Jen Rulon

Meal planning is a very common practice for many people trying to stay on top of their game to lose weight, being an athlete or an everyday healthy human.

Meal Planning

Meal planning can be one of the single most important aspects of developing a healthy lifestyle. When we are unable to visualize the future of our eating, it can be effortless to succumb to the temptations of unhealthy foods that we have become addicted to. Especially if it is our habit to eat them rather than eating the foods that will nourish us. As triathletes, we are creatures of habits and we tend to gravitate to the same things, which is VERY EASY to do. Honestly, that is ok!

Meal planning is quite an endeavor. It can be somewhat intimidating, especially to somebody who suffers from the organization, but if you are a triathlete and training for an Ironman Triathlon, you have to be organized! But, if you find yourself having a hard time with meal planning, don’t fret. There are many ways that you can begin meal planning that is fun and easy, whether you struggle with creativity in the kitchen or not.

To Kit Or Not to Kit?

There are many meal planning kits that you can buy. Many of them have the option of ordering boxes full of fresh foods to cook with and include recipes that you can use. This can be very helpful if you are not used to cooking, which is often the case, especially when poor eating habits and a busy work schedule make it seem difficult to carve out the time necessary to make full, nourishing meals. I have personally tried Sun Basket, which I did enjoy for about three months, but as our training increased, so did our food intake, so we were not getting enough calories in our dinners. I probably should have ordered for a family, but then it started getting more expensive, and I didn’t want to go that route.

Time to Research

The first step in meal planning is research, and you have to look at your options. Researching recipes is the best first place to start and accumulating a binder full of healthy foods that you want to try out can be both fun and educational. It will open your mind to several food possibilities you may have otherwise scoffed at as too difficult for you to prepare, or maybe teach you things you had never known before.

Some of the websites that I will head to for recipes are:

Check out these great tips from PaleOMG:

One of my favorite books is “Cook Once, Eat All Week” by Casey Joy Garcia. 

Recipes and Mo’!

Recipes can be very mind-opening. Especially when you are interested in making discoveries, cooking can be a hard habit to get into, but once you begin to master it, you will be surprised by just how much freedom you can find in putting a meal together for yourself that is both health-conscious and delicious!

Look at recipe books and magazines and get an accumulation of recipes that you want to try. Start with the things that look the most delicious and nourishing, and if you are a novice in the kitchen, you may also want to look to the things that seem the most simple.

Next, you should keep your recipes organized in a simple way that is easy to navigate. Make sure that they are easily accessible so that when you want to begin preparing your meal, you can do so easily. If you are using a binder, you may want to consider laminating the pages or using plastic sleeves, so that if you are using it in the kitchen, they are not affected by water or other food contamination.

When you organize your recipes, it will help to put them in order of breakfast meals, lunch meals, dinner meals, and snacks. This will help you to reference the proper recipes more quickly once you begin to start cooking. If you like, you could even organize your binder by day of the week, and have your meals planned out for every day and printed out in the binder that way.

Sometimes, it is just more comfortable for me to see what I have in the frig, type in what I have, and there you go, you can find some fantastic recipes online.

Next, you should explore software such as Google Spreadsheet or Excel on Microsoft Office that will help you to organize your meal planning. On Excel, you will find a plethora of templates you can choose from to help yourself plan out your meals by the day, time, and week. This can be a hugely valuable resource!

If you would prefer not to use Google Spreadsheet, there are also apps you could download on your phone or tablet or another device to help you to utilize your time and resources better. You can even go the old fashioned route and buy a notebook that is specially designed toward planning meals. I found this GREAT post about ten food planning apps that can help you in your journey.

This is a crucial step in making sure your meals are organized and easily accessible. Having a meal plan is extremely helpful when it comes to embarking upon a journey of healthy eating. Creating good habits takes time and patience, and you will inevitably slip somewhere along the way. But that doesn’t mean that you have to stay stuck on the ground! It just means that you are going to have to get back up and keep trying because giving up is far more comfortable than sticking to your plans.

Stick to a Theme!

One thing that can help when it comes to meal planning is sticking with the theme. For example, a lot of people have specific topics like Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, or another day that is assigned for a particular type of meal. If you think that would help you to stay on track, feel free to imitate that type of meal planning. It is done for a reason because it works, and it helps to keep things simple and streamlined. There is no wrong way to plan your meals.

Something that can truly help you to succeed at meal planning is accountability. Let your spouse, partner, friend, or coach help you out and ask them if they would be willing to help you to stick to your routine. They can help you by asking questions about how things are going and whether or not you are staying on track. They may also choose to encourage you and cheer you on through your endeavors.

Another way to take accountability is by taking personal responsibility for your actions when it comes to food, and this can be achieved through journaling and self-affirmations. Talking to yourself about your goals, what do you do it internally or out loud, can be an excellent way to help you to stay focused and ask yourself whether or not you are doing the things that you hope to accomplish. Or just taking time to be with yourself and NOT your phone and computer. Right?

If you find that you are not, instead of beating yourself up about it, consider your obstacles and move on as you begin to uncover them. If you try, everything will ultimately fall into place because you are making an effort and creating positive changes in your life.

Need to Journal?

I genuinely love journaling, and it is useful for many reasons. I have also chatted with you all about My Fitness Pal, and it is so much easier to plug in your meals and see how many calories you are taking in or NOT taking in. The beautiful thing about MFP is that once you start eating the same things, it will recognize what you are eating with what. Once again, we are creatures of habit.

Another thought about journaling is to start writing down thoughts and ideas about food.

  1. Do you have something against food?
  2. Was it an issue for you growing up?
  3. Is it an issue for you now?
  4. Are there certain foods that make you happy or cause you joy?
  5. Are there certain foods that make you blah or emotional?

Journaling about your experiences and food prep can help you to uncover your innermost thoughts about the process and things that you might not even realize were holding you back. You will begin to sense patterns in your behavior and possibly predict when you might find yourself tempted to get off track and why. If you can identify these trigger points, it will be easier to avoid them in the future.

Meal planning can be an enjoyable and exciting endeavor. Even if you aren’t the type who enjoys that type of organization, it can be gratifying to think about precisely what you are going to be putting in your body and take the steps necessary in actually doing so. Everybody deserves a chance to become the healthiest and most healthy version of themselves possible, and with meal planning and a healthy dose of self-esteem, you will be well on your way to a lifestyle of healthy eating.



AUTHOR: Jen Rulon

I have been coaching triathletes, runners, and cyclists for over 21+ years; I received my Master's Degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Exercise Science. And as you may have learned, there is more to life than swimming, biking, and running. It is a lifestyle, and I am here to help you cross that finish line with a smile, whether it is an Ironman Triathlon or the Ironman of Life. You can find my knowledge shared in Triathlete Magazine, Runners World, on the TEDx Stage, the Health and Wellness Expo in San Antonio, TX, Southwest Research Institute Human Performance Summit, Training Peaks Workshops, "Self Motivation Strategies for Women" on Amazon, Men's Journal Online, and the New York Times. I also practice what I preach—she's a 15x Ironman Triathlete who participated in the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, on October 14, 2017.

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