to account for how many servings are in each recipe and how many days and meals you’re planning for. It’s fun to get meal ideas from others in your household to keep everyone involved and happy.
3. Assemble a Grocery List After writing down your recipes, start creating a detailed grocery list. Double check what you already have in your pantry, fridge, and freezer so you’re not doubling up on ingredients.
4. Don’t Forget to Build in Leftovers Plan for leftovers to save yourself some time. If you know you’ll have a busy night or day, cook an extra serving or two of a recipe in advance so you can eat it later in the week.
Plant-Based Health Reset, Part 2: Recipes to Cook
Now that you’re ready to meal plan, it’s time to find some recipes for your weekly menu. I’ve picked these to give you some ideas.
- Enchilada ‘Lasagna’
- Red Lentil Soup with Curry and Coconut Milk
- Stuffed Acorn Squash
- Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jam Quinoa Bowl
- Napa Cabbage and Tempeh Salad