• Pat Birnie

Can You Guess the #1 Strategy for Happy Healthy Eating?

This blog was inspired by my Be Inspired Be Healthy program. It's a 5 week email series -- each week I send an email with 3 (usually) simple habits. For most of us, being consistent with healthy whole food involves a little planning! Admittedly, it's not really a micro-habit -- but we have to start somewhere. Keep reading if you aspire to do better when it comes to healthy eating. You can sign up for Be Inspired Be Healthy here - I hope you will join us on this journey.


What is the most important habit we can create to put us on track with a healthier diet? Planning -- Yup this is 100% true! Without a plan your likelihood of going off track increases significantly. Think about it. With almost every important aspect of your life you have a plan, even if it's only in your mind. This applies to work, finances, athletic goals -- probably everything in life. In fact I think this article on strategic planning, written as a business leadership strategy is a perfect analogy to meal planning! You need to prioritize (healthy eating), communicate (get the family on board), simplify decision making (fave recipes in regular rotation) and have everyone on the same page! If you believe that your health is your most valuable asset, then you'll find it easier to prioritize this important habit.


I was a busy working single mom of 4 kids for many years with not one, but TWO tight budgets - time & money. I often came in the door from work and had a very small window to feed my kids before heading out to hockey or soccer. I have always loved to cook and as well, have always been committed to a mostly whole food diet, therefore planning was mandatory. This was in the days where stoves were made with a timer you could for the oven to turn on hours later (possibly discontinued due to safety concerns??!!). I often had a homemade frozen meal in the oven with it set to come on at 4:00 & be ready to serve at 5:00. Funny story though -- one week I thought I was brilliant; I had made lasagna on Sunday, it went from freezer to oven on a weekday morning and we were excited to enjoy this delicious meal when we arrived home. Oops - I came home to a thawed lasagna in a completely cold oven. Oh man - I forgot to turn it on! I think dinner was something like grilled cheese that night...best laid plans as they say....


If you aren't really a fan of cooking and meal planning, then the likelihood of you veering into the danger territory of takeout goes up another notch. At the same time, this concept could feel overwhelming to you, so let's simplify it into 6 steps!


  1. Have 5-7 "go to" recipes: Keep it simple - Sheet pan dinners like chicken, vegetables & potatoes are quick & easy. Pasta & salad another night. Breakfast for dinner. Vegetarian chili (so easy & delicious). Of course you will make big batches of pasta sauce or chili so a couple more meals go into the freezer for next month.


2. Think: Set aside some time each week to decide what's for dinner. It could be a session with the family on Saturday morning (when kids help with the planning & prep there are much less likely to refuse the meal! Older children can also participate in the prep - my 11 year old grandsons regularly help with the cooking AND the cleanup -- it is never to early to get them started.


3. Make your list: Check your pantry & freezer for items you already have on hand & make your shopping list. I honestly have no idea how people shop without a list?


4. Pre-Prep for the week: I have often recommended celebrity trainer & USANA partner Kathy Kaehler's brilliant "Sunday Setup". If you have a family of four, that's 28 meals and a bunch of snacks that need to be prepared. Doing some pre-prep will make the work week go so much more smoothly. Here are a few ideas: hard boil a dozen eggs, season & roast some chicken pieces, wash and cut veggies like carrots and celery, wash your fruit -- check out Kathy's link for other 'do ahead' tricks & tips.


5. Be Flexible: Remember to be kind to yourself. Plans go awry every single day. There is absolutely nothing wrong with grabbing a deli chicken and bagged salad if things don't work out as planned. If tonight's planned meal is just not happening, look on the positive side -- you have a meal planned for tomorrow!


6. Enjoy: There are two elements to this step: "enjoy" the fruits of all your good planning. It make take a few weeks to make this happen but when it does, the entire family benefits and I hope you'll feel proud of yourself. Our goal here is to tweak our practices a bit. If we make even a 10% improvement, that is totally awesome! My other 'enjoy' is about leftovers. I've heard of people that don't eat leftovers...really? I can't fathom that -- I have always, and will always cook most meals in quantities for two nights. The only exception might be salmon -- I feel fish is better the first night. But curries, chili and stew absolutely improve with a couple of days in the fridge.


I hope this is helpful to you! If you take one or two of the ideas and try them out I'm happy that I have inspired you! That's my goal here - to inspire others in the prime of their life to enjoy energy and vitality for many years to come. What's on your plate day to day is going to impact that.


Now go plan some meals! Pat xo

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