You need to get dinner on the highchair before your toddler suddenly decides she’s going to starve to death if she doesn’t eat right. this. second.
I’ve definitely been there, mama.
And you know what’s saved my booty time, and time again?
I know it sounds so boring, and simple and something your mom did in the 90s.
But the truth is that meal planning can ensure you and your family eat healthy, delicious meals most days of the week.
If you’re like me, some days you’re busy rushing around getting errands done, or working right up until just before dinner. So knowing that you already have the ingredients you need for a simple meal you can cook up quick can help make dinnertime less stressful (and decrease the chances you’ll order a pizza. Again.)
Being a mom and eating healthy can be really hard because planning and cooking healthy meals takes time – time that you honestly don’t have some days.
That’s why I like to have a plethora of healthy meal ideas at the ready and my meals (mostly) planned for the week so I have all the groceries I need, and I can just get in the kitchen and start cooking right away – without wondering what I should make in the first place and whether I have the ingredients I need to make it.
So if you want less chaos and more calm in your life, give my meal planning tips a try. (I’ve even given you some of my family’s fave healthy meal and snack ideas).
My Go-To Meal Planning Blueprint
Meals these days (with a kiddo in tow) need to be:
1. Put together (or at least in the oven) in 30 minutes or less (because who has time to whip, sautee and dice 42 ingredients for over an hour with a toddler clamped to your leg?!)
2. Delicious enough that said toddler will love it (or at least nibble it a little).
3. Healthy enough that said toddler’s mom won’t have to deal with #momguilt over what her kiddo is putting in her mouth (anyone else have a small fry who seems to be able to subsist entirely off carbs???)
So when I’m planning my meals I usually keep these three things in mind – unless we’re cooking up something fancy for a special occasion.
I’m also not a super strict meal planner.
I don’t plan out every single meal and snack. It’s usually just dinner from Sunday or Monday through Thursday (we often eat out or take-out on the weekends).
Lunch is usually leftovers from the night before (I often make more than we need so that there are enough leftovers for everyone).
And breakfast is pretty simple and predictable.
I also don’t count carbs, or eat a particular kind of diet all the time, or cut out sugar every day, or weigh my meals, or care about macros.
The truth is I’m too busy to think a ton about food so my meal planning is as simple as possible.
I usually stick to the basic foods that make my body feel good. (Remember – this is different for every woman. Every body is different. So pay attention to what yours – and your family’s – is saying it needs and act accordingly).
My Daily Go-To Meals & Snacks Look A Lot Like This:
1. Tons of veggies
2. Lots of fruit (especially in the summer)
3. Some meat
4. Some fat
5. Sometimes carb-y grains and such (some weeks I eat all the carbs I can get my hands on. Other weeks I can go for a couple days without eating any grains. It all depends on how I’m feeling.)
Do I always eat lots of veggies? No sugar? No white flour?
There are days (sometimes weeks) when my meals look more like cupcakes and fries.
And that’s cool.
Meal planning – to me – is not about restriction. It’s about having healthy options available and if I’m really craving something else (like sushi or pizza for example) I don’t force myself to eat whatever I had planned simply because that’s what my meal plan said to eat.
If the other meal or snack I want is worth it, I go for it.
And try my darnedest to leave the guilt behind.
I spent so much of my 20s consumed by food guilt. And I’ve done a lot of work – self love goodness – to get to the point where I no longer eat an entire box of donuts, get an insane stomach ache and cry about how much of a failure I am.
Food is not a reward. And it’s not a punishment. (I still sometimes need to remind myself that this is true. It’s always gonna be a work in progress).
So before we move on let me make this very clear – because it’s important.
Meal planning is not about restricting myself so I can go all out on the weekends.
It’s about having healthy, easy, quick options on hand because I want to have tons of energy and feel happy and be able to do the things I want to do without feeling like a slug.
There are no strict rules. No dieting. No binge-restrict-repeat. Just eating to fuel my body most of the time, and not berating myself for eating ice cream 3 nights in a row.
This is what works for me.
I hope you’re inspired to find what works for you.
How I Meal Plan
My go-to meal planning method is to hit up my Pinterest boards and find some delicious eats for the week.
I usually sit down on Sunday or Monday and take 30 minutes or so to jot down the meals we’ll make during the week.
If I’m feeling feisty and have the time in my schedule I’ll scout out some snacks I can make too.
I have my Pinterest boards divided into “Chicken”, “Pork”, “Beef”, “Salads”, “Veggies”… So I’ll usually start with either the meat or a veg I want to cook and go from there to make a full meal.
Adam – my hubs – will also often help me come up with ideas and we plan who’s going to cook what, when depending on what our evenings look like (sometimes I have stuff going on, sometimes he does.)
It’s nothing fancy – I usually just use my note taking app on my phone or a scrap piece of paper to jot down the meal ideas I have.
There are tons of phone apps and templates online you can use if you want something fancier.
But let’s be real – we’re moms, we ain’t got time for fancy 😉
And keeping it simple means we’re more likely to actually get it done.
If you want to give my method a try, here’s what I suggest you do:
1. Start your own Pinterest boards (or something similar) so you have a space online (or off) where you have oodles of healthy meal and snack ideas.
2. On Sunday or Monday (or whatever day works best for you) sit down with your partner in crime and come up with 2-5 meals to cook that week. Decide who’s going to cook what, when.
3. Make a list of what you need and go grab your groceries (meal planning may even save you money, by the way, because you could end up buying less and having less go to waste).
4. High five yourself for being such an awesomely organized lady! 😉
The key thing to remember is that you want to pick meals you actually want to eat. Not just meals that you think you should eat because they’re healthy.
If you don’t like broccoli, don’t force yourself to eat broccoli. There are plenty of other just as healthy, or even more healthy veggies for you to indulge your taste buds.
Don’t plan to cook something you’d rather ditch for a drive-thru burger.
Healthy can taste delicious. There are thousands of healthy eating blogs with so many delicious options out there. So explore until you find some food that you actually want to eat, instead of feeling forced to eat just because it’s supposedly good for you.
Curious About Our Fave Meals & Snacks?
If you’re looking for inspiration, here are some ideas that are staples in the Dalton household…
Rise & Shine, My Friend:
Plain ol’ eggs over easy with some fruit (a fave of the munchkin).
Back bacon with some sauteed spinach.
Smoothie with lots of greens (Simple Green Smoothies has you covered with tons of inspiration).
Blender pancakes with real maple syrup (like these ones from Mountain Mama Cooks).
Homemade breakfast sausages (I make a big batch like these from Paleo Running Momma and freeze ’em).
Muffin tin eggs (it’s so nice to have a batch of egg muffins like these from Joyous Health in the freezer for quick breakfasts).
Sweet potato toast (or sometimes sprouted grain toast) with poached eggs (here are tons of ideas for toppings and how to cook sweet potato toast from Family Food on the Table).
Lunch & Dinner:
Slow cooker meals (I love throwing a pork shoulder in the slow cooker in the AM for tacos, lettuce wraps or salads. I put it in with this delicious enchilada sauce – I don’t even make the sauce ahead of time. I just throw all the ingredients in the slow cooker, give it a good stir, then plop the pork shoulder on top. So good!)
Roasted veggies (One of our faves is this ranch baby carrot recipe from Damn Delicious. I’m pretty sure that if I put this ranch seasoning on any vegetable Avery would eat it. And I don’t even like cooked carrots but I love these).
Easy sandwiches and wraps (This Avocado Chicken Salad recipe from Simply Recipes is so easy and super yummy in lettuce wraps, in a sandwich, or just on its own).
Burgers (We love a good burger like these Greek Turkey Burgers from Budget Bytes. Sometimes I’ll make our burgers dairy and gluten free, other days I’ll throw in lots of dairy and gluten! And we love these potato wedges from Natasha’s Kitchen to go with our burgers).
Wings (Add some veggies or a salad to these Salt and Pepper Wings from Jo Cooks and dinner is done in a snap).
One pot or sheet pan meals (like these Baked Apple Pork Chops and Green Beans from Damn Delicious – instead of brown sugar I usually use coconut sugar).
Brown rice pasta (Avery loves pasta. She must get it from her mama. So we eat a good amount of brown rice pasta over here. It’s really easy to sneak in lots of veggies in pasta too so that’s a definite plus).
Nom, Nom Snack Time:
Throw ’em together in a flash granola bars (like these Mama Glo Bars from Oh She Glows).
Coconut cookies (Avery loves these from Fresh Planet Flavor. Again, a great recipe to make a big batch and freeze in individual portions for snacks on the go).
Avocado pudding (I know it sounds weird but this Salted Chocolate Avocado Pudding from Oh She Glows will make it anything but weird – and prob make you wanna ditch your grocery store pudding cups).
Fruit (I love fresh fruit so when it’s summertime I eat a ton of it from the fruit truck down the road. One of Avery’s fave purees was this peach rice pudding made with peaches from that fruit truck).
Popcorn (I put a bit of avocado oil in my big wok, set the stove on high, put a handful or two of kernels in and let ‘er pop. Add some butter or ghee and a sprinkle of salt + House of Cards and I’m one happy lady).
Beef (or other meat) jerky (I try to buy organic when I can, but don’t sweat it too much if I can’t find the grass fed variety).
I hope you’re inspired and up to the not-so-challenging challenge of trying out meal planning.
It doesn’t need to be full of hard-to-find superfoods or take 2 hours to make to be healthy.
And remember – you should actually want to eat it. It shouldn’t be on your table just because it’s good for you, but you’re not actually excited to eat it.
Find some recipes you and your family love and create your own Pinterest (or whatever works for you) boards and make it as easy as possible for you to plan out some healthy options.
And remember – it won’t always be perfect. There will be times that your kale sits in the produce drawer for days, and days, and days because you decided you just didn’t want to cook it. That’s okay. Find another purpose for it – like kale chips, or a smoothie. Give it away. Or throw it out if it’s talking to you.
You don’t have to always stick to the plan, it’s just nice to know it’s there when you need to get a healthy dinner ready fast before your tiny human has a tantrum because you have no more Owlie cookies to give.
There are tons of quick, easy, healthy and delicious meal ideas out there. Get hunting and find the ones you’ll eventually crave.
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
What recipe(s) are you going to try? What’s your fave way to make cooking easier while still keeping it healthy?
Thank you so much for reading, sharing and being a part of the SweetMomBod community. I’m so grateful that you’re here.
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Kit Schmulling says
Thanks! Only parent to a 3 year old; trying to balance tax season life (job) with parenthood, only her and I in our home. Some things get neglected but we need to eat. Trying to find easier ways, I tend to buy with no plan, then food goes bad or I have no meals because I bought without a plan.
Jenna Dalton says
You’re so welcome, Kit 🙂 My husband is an accountant so I know the craziness of tax season well – kudos to you for being an awesome mom through it all (Yes – I can tell you’re an awesome mom because you’re doing research to help keep you and your daughter as healthy as possible 😉 )! Hope this helps make things easier for you.
Love the practical way you approach meal planning! I’m not a mom yet but hope to be in a few years, so I’m planning ahead as much as possible. As someone who’s felt guilty about being a picky eater since childhood (some days all I feel like eating is EZ Mac and carrots), it’s a relief to be reminded that there’s no need to plan meals you have no interest in eating. Thanks for sharing!
Jenna Dalton says
You’re so welcome, Samantha! And yes – you should absolutely actually enjoy the meals you make 🙂