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Planning your plate

February 15, 2023

Planning your plate - featured image

Whether it’s choosing a takeout because there wasn’t enough time, or ingredients, to make a healthy meal or grabbing a chocolate and chips for lunch when you didn’t plan to make yourself lunch at work; a common reason for poor dietary choices is a lack of planning. Most of us know that we need to plan our meals better but it can feel like a mountain to begin. Here are a few tips to help get you started.

1. Get inspired

Healthy cooking and meal prep doesn’t have to be hard and it doesn’t take forever but, just like learning any new skill, we need some guidance to start us off. Not sure how to prepare veggies or what to make for a meat-free meal? Social media provides us with endless resources and ideas to help. However, be aware of which pages you are following. Unfortunately, not every recipe that says it’s healthy is necessarily so. Look out for recipes that have fruits and vegetables, high-fibre starches and limited fatty meats and fried foods. Some good social media accounts to start looking for recipes are ADSA, Sweetlife.org.za and the Heart Foundation’s website.

2. Pick your problem meal

Do you most often skip breakfast and find yourself digging into the chip supply by 9 am? Or is it lunches that you look for a quick fix and end up ordering a takeout? Instead of trying to transform everything all at once- pick the meal that causes the most problems and create a plan to address that. Do you need to wake up 20min earlier to get in a good breakfast or do some meal prep on the weekends to make sure you’re packing in a healthy lunch? Maybe the snacks in between meals are your weak spot- plan and purchase healthy options in advance for those moments in between meals when you’re hungry.

3. Plan leftovers

Leftovers are one of the easiest ways to get in healthier foods more consistently. Making a chicken curry? Double up and take the leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Be sure to dish your leftovers into a separate dish before you begin to eat to avoid overeating at the meal and accidentally eating your leftovers too!

4. Cook multi-use foods
Similar to the above point- plan foods that you can cook once and use in a variety of ways for different meals. For example, if you’re making chicken breasts with brown rice and vegetables- make a few extras for a chicken salad, chicken wrap or chicken mayo sandwich over the next few days. Making potatoes? Bake a few extra to take to lunch with some tinned tuna and salad to lunch or cut up half and have as a healthy snack when you’re feeling peckish. Got extra roast butternut? This is a delicious addition to a salad or added to a wrap or pita bread.

5. Use your freezer

If you don’t like eating the same meal two days in a row, or have too many leftovers to eat before they go off- freezing them is a great way to preserve food for a busy day when you don’t have time to prep foods. I often suggest to clients to keep cooked chicken breasts frozen which can easily be used in a variety of meals. Soups, fish cakes, and minced meat are all foods that freeze well. Freezing healthy muffins (look for fruits, vegetables, nuts and half the sugar content) helps to keep them fresh and mini quiches are a great snack or breakfast option.

6. Stock your basics

Having the right foods in the house is an important step to eating well. If your cupboards and fridge are filled with chips, sweets and processed foods- that’s what you’re going to eat! Tinned foods such as chickpeas, beans, lentils and tuna are great foods that don’t take much time to prepare into a delicious salad or accompany a potato or veggies for a quick meal. Eggs are also a great protein which are quick and easy to prepare. Make sure you have fresh fruits and veggies in your fridge. Have a few whole wheat starches such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, brown rice or barley at home.

Kerry Pilditch

Kerry Pilditch

Dietitian at Busamed Harrismith Private Hospital

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