How to Plan Healthy Meals for the Week

Are you in charge of planning meals for the week? Need meal prep ideas so that dinner time is less hectic? Or do you need breakfast tips and ideas to make your mornings less stressful? Meal planning helps you save time, money, and maybe even calories.

3-Step Meal Prep System

This three-step process means investing time up front. But you gain it back as the week goes on and meals are already good to go. When you plan, pre-cook, and freeze meals for the week, they are ready to eat when you're hungry.

Use this step-by-step guide to gather the ingredients, cook each food, assemble meal packages, store the containers and reheat your dinner.

Plan Meals

Set aside at least a half-day when you can plan what you want to eat for the week. Having a weekly meal plan is essential for nutritious eating. This planning stage gets much easier once you get the hang of it, but schedule a half-day in the beginning.

If you aren't sure what meals to plan, sample weekly menus can help. Advance planning means you're not making food choices when you're starving and too tired to cook. If you are looking to cut calories, you can find a meal plan that fits your calorie goal.

You can also use tech tools to plan meals. Do you own a Fitbit or another brand of fitness tracker? Perhaps you use MyFitnessPal, LoseIt, or another food tracking system to log your meals after they eat. But you can also use these tools in advance to plan nutritious meals and get recipe ideas.

Go Shopping

Try to grocery shop when you're not too busy so that you can take the time to read nutrition labels. Always prepare a shopping list before you go and buy only the items on the list. Not only will you eat healthier by following your plan, but you'll save money, too. Shopping online, for delivery or curbside pick-up, is also an efficient way to accomplish this task and avoid impulse buys.

Prep Meals

By preparing ingredients for meals or full meals in advance, you decrease stress and hassle during the week. Use the meal prep ideas listed below. Or take the weekly meal plan and chop, measure, pre-cook, and package as many ingredients as possible so that nutritious meals are the easiest choice when you're hungry and short on time.

Once you get the hang of this system, the whole program gets easier. Use these weekly meal plans and other tips to guide your process. Decide if you would like to plan and package your breakfast meals, your lunches, your dinners, your snacks, or all of them.

Breakfast Ideas

Plan a week's worth of breakfasts ahead of time. Then say goodbye to morning stress and hello to hassle-free, nutritious eating. Look for meals that are tasty and packed with protein and fiber.

If your goal is to lose weight, eat a nutritious breakfast to boost your energy. Use breakfast recipes designed specifically for weight loss. These breakfast foods are quick and easy to prepare, low in calories, and have plenty of protein and fiber so you stay full and satisfied all morning.

Lunch Suggestions

Ready to prep lunches, too? Planning and prepping your lunchtime meals for the week saves time in the morning and helps make sure you have what you need to fuel up mid-day.

Meal Prep Dinners

Need more dinner ideas? This complete guide will help you plan meals for the week with more variety. There are recipes and tips for creating Italian meals, Mexican dishes, and a wide variety of nutritious dinners.

Prep-Ahead Snacks

Planning healthy meals is important, but planning healthy snacks is essential as well. Keep these snacks in your fridge to curb between-meal hunger and add extra nutrients (like protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals) to your daily plan.

By Malia Frey, M.A., ACE-CHC, CPT
 Malia Frey is a weight loss expert, certified health coach, weight management specialist, personal trainer​, and fitness nutrition specialist.