Odds are good that you plan your vacations in advance. You probably plan your budget, too. You plan birthday parties, weddings, and family gatherings. But do you plan your meals? Meal planning is the most effective way to start building healthy habits, says Jenny Champion, former Daily Burn Nutrition and Fitness Coach. “You’re so much more likely to stick to your goals when you’re not winging it on a meal-to-meal basis,” she says.
And the benefits don’t start and end with your waistline. Having a plan in place will streamline your grocery shopping and save you time and money in the long run. Before each week starts, jot down what you want to eat and create a shopping list for all the foods you’ll need. If you really want to save time during the week, Champion recommends preparing some of your meals ahead of time on Sunday. (Meal prepping is easy with these handy tips.)
“If you’re new to meal planning, start with just one meal per day,” says Champion. “Choose the one that causes you the most stress. Once you’ve tackled that, add another meal to the plan.” And don’t be too down on your self if you stray from your plan. “There will always be times when something unexpected comes up or your schedule is thrown off. Allow some flexibility in your plan and don’t get discouraged if a meal or a day doesn’t go perfectly.”
Ready to fill your calendar with delicious and healthy foods? While tech-savvy planners can try these five apps to get organized, for those who like to keep it old-school with pen and paper, we’ve got five printable meal planning templates to help you and your family eat healthier.
5 Printable Meal Planners to Kickstart Healthy Eating
1. Weekly Meal Plan (download here)
Best for: Planning a well-rounded diet.
With a cute and colorful daily servings checklist at the bottom, this template makes it easy to ensure you’re getting all your vegetables.
Template: Erin / Strawberry Mommycakes
2. Weekly Meal Plan and Grocery List (download here)
Best for: Getting organized with just the basics.
A two-column template keeps your weekly menu and grocery list in tip-top shape.
Template: Kristina / Cents and Order
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3. Weekly Meal and Snack Planner (download here)
Best for: Preparing well-balanced meals and snacks.
This template allows you to plan for all your major meals, snacks and everything in between. The addition of the weekend planner at the end helps you carve out time to prepare salad dressings, pasta sauces and dips. You can also write out specifically what your grains, starches and proteins are for the week to ensure you’re getting a balanced diet.
Template: McKel Hill / Nutrition Stripped
4. Weekly Family Meal Plan (download here)
Best for: Feeding the whole family.
Need to keep track of who will be at the dinner table on Wednesdays versus Thursdays? This template helps coordinate schedules with meal prep, taking the stress out of family time.
Template: Jess / Design Lass
5. Monthly Meal Planner (download here)
Best for: Preparing for your whole month.
If you’ve mastered the art of weekly meal prep, why not take it up a notch? Set yourself up for a month of healthy eating with this master template.
Template: Brittany / The Military Wife
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Originally published February 2016. Updated August 2017 and January 2021
Cover image via Shutterstock