7 Tips for Easy Healthy Meal Planning

7 Tips for Easy Healthy Meal Planning

Meal planning is essential to a successful healthy diet. It will prevent grabbing something that you probably shouldn’t be eating when you don’t have anything planned for dinner. If it’s a quick snack to hold you over until the meal, at least it should be a wise choice. A plan helps you to stock up on healthy options.

  1. The planning should begin before you head to the grocery store. Once a week sit down and create a menu plan for the meals you are going to make for the next week. Include all meals and snacks for each day. Include raw veggies for snacks, such as bell peppers, celery, cucumbers, broccoli, and cauliflower.

  2. Then prepare a list of the ingredients you need for your week’s pre-planned meals. Shop from the list to prevent “oh, that looks good” impulse buying. You can use a digital program to have it handy on your phone or tablet. We’ve used Wunderlist, Todoist, and others to build our lists. When we add the item to the cart, we check it off and it drops into the completed list. Then when we need it again, we scroll down and uncheck it so it goes back to the active shopping list.

  3. In the beginning, meal planning will take some time. Once you get the first week or two done, it will get easier and take less time. You might even decide that you’ll come up with 2 weeks of variety and then duplicate those 2 weeks as many times as you wish. If you are no longer using that menu plan, file it for later. When you need to come up with menu ideas and you are short on time or ideas, pull out the tried and true menu and you’re all set.

  4. If you’re following a specific diet such as Paleo, Carb counting, the TLC Diet, or Omni diet, you’ll need to know what foods you can have, the portion sizes and how they can be cooked. If you are not following a specific diet plan, then be sure you know what foods are best. While specifically targeting diabetics, my book Overcome Diabetes has detailed information that applies to healthy meal plans for everyone. Plan your meals around those.

The short version: eat more veggies, eliminate sugar and simple carbs, eat more whole foods.

  1.  Plan each day out in its entirety. Make it realistic. Don’t plan to make a meal that requires a lot of prep/cook time on a night that you know you won’t be home until late. Save the meals with more preparation for when you have time and make extra so you can have left-overs. If you are going to do this, you can plan the left-overs into the week’s menu.

  2. Don’t go to the grocery store when you are hungry. If you do, there is more chance that you will buy food that you do not need. As you’re pushing around the cart, only get what is on your list. Skip the aisles that don’t have something on the list (cuts down on temptation.)

  3. Before you get in line to pay for your food, make sure nothing jumped into your cart that you shouldn’t have. Put it back. My husband sometimes puts things like cookies into the cart to see how long it will take me to notice. Not very long 🙂

These 7 tips will make sure you stick to your meal plan and save you money too.

We’ve followed two specific diets in the past. Now we follow the wise choice foods listed in my book. These foods have become a habit.  If my husband goes to the store to replenish supplies, I know he’ll come home with good choices from our shared digital list. There are times when we splurge, but we know that’s what it is – a one-time splurge.

To your health!


Marian Hays writes, coaches, and speaks about health and personal growth for people who want to take control of their health and empower their lifestyle.  She’s an advocate for others as she researches and shares the truth instead of hype, infused with humor. Her goal is to inspire others to accomplish their goals and work through challenges that might otherwise hold them back.  You can find her books on Amazon.

Diabetes and Obesity: Twin Epidemics

Diabetes and Obesity: Twin Epidemics

An article published 7 years ago in the Harvard Gazette details how diabetes and obesity are parallel epidemics. Medications for diabetes lead to obesity. Obesity leads to diabetes. Studies have been going on “for decades” but no one was taking them seriously. Only now, seven full years later, is the parallel between the two getting any attention. This delay means about 30 percent of overweight people have the disease, and 85 percent of diabetics are overweight.

From the now 7 year old article:

“The twin epidemics of obesity and its cousin, diabetes, have been the target of numerous studies at Harvard and its affiliated hospitals and institutions. Among seminal findings was the first study to document the extraordinarily tight connection between the two diseases. Research done by Harvard School of Public Health Professor Walter Willett and his colleagues showed that being even slightly overweight increased diabetes risk five times, and being seriously obese increased it 60 times. ”

As reported in the Harvard Gazette article, “The study’s authors had to push just to get the results in print.

We had a hard time getting the first paper published showing that even slight overweight greatly increased the risk of diabetes,” Willett said. “They didn’t believe it.”

There is so much we can do to reverse this in our own lives.  It’s time to take action!

Source: https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2012/03/the-big-setup/

Prediabetes and Type 2: Health Benefits of Eating Nuts

Prediabetes and Type 2: Health Benefits of Eating Nuts

I came across an interesting article about the health benefits of eating nuts.  A study shows how eating a handful of nuts daily is helpful in preventing prediabetes and helps stabilize type 2 diabetics. Eating nuts as a snack instead of many typical snacks such as granola bars or yogurt.

According to researchers from Pennsylvania State University, eating an average of 52 grams of nuts a day can reduce the likelihood of developing insulin resistance, a precursor to type 2 diabetes. It’s estimated that up to 50 percent of people with insulin resistance will develop diabetes if they don’t make lifestyle changes.

“Previous studies have suggested that eating nuts regularly is tied to better blood glucose (sugar) control and protection from type 2 diabetes. The new findings suggest that adding nuts to your daily diet can help improve insulin sensitivity.

Nuts are high in healthy unsaturated fats, fats thought to help improve insulin sensitivity. Dietary fiber and magnesium in nuts may also play a role.

“Pistachios and walnuts are a good source of alpha linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid linked to protection from type 2 diabetes.

52 grams of nuts, the average daily intake across the 40 studies, is equivalent to 300 calories worth of almonds (43 nuts), 340 calories of walnuts (26 halves) or 290 calories of pistachios (74 kernels).

To prevent adding excess calories to your diet, swap nuts for snacks such as granola bars, crackers, cookies and chips. Substitute nuts for granola as a topping on yogurt.  Replace meat in stir-fries with nuts, which, in addition to unsaturated fat and fiber, add plant-based protein.”

Excerpts from an article by Leslie Beck, a Toronto-based private practice dietitian, Director of Food and Nutrition at Medcan.  https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/article-everything-you-need-to-know-about-eating-nuts-and-preventing-diabetes/

Stunning Big Brand Losses

Stunning Big Brand Losses

Today’s news article Buffett Set to Lose $4B as Kraft Heinz Stock Tanks explains the Kraft Heinz dramatic valuation and stock losses. It states the losses are due in part to shifting consumer buying trends. There’s a growing awareness that we need to eat more natural foods and less processed foods. The following is part of the news article (emphasis in bold is mine):

Kraft Heinz Co. plummeted the most on record Friday, one day after writing down the value of some of its best-known brands by $15.4 billion, an acknowledgment that changing consumer tastes have destroyed the value of some of the company’s most iconic products.

The packaged-food giant’s charge to reduce the goodwill value of the Kraft and Oscar Mayer trademarks and other assets came with disappointing fourth-quarter earnings and … a net loss of $12.6 billion, or $10.34 a share…

“Kraft Heinz’s portfolio
plays mainly in the center of the grocery store, an area hit hard by secular shifts in eating and shopping habits, and the one at greatest risk of being disrupted by Amazon.com Inc.

“As a result, Buffett reportedly stands to lose more than $4 billion in a single day because of the carnage in the stock of the Chicago packaged food giant (KHC), whose products include Heinz Tomato Ketchup, Jell-O and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and. …competes with General Mills and Kellogg Co.”

Read Newsmax: Kraft Heinz Discloses SEC Probe, $15 Bln Write-down; Shares Dive 20 Pct | Newsmax.com

Reading Food Labels

Reading Food Labels

Reading Food Labels

Reading food labels is one of the most effective ways of determining the right kind of food to buy in the supermarket. It lets you make sensible food selections. The food label includes valuable information, especially to a diabetic.

Admittedly, reading food labels can be very tedious and confusing. Nevertheless, once you get the hang of it, it will be easier for you to maintain healthy food choices by knowing what’s really in the foods you are purchasing and consuming.

The ingredient list
This is a good place to start before looking at the numbers on the food label. Ingredients are listed in order of quantity to the entire product.

If sugar is listed first, there is more sugar in that product than anything else. The closer it is to the beginning of the list the more of it is present in the food. Unfortunately, sugar has so many different names – many of the chemical – that you might see 4 types of sugar listed further down the label, some chemical names.  Add them up and sugar could be the largest ingredient in the product.

Avoid foods that list items that don’t work well for you. Allergic to rosemary?  Check the label to see if it’s listed. Products with a lot of unpronounceable chemical ingredients should also be avoided.

Look at the serving size and compare that to the number of carbohydrates is in a serving. Diabetic serving size for carbohydrates is usually 15 grams.  If one serving is higher than 15 grams, you’ll have to eat less than the suggested serving size to stay on track with your meal plan.

Sugar-free foods
These may grab your attention as something safe and yummy to add to your shopping cart.  But look at the carbohydrate and fat counts first. Most foods that are sugar-free use artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes, but have higher carbohydrates or fats added.  There are always tradeoffs to make the foods tasty.

Check the fat content.
Unless you are on a very controlled keto diet, look for a small number of fat grams.  Protein, carbohydrates, and fats are listed in grams.  However, protein and carbs have 4 calories per gram in the calorie count.  Fat, on the other hand, has 9.  More than double the protein and carbs. So, the total calories from fat could be much higher than expected. As a percentage of the product, it could easily be over 50% of the total calories.

Back in the 70’s, the government declared war on fats (like Arnold Schwarzenegger said in True Lies, “they were all bad”).  So, the food manufacturers decreased fats and increased sugars and carbs for flavor.  And the swelling of America happened.

Fortunately, now the tables are turning. It’s been scientifically proven that fats aren’t all bad. But you need to know what kind of fats you’re eating.  Trans fats should be avoided.  Some saturated fats are fine – coconut and avocado for example.  All fats have the same 9 calories per gram, but they react differently in your body.

Through the “Nutrition Facts” section of the label, you can identify the serving sizes and number of servings.  Remember to take into consideration how much you eat as a single serving.

The amounts and kinds of nutrients are included in the label. Usually, the label contains the information on saturated fat, sodium, total fat, fiber, and cholesterol amount “per serving.”

Things you need to know

Serving size
As already stated, the amount of servings on the label refers to the quantity of food the manufacturers determine people “usually” consume. Food manufacturers may use this to trick the casual observer into thinking there are fewer calories, fats, and carbs in the product.

The manufacturer cleverly shows acceptable amounts but increases the number of servings. If you typically consume an entire package of mac and cheese in one sitting, you need to multiply the number of servings by the grams/calories shown to get the real amounts and their effect on your body.  You may be stunned at how many calories, fat grams, and carbs you’re eating.

We live in a supersized world
A restaurant’s “single serving” is usually about two or three at-home servings.  We’re used to larger quantities without even thinking that it means more calories.

Nutrients
This refers to the list of available nutrients in the food product.  The percentages are based on the government’s recommended daily dietary allowance, usually an arbitrary 2,000 calories.  However, if you have a very small frame and can only burn 1,500 calories/day, you might need to recalculate the percentages.

Ingredients
This refers to the list of the ingredients that were used to manufacture the product, arranged from the greatest amount by weight to the smallest quantity. Occasionally some ingredients are listed as “other spices,” for example, in unknown amounts, which usually means a very small quantity.

Label claim
This refers to the kinds of nutritional claims of the food item. For instance, if the label says it’s sodium-free, it should have less than 5 milligrams per serving, or a low-fat item should contain 3 grams of fat or less.

In looking at carbohydrates, the label should show total carbs and fiber. If you subtract the fiber grams from the total carbs, you will have net carbs.  Since fiber is non-digestible, some diet plans count only the net carbs.

Happy label reading! Just be prepared to put things back on the shelves.