Nutrition - Plan your meals

Goodness me! After the crazy mixed-up year that it has been, it is hard to believe that Christmas is just around the corner. As if life wasn't hectic enough, Christmas seems to ramp up the busyness and rushing, with all the festive events, planning Christmas Day, organising presents, along with the normal day-to-day living.

When we are busy it is easy to let healthy eating habits fall by the wayside. If festive events are straight after work, you might be grabbing more takeaways than usual because it's getting late, the family are hungry and you just don't have the energy or inclination to cook. Then along comes Christmas Day and all the chaos that can bring. This can add up to more stress and less enjoyment, when Christmas is supposed to be a fun time.

It might seem like another chore to try to fit into an already busy life, but once you get into the swing of meal planning, it can actually make things easier. Planning your meals in advance helps to take off the pressure when you suddenly get to, “What's for dinner?” With a plan in place, you can save time and money, and reduce stress and food waste by buying only what you need, and eating what you buy.

Here are my seven top tips for meal planning:

  1. Plan meals a week at a time.
  2. Be realistic about timing on food preparation – save those recipes that take more time for the days when you have the time. Prepare what you can in advance.
  3. Consider how you can use leftovers for other dinners, or even breakfasts and lunches.
  4. Get the whole household involved – take turns choosing meals, shopping and food preparation. Set tasks that suit age and skill.
  5. Make a shopping list. Note down anything you use up when you use it so you know to get more.
  6. Be flexible – swap out meals if things come up. Grab a takeaway if you need to.
  7. Include some breakfast and/or lunch prep the night before if you have an early start.

Meal planning may seem daunting to start with. You may feel that with your crazy, busy life you will never find the time to implement a plan. Start with planning meals for a couple of nights a week and then build from there as you become more confident.

You can apply these tips to planning Christmas dinner too, whether it's at your place or whether you are heading out with a plate in hand. By getting into the swing of meal planning now you will have one less stress to contend with come Christmas Day.

And when it comes to healthy eating, a plan does make it easier to stay on track.

Nicole Wilson, Nutritionist (NSNZ)