Let me tell you about my favorite solution for healthy meal plans…
Let’s face it: meal planning is tough. We all know we should cook all our own meals from scratch, avoid fast food and take out, and remove processed foods from our diet. But it’s just not that easy to actually do it in real life!
And unfortunately, smoothies alone are not enough. As useful as a tool as they can be to increase your fresh fruits and veggies intake and stay away from processed/sugary foods as a result, they are not the be-all-end-all solution to healthy eating.
You can’t JUST drink smoothies all day. And it doesn’t matter if you drink a green smoothie every single morning. If the rest of your food is junk, your health will suffer.
You need an overall clean eating strategy, a healthy meal plan that encourages you to base all your meals around real food…beyond just breakfast or healthy snacks.
Not long ago, I struggled with the remainder of the healthy eating equation. I had my morning smoothie routine down. I started off each morning GREAT with a raw food liquid breakfast and enjoyed all the health benefits of a daily green smoothie or superfood smoothie. But the rest of my meals for the day? That was a big question mark.
Maybe you can identify. You have a bookshelf overflowing with cookbooks filled with photos of healthy recipes that look delicious, but you know that most of those fancy-looking recipes require a ton of time to put together, and you simply don’t have that time.
Sure, you also have a collection of “easy” recipes saved, 20-minute dinners and the like. But even with those, you simply don’t have time to comb through all those recipes on a weekly basis and decide which new recipes to make. So you end up making the same few recipes over and over and over again.
And if you do somehow figure out how to meal plan and find time for those weekly planning sessions, you find it an incredibly tedious and exhausting process.
First you write down individual ingredients for every single recipe, then you combine it all into one long grocery list, then you take the time to sort it all by categories so you can get in and out of the store fast.
(Or you skip that last step and spend hours in the grocery store trying to find everything out of order).
Making your own healthy meal plans like that is not easy and takes a lot of time. And you would rather be doing other things with that time than sitting down writing out ingredients and creating new healthy meal plans and shopping lists each week.
I went through this cycle for years. At best, I would throw together one very simple meal plan and use it until I had time to make a new one. Which was never.
So I would repeat the same meals and recipes day after day, week after week, until I grew so tired of the plan that I literally couldn’t stand the sight of another bowl of lentil soup. And then I would abandon the healthy eating meal plan and slip back into even worse habits.
At worst, I wouldn’t even bother to cook at all. I would eat out for almost every single meal, spending $10 here, $15 there, and seeing how fast the expenses added up each week.
It wasn’t just about the money though. I ended up having no control over what kinds of hidden ingredients were making their way into my meals and damaging my health—hello added sugar, unhealthy cooking oils, and other additives.
And it wasn’t even like I saved that much time by eating out because it takes time to go to a restaurant or a take out place and buy the food.
I was spending all this extra money and having zero control over what I put in my body, simply because I didn’t have a plan. My health suffered.
So I would make an attempt to go back to cooking my own meals, but dreading the tedious meal planning process, I would decide to just wing it instead.
You know those days. You walk into Trader Joe’s and just throw things into your cart based on what inspires you. You start off with good intentions, loading your cart with fresh fruits and vegetables and other real foods.
But by the time you walk out your cart is half full of frozen dinners, packaged convenience foods and junk food treats like chocolate covered pretzels. You spend way more money than planned and end up with foods that fuel unhealthy eating habits.
And the worst part about those big grocery shopping trips? You end up wasting food.
Because let's face it, when you don't have a plan, food tends to sit in the back of your fridge or produce drawer for longer than it should. Until that day comes that it’s time to clean out the fridge and start the process all over again :(
There’s almost nothing I dislike more than throwing away fresh vegetables, especially organic produce. But this is just a fact of life when I go grocery shopping without a plan. You have to toss out a big portion of the real food you bought!
I knew I needed to break this cycle once and for all. I needed to start a true habit of cooking all my own meals or as much as possible, and stop eating out or relying on packaged convenience foods. I needed a plan.
For awhile I tried using healthy meal plans from cookbooks I bought as well as static PDF worksheets I downloaded online, but those plans never worked for me or my life. They were designed for someone else with a life structure far different than mine, and they always included foods I either didn’t like or couldn’t eat.
Or my biggest pet peeve: they had me cooking 3 separate meals and 2 snacks per day every day of the week. Who has time to cook 21 different meals in a week?!
I need to cook a few meals in bulk and move on with my life. The bottom line is it simply didn’t work for me to rigidly follow a premade plan of what someone else said I should eat.
I needed something that was truly personalized and customized. So I spent hours and hours and hours developing my own healthy meal plans and shopping lists. I made some good meal plans.
But inevitably, when it was time to introduce new recipes for much-needed variety in my healthy meal plans, it was back to square one, a tedious process of combing through recipes and plugging in different ingredients and updating my long grocery shopping list. It was not fun and not easy, and often just didn’t happen since I didn’t have time.
Needless to say, this cycle of going from time-consuming meal plans, to exclusively eating out, to winging it in the grocery store and wasting so much produce had me stressed and on the verge of just quitting the whole eating thing once and for all.
Seriously, if someone could have just given me a magic pill that I could take instead of dealing with cooking or eating, I would have taken it.
I was tired of this looming question, day in and day out: what should I eat now???
But then, a few months ago, that all changed when I found Real Plans.
Suddenly, meal planning is no longer a source of stress or procrastination. The whole meal planning project became easy, flexible, and even fun.
I honestly wish I had found this meal planning tool years ago. It would have saved me countless hours of work, hundreds of dollars in wasted food that I threw away or bought unnecessarily. It likely would have helped me avoid some weight gain and other health problems that came about as a result of “not having time” to cook healthy, real food meals for myself on a regular basis.
Because the truth is, having time to cook is not the problem. Meal planning is the hard part.
When you have a weekly meal plan that’s 100% tailored to you and your dietary needs and lifestyle, cooking becomes easy and maybe even fun!
Real Plans takes the hard part out of meal planning so you can make real foods a constant part of your life without the constant struggle and stress of doing it all yourself.
If I learned one thing from combing through a number of healthy eating meal plans and even 30-day reset programs and group cleanses, it’s that no two people or two families eat the same way. And even no single person or family eats the same way over time.
So rather than having a rigid plan of what you should make and eat, Real Plans makes it incredibly easy to swap things out to adjust the meal plan to your unique, ever-evolving needs. Exclude ingredients you can’t eat due to allergies or intolerances, remove recipes you don’t like, and adjust the recipes based on what you have on hand in your house.
You end up with a REALISTIC plan of what you can cook for the week, including what you can actually pull off with the time you have available in your own real life.
No more meal plans that expect you to cook 21 separate meals per week, if you’re a busy working professional who barely has time to cook a single batch of soup :)
Attention, control freaks: Don't want to be told what to eat? Simply clear the entire week and pick your own meals from the Recipe Box or import your own!
Besides just helping you plan out your meals for the week, Real Plans also makes the whole grocery shopping experience easier (because that takes time too!)
The shopping list – rather than being a static PDF – categorizes everything based on how you typically shop at a supermarket. (For example, all the produce, spices, and bottled goods are all grouped together.)
You can then check off anything you already have in your kitchen, add anything else you want to your list, and then take it to the store. You can choose to print, email, or open your shopping list on your smart phone.
If you’re like me, you used to do all this the old-fashioned way using scraps of paper or a tool like Evernote. Real Plans uses technology to make this all automatic and 10X easier.
You also get a well thought-out and dynamic timeline that changes with each recipe you add or delete, that tells you when to thaw/soak/prep ingredients and any other tips and tricks you need to know about preparing each dish. I love this.
Think of it almost like your personal kitchen assistant, adding things to a kitchen “to do list” for you to help you stay organized and make the most of your limited time in the kitchen. You could do all this yourself, but why take that time when Real Plans just does it for you?
It does no good to have a meal planning software like this if you can’t trust the recipes to actually taste good. No one wants to spend all that time and money shopping for food and cooking only to have it turn out inedible.
Nothing to worry about here. Real Plans comes with over 1500 fool-proof real food dishes that have been tested to be simple and delicious. They have also partnered with some top food blogs that you can choose from, if you want to incorporate additional recipes into your plan.
Do you already have your own favorite recipes and want to stick mostly to those? You can still use Real Plans to keep your recipes, shopping list and cooking timeline organized and updated. Use it as your personal kitchen assistant to help you make exactly the foods you like. Just import your own recipes and feel free to occasionally mix in some of the new recipes for variety.
Or if you are looking to learn new recipes and need inspiration for what to have next for dinner, Real Plans has you covered.
One of the things that pushed me over the edge into giving Real Plans a try was how user-friendly it is for anyone with a restrictive diet due to food allergies or other health concerns.
When I had to restrict my diet due to testing positive for multiple food allergies, I honestly had quite a bit of anxiety as I would comb through recipes only to find that I couldn’t make most of them due to allergies or other food restrictions. If you have allergies or food restrictions, you know that this whole meal planning process is 10X harder for you.
I LOVE how Real Plans allows you to exclude either whole food groups (like shellfish or nightshades) or individual ingredients based on your allergies. And then…MAGIC! You’re presented with a complete weekly meal plan – totally customized according to your specific dietary preferences and needs.
It doesn’t get any easier for people following a Paleo, Keto or Vegetarian diet as you can choose a preset plan based on the diet you are following (you can also choose Traditional or AIP now too!).
So, let’s say you follow a Paleo diet but can’t eat shellfish, carrots or peas due to allergies. A few clicks and BOOM, you now have a dynamic weekly Paleo diet meal plan that takes all those restrictions into account.
Or, you can switch back and forth between options. This is especially nice if you are thinking about trying a different style of eating but not ready to commit 100%.
Want to try a vegetarian diet meal plan for a week to see how you feel? Or maybe you want to try low carb for weight loss? No problem, with this healthy meal plans tool you are just a few clicks away from giving a new diet a try.
And if you don’t like any specific recipe that comes up on the plan, you can still change it based on exactly what YOU like. And the end result shopping list and food prep timeline will be automatically updated and tailored to meet your exact needs and preferences.
Of course, if you don’t like technology and prefer to do things the old-fashioned way (and you have hours per day available to work on meal planning, organizing your shopping list and keeping track of your tasks), Real Plans is probably not for you.
If you prefer to wander the aisles of the grocery store aimlessly throwing items in your cart, then come home and figure out what to do with them – Real Plans is not for you either.
But if you’re like me and need some help from technology to keep everything on track—and save you from spending 4+ hours per night in the kitchen like I used to do, on top of my regular full-time job!—Real Plans might just be exactly what you need.