What’s for Dinner? Two Templates for Stress-Free Meal Planning

 

Stress Free Meal Planing | Asian Tacos
Shiitake Mushroom and Lentil Asian Tacos from Sprouted Kitchen

 

It’s the eternal question for many home cooks: “What shall I make for dinner tonight?”

Maybe you find yourself browsing the supermarket aisles for inspiration, only to come home with the standard ingredients for your go-to pasta. But not only does eating spaghetti bolognese three days in a row get pretty boring, falling into a food rut also puts you at risk for an unbalanced diet. As I wrote in last week’s post, consuming a lot of different types of food helps you to get all the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients you desperately need to stay healthy.

But finding ways to ingest the entire range of necessary nutrients is probably not be the first thing on your mind when you have to come up with a meal that’s not only healthy, but also kid-friendly, quick to make after a tiring day at work and easy to digest before heading off to karate class.

For some strange reason, I actually enjoy planning a wholesome yet tasty weekly menu (but then again, I’m one of those crazy people who love making lists). Over many meal planning sessions, I found that using a personalised food template makes it a lot easier to come up with a week’s worth of delicious dinners that make up a balanced diet.

Today I’m sharing my secrets for stress-free meal planning, with two examples of varied and balanced weekly menus.

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How to Effortlessly Eat a Balanced Diet

 

Balanced Diet - Rotate Staple Ingredients
Photo by Annelies Verhelst

 

Do you mindlessly gobble down the same old boring breakfast before rushing out the door each morning? Or are you stressed out every night wondering what you should have for dinner without falling into a rut?

So many of us have virtually the same meals day after day. And even if you do make a conscious effort to mix up what you’re having for lunch, you still might not be eating a huge variety of foods. Most food products you find in the supermarket contain the same handful of ingredients – wheat, soy, corn and sugar.

But eating a lot of different foods is crucial to obtain all the nutrients you need for a healthy body and mind. A balanced diet ensures you get the entire range of vitamins and minerals, without consuming too much of one particular nutrient. Because the same rule applies to both fast food meals and uber-healthy foods: “The dose make the poison.”

Even eating big ass salads and huge amounts of steamed broccoli on a daily basis for many years could potentially lead to health problems, when small amounts of harmful compounds in dark leafy greens and cruciferous veggies build up over time. (You’d need to consume huge amounts of one vegetable over a long period of time before this would happen, but you get my point.)

Coming up with new recipes every day can be an overwhelming challenge. Luckily, there are two strategies to effortlessly eat a more balanced diet without stressing out:

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Fifty Shades of Blue: 6 Self-Help Tips to Overcome Feelings of Depression

 

Blue Self Help Tips Depression
Portrait by Annelies Verhelst.** 

 

We all have days when we’re feeling sad and empty, wishing we could curl up in our beds instead of going through the motions again. It’s completely normal to go through periods of unhappiness, especially after upsetting events. But what if you keep finding yourself bursting into tears for no apparent reason or feeling numb more often than not? What should you do when you no longer enjoy things you used to consider fun and you’re struggling to ‘fake’ a normal conversation?

 

‘Fifty shades of blue’: Mild depressive symptoms

Depression is one of the most common mental health problems, with approximately 8 – 17% of people worldwide suffering from a major depressive disorder during their lifetime. But an even larger number of us are dealing with mild depressive symptoms that are not severe enough to meet the diagnostic criteria for a clinical depression. For example, maybe you’re often feeling down, restless and tired, without much interest in doing something fun, but never for two weeks straight or never more than four symptoms to be able to call it a depressive disorder.

And yet, struggling with the blues can still cause a lot of grief and make it difficult to function normally at work or during social occasions. What’s more, experiencing mild depressive symptoms is an important risk factor for developing a full-blown depression. 

Unfortunately, when you’re living with chronic health problems, you’re even more likely to experience symptoms of depression. Having a serious disease doesn’t just throw your whole life upside down and makes it harder to pursue activities that used to make you happy, but the physical effect of chronic illness can also lead to neurochemical imbalances associated with a depressed mood.

Luckily, there are things you can do to lift your spirit and slowly start feeling better. Research shows that following self-help strategies can be an effective way to reduce mild depressive symptoms. So here’s a small selection of proven methods to help you beat the blues:

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21 Simple Habits to Kickstart a Healthier Lifestyle

 

Habits for Healthy Lifestyle

 

You can feel this growing sense of excitement bubble up: It’s time for a fresh start, with a healthy new lifestyle to unleash your full potential. 

Inspired by all the success stories about former coach potatoes who ended up running a marathon in one year, you go all in. You work out at the gym five days a week and you start a juice fast before definitely cutting out all sugar, gluten, dairy, alcohol and caffeine all at once.

At first, the positive effects of exercising and healthy eating rub off on the rest of your life. You wake up early and refreshed and you have no trouble saying “no, thank you” to that piece of chocolate cake on birthday parties.

Until after two or three weeks, life suddenly throws you off course. After being up all night with your child, you’re desperate for another shot of caffeine, and you miss your yoga class because you’re so swamped with work. When you finally get home at night, you feel too tired to cook up a healthy bowl of quinoa with grilled vegetables.

Of course you’ll jump back in the saddle tomorrow, but you can’t shake that feeling that you’ve somehow failedIt starts to feel like a lot of effort to keep up this perfectly healthy lifestyle, and the next time life gets in the way of your resolutions, you automatically fall back into your old routine of crashing in front of the TV with a microwaved meal after a stressful day.

Does this story sound familiar?

A total transformation of your health surely sounds appealing, but too many drastic lifestyle changes at once usually isn’t the recipe for longterm success. Research shows we only have a limited amount of willpower each day. So when you want to improve your health, it’s much easier to focus on creating small, doable habits  –  those automated, healthy behaviours you do without thinking about it.

Start small: pick one tiny health habit at a time, until it’s a natural part of your routine.

To help you kickstart a healthier lifestyle without too much stress and effort, here’s a list of 21 simple habits that can make a big difference.

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