August 15, 2016

4 Reasons We Fail at Meal Planning

What to keep in your pantry and the how, what, when, and where of meal planning.

How do you know what you or your family will be eating at your next meal or tomorrow’s meals?  Meal planning is challenging for the average family.  When you add in practice, commutes, school, work and family commitments, it can become pretty complicated. While there is no one right or wrong way to do meal planning, the key is to think ahead and have some ideas planned.

healthy eating, dieting, slimming and weigh loss concept - close up of diet plan paper green apple, measuring tape and salad

4 reasons people fail at meal planning.

  1. planning is not a priority
  2. believing that pre-planning is restrictive
  3. resistant to change
  4. simply the fear of failure

How can we combat these common failures? Some strategies include:

  1. batch cooking on weekends
  2. planning a week in advance
  3. planning the night before
  4. planning meals just hours in advance

Any way you look at it, each of these options allow you to think ahead instead of deciding in the moment.

It is important to remember if one method doesn’t seem to work for you, try another one until you find what works best. You might find multiple methods that work for you. It is not failing if the meal that is planned doesn’t come through; just try a different method until you find what does work.

I like to use the “How, What, When, Where and Why” approach to meal planning.  Start by answering why, and it will be easier to provide performance-based foods for your athlete.  The actual planning can’t start until you know what you are planning. The answer to that question can be all meals and snacks, just dinners, pre-workout snacks, recovery snacks, etc.

Think about which meals/snacks seem to be causing nutrition downfalls for your athlete/family. This will help you to know what to plan. When, is determined by the best day of the week for you to plan and shop. Think of when you can shop, then try to plan the menu that same day or the day before.

Now that you’ve answered all the other questions, move onto the how you will do it.  There are multiple methods to use for planning meals. You can go “old school” and use the pen and paper method, or you can go “digital” and use your computer or smart phone. Just be sure to find what works best for you. There are a many different options for digital; here are a few that I have used with families I work with that they seem to like. You don’t have to commit to a year subscription; you can try them for a few weeks or months and see if you need to continue after that. – $5 – 10 per month, has app for smart phones – $4.95 per month, or $39.00 per year – $7 per month or $58.80 per year, has app for smart phones

Where you shop is completely up to you. There really is no right or wrong grocery store.  Online shopping is an option for some stores, and delivery to your home may also be an option.  That is what I call convenient fresh foods.

Keeping a well-stocked kitchen can help make on-the-go eating and meal prep easier too. Stay tuned for my high performance grab-n-go foods and high performance pantry staples posts soon!

Written By: Jessica Wegener RD, CSSD, LMNT, Registered Sports Dietitian, Positive Nutrition of Omaha LLC

Question: What are the meal planning strategies that work best for you and your family?

Jessica Wegener is a certified specialist in sports dietetics and registered dietitian; she can be reached on her website at

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