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A Dietitian's Step-by-Step Guide to Meal Planning

seasoning a salad on September 30, 2023

By Carly Armstrong, RD

A meal plan is most effective when YOU are your own planner. I wanted to write this blog post to help you develop the skills to make your own meal decisions! YOUR meal plan works for your schedule, cooking level, health, familiarity, taste preferences, food availability, budget, time/energy, etc.

Why should I meal plan?

  • saves time and money (less food waste)

  • helps you incorporate more variety of foods

  • encourages you to cook at home more often (eating out less)

  • serves meals faster with less stress

  • helps you check in with your nutrition (YAY!)

Be realistic with your meal plan. Not every meal is meant to be perfectly balanced/the epitome of healthy. Prepare to be flexible and incorporate foods for enjoyment as well as nutrition!

Meal planning is hard to start and then gets easier the more you do it! This is just one way to start - you will find a way that works best for you!

Step by Step Guide

Step 1: Planning prep

  • How will your visualize your meal plan? You could use a calendar, phone, or a template.

  • What items are in your fridge or freezer that you want to utilize this week?

  • Check the store(s) flyer (I use the Flipp app) for any good deals!

  • Check your loyalty card for grocery store points/offers (PC Optimum or Scene+ ftw!)

  • Get your family involved. Do they have any suggestions?

  • Check for discounted items if you can. I hate to reveal my golden secret but the Flashfood app is a game changer. It helps you save money and reduce food waste by offering massive savings on fresh food items like meat and produce that are nearing their best before date.

Step 2: Automate weekday breakfast

Pick TWO options:

  • Quick (or prepped) item Example: Yogurt parfait, overnight oats, egg bites, smoothies, etc.

  • Slower option Examples: Breakfast burrito, whole wheat protein waffles, smoothie bowls, etc.

Step 3: Suppers that fit your schedule

What day of the week do you have the most time available? Commit to one new recipe. TIP: Go to your Instagram saves, Pinterest account, or simply google an idea!

What is the busiest night of the week? Important to make a plan!

Simple meal, delegate the cooking, make a good eating out decision, slow cooker, freezer meal, sheet plan meal, one pot meal, etc.

My favourite tip = Incorporate a theme night and/or staple supper that you will repeat every week (until you need to switch it up) Taco Tuesday, Pita Pizza Friday, Breakfast for Supper Wednesdays, family favourite, etc. That is one meal every week you don’t have to think about.

Now we can fill in the rest of the suppers with your familiar recipes! Don't want to over commit to a bunch of new recipes. Remember - recipes/meals don't become "quick and easy" until YOU make them a few times and build confidence in the process!

Step 4: Decide on easy lunches

Keep lunches quick and simple to throw together. Pull lunch meals together quickly with these options:

  • Incorporate planned leftovers as much as possible.

  • Meal prep specific lunch meals or ingredients on the weekend.

  • No excuse quick grab option. Plan at least one lunch idea for the week that involves no prior preparation. This is something you can easily throw together like a sandwich/wrap or an adult lunchable.

Step 5: Be thoughtful about snacks

Don't forget to plan your snacks! Most people have large spaces between meals. If you will be going more than 3-4 hours between meals, ensure you have 2-3 snack options in mind. This is key to sticking with your plan!

Bonus Step = Meal Prepping

Okay now you have a tentative meal plan! Time to meal prep a couple things to make your week easier. This will be different for every person/family.

Ingredient prep? Snacks? Full meal prep? Breakfast? Lunch? Snacks?

Depending on how much time you have, choose 2-3 things to prep for the week ahead.

Need an example? I recently posted a meal plan that I created using this step by step method!

Thanks for reading! Have a happy and healthy day.

Carly Armstrong is the owner of Empower Nutrition and Lifestyle. You visit her website at


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