Meal Planning The Easy Way

Meal Planning The Easy Way

I’m a big fan of keeping things simple,  especially  when it comes to weekly meal planning and cooking.    This is why I love recipes!  Why reinvent the wheel when someone else has already done the leg work?  And, thanks to the internet, you don’t even need to store a bunch of cookbooks anymore.  You can find recipes on the internet for free.

When it comes to using other peoples’ recipes I like to use them as a starting point and then tweak it to meet our dietary needs and what I believe to be the best nutritional choice.  For example, I replace low fat dairy with full fat and canola oil with something like avocado or peanut oil.  I also cook with cast iron so if a recipe is light on the oil I will add more to keep food from sticking to the pan.

If you are just getting started with meal planning I suggest you pick recipes that can be cooked in under thirty minutes.  And,  unless you absolutely LOVE cooking and have the time to invest, I do not recommend cooking labor intense “project meals”  on a busy week night.

Below are seven sample recipes that I would use on any given week.  I include the links to the recipes (click on the name of the dish) and my recommended tweaks to make them even more fabulous and balanced.

Mu Shu Pork Wraps. 

Skip the takeout and make your own Chinese food.  Instead of canola oil, I would use peanut oil.  We like to eat this one over rice instead of making them into wraps.  If you like the wrap idea, then I would serve rice on the side for a carb.

Vera-Cruz Style Red Snapper.   

The only thing I would substitute in this recipe is olive oil instead of cooking spray.  I might use different white fish depending on what is available to us that week.  I usually stick to wild caught.  I grew up on the Pacific Ocean so my taste buds prefer wild to farmed. 🙂  A good side for this dish would be rice or corn tortillas and a side salad.

 Tex Mex Rice Bowl.         

This quick recipe is a favorite at our house.  Serve it with a side salad as well.

Turkey and Mushroom Bolognese.

Swap out cooking spray with avocado, olive, or grape seed oil.  Half -n-half can be used instead of light whipping cream if you don’t have any on hand.  I like whole grain pasta with this dish, however polenta would be really good with it too.

 Spring Vegetable Carbonara

If you are using turkey bacon, I would add some olive oil to create drippings.

 Quick Chicken Curry

I’m not a huge fan of chicken breasts so I would use thighs instead in this dish.  That’s totally up to you

 Lamb Burgers. 

Lamb burgers are nice way to change up from traditional hamburgers.  I like to serve them with a simple side salad and will make some frozen garlic fries to go with them.

The recipes above come from Cooking Light magazine.  It’s one of my favorite resources for meal planning.  There are loads of great recipes available on the internet so I encourage you to explore what is available.

Here’s to good food!

Shared with love,



Four Ways To Help You Stay Focused

iStock woman with list - focused

Does this sound familiar?  One minute you’re whizzing through your to do list, the next minute you’re watching cute puppy videos on Facebook or scrolling through your favorite retail store’s website. If it does, you are not alone.   A recent study by Microsoft revealed that the average attention span is eight seconds.  NO wonder it takes effort to stay focused.

Too many distractions can cause you to get behind on necessary tasks and deadlines.  Even the smallest of distractions can begin to add up and affect our lives in every area.  When you find yourself  playing catch up to finish the things that MUST be completed, it can begin to take away from your own personal time.  Based on my twenty seven years of experience as a personal trainer, I can confirm that exercise and preparing meals are usually some of the first things that get pushed onto the back burner when there is a time-crunch.  The good news is there are things you can do to limit distractions in your day and maintain your concentration.

How To Stay Focused

Here are a few tips on how to stay focused throughout your day and guard your precious time.

Take breaks.  Yes, breaks actually help you stay focused.  Give yourself a short break every thirty minutes.  Your body will thank you for it and taking a moment to stop and reactivate your goal can help you maintain your concentration.

Keep your cell phone ringer off while working on deadlines.  Technology is a wonderful thing and we all need to stay connected.  However, research is showing that receiving texts or phone calls can result in more mistakes during a computer task.  If you’re working on a deadline it’s a good idea to turn your phone to silent and then set a time when you will check your phone and return messages.  Keeping it on silent allows you to have it close by in the event of a true emergency.

Limit multitasking.  A recent study suggests that your brain can’t handle more than two big tasks at one time.  It can divide two tasks successfully but any more than that is too much for your mind to juggle.  Personally, I think it’s a good idea to experiment with multitasking.  Figure out what works for you.  You may be someone that performs best when you focus on one big task while passively performing another.  For example, driving while listening to an audio book is a great way to learn while commuting from one place to another.

Practice awareness.  If you notice your mind wandering off, take a pause from whatever it is you are doing at that very moment.  Whenever I’m supposed to be writing a blog post and find myself surfing Facebook, I look at the clock and check to see if it’s time to get up and move.  It usually is so I’ll get up and get some water, a snack, or even throw in a load of laundry.  During that time I’ll get my thoughts together and even give myself a little “focus pep talk” This helps me become more present in the moment and take back control of how I’m spending my time.  We all drift off from time to time; it’s being aware of it that helps us redirect our attention back to the task at hand.

When it comes to successfully completing tasks, focus and discipline are necessary ingredients.  No two lives are the same so I recommend you experiment with these tips and then figure out what works for you personally.

Here’s to being super productive and successful!

With Love,

Meal Planning Made Simple

Pretty young woman in kitchen

Did you know that every time you eat out it’s pretty much guaranteed you will be consuming more calories than if you prepared your own meal?  A recent study published  in the IDEA fitness journal stated that when people ate out they averaged 200 more calories per meal.  I believe them!

Please understand, I’m a big fan of going out to eat.  It’s part of our culture, and I think everyone should take advantage of the fabulous restaurants in their area.  However, several years ago I learned that the average American eats out four to five times per week.  This made me realize that the calorie overload could add up quickly for anyone frequenting restaurants this often.

I also understand why people are eating out this much.  After a long day at work, cooking dinner can sound daunting and unappealing.  You want something simple that tastes good,  and it’s all too tempting to swing by your favorite take out joint or restaurant.

However, meal planning and preparing your own food is one of the key ingredients to weight loss/management without dieting. It’s how my household is able to enjoy eating the foods we like without gaining weight.

Does meal planning mean that you need to go to culinary school and become a chef, or that you have to eat the same meal five days in a row?  No!

It does mean that you will spend a little time up front before your week begins. The 30 minutes you spend meal planning will actually ending up saving you time.  No more daily trips to the store or a restaurant.  Not only will planning your menu save you time, it saves you money and helps you avoid throwing away food that went bad sitting in the fridge.

Just between you and me meal planning was not something I used to do. I would get home from a long day of work and throw some chicken or fish in the oven while the rice and veggies cooked together in a steamer. I really enjoyed this meal. It was easy and I knew it was healthy for us, but eventually my husband and I got burned out on eating the same thing five nights a week.

That burnout inspired me to take my knowledge from the fitness industry and teach myself how to meal plan. I started creating weekly menus, and learned to cook healthy interesting meals for our family. It wasn’t super hard, it just took planning and following recipes.  That’s why I know you can do it too.

Here are eight simple steps to help you start meal planning right away.

1) Make a quick plan.  Make a list of what you want to eat for dinner, lunch, breakfast, and snacks for the next seven days. Look at your calendar to see if you have any planned dinners, parties, or lunches when you will be eating out.

2) Get inspired! If you like to cook or want to learn how, try using light recipes from the web, cookbooks, and/or magazines to inspire you. Cooking Light is my favorite. EatingWell is another option.  Go through the magazines or the website.  Let the pictures of the meals inspire you to try new recipes.

If cooking is new for you, pick the 20 minute recipes to start.  Even if you are a seasoned cook, you may want to stick to the short recipes on your busier days and save the project meals for your days off when you have more time.

3) Make quick and delicious no cook meals.  Rather not cook? Assemble prepared food that is fresh. Try things like a roasted chicken, pre-cooked rice and pre-washed lettuce for a salad. Add some frozen organic vegetables on the side.

These are great meals when you’ve had a crazy day and need to feed you and/or your family quickly before the blood sugar starts dropping.

4) Frozen can be your friend.  Try frozen organic pizza with a salad. Be sure to pay attention to serving sizes. A healthy frozen pizza has fewer calories than restaurant pizzas.

5) Write it down.  Once you’ve decided what you will eat for the week, make a shopping list and write everything down before you go to the store.

6) Make extra. Use leftovers for lunches or freeze appropriate portion sizes for meals later in the month. For example eat meals that you froze during week one in week three. This allows you to save time and stay on track without growing tired of the meal because you ate it for four days straight.

7) It’s okay if you need to outsource.  You may discover that cooking every night is a challenge. If so, consider these great ideas:

Order meals from a company like The food is made fresh and delivered to your doorstep.  If you think that may be too expensive, do a little calculating. You may find it a lot less expensive than eating out.  You can also try doing a search for local businesses in your area providing meal services.  Imagine what it would be like to have all of your meals planned and ready to go in the freezer.

8) Stay consistent!  Over time you will become an ace at meal planning and will learn what works for you.  Stick to it and it will become as natural as brushing your teeth!

If you have ANY questions or comments please feel free to leave them below!


Jennifer Ledford
Jennifer Ledford Picture