If there's one thing my new clients have in common, it's that they all, to a person, eat too much.
I'm not just talking about mindless snacking while finishing an important project, or sneaking an extra granola bar when driving their kids to the third of their four daily extracurricular activities. I mean they eat way too much of the meals they plan. Americans, as a culture, simply eat way too much food; and that's a problem, because most of what you eat that your body can't use immediately is converted and stored as fat.
If you want to lose weight and be healthy, meal planning is absolutely essential. A lot of things are unpredictable in life, but your meals - and what's in them - shouldn't be. Read on for a few suggestions on how to plan ahead for weight-loss success.
Pre-portion: Whenever I get back from the grocery store, I immediately break out little snack bags and separate my food into smaller serving sizes. Everyone knows that you're more likely to eat the entire box of Cheez-Its if you eat them straight from the box, but this also works with protein, grain, and even veggie portion sizes as well. American serving sizes of everything are out of whack. Here's a healthy meal planning tip: Get a kitchen scale and weigh out the appropriate serving size for you and any other members of your family, then store them in freezer-lock bags.
Smart Shopping: The most foolproof way to ensure that you don't eat too much food is to avoid having extra food lying around. Sit down before you go to the grocery store and come up with a comprehensive list of everything you need to get you to the next trip to the store (whether it's in a week or just a few days). This may require weekly meal planning for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in advance. When you get to the store, avoid the temptation of the things you "forgot." You didn't forget them - you just knew you didn't need them!
Focus: For a culture that places so much emphasis on food, we certainly don't pay it enough attention. We eat while we're working, in the car, in front of the TV. If you're eating while paying attention to other things, you may as well consider your hand a shovel and your mouth a bucket that you'll keep filling until it's stuffed. Your body gives you clues about how hungry it is - or isn't. Make time to eat, and don't eat while you're doing other things.
Veggies first: When you're eating a big meal, start with the sides. Although most people go straight for the entree before starting in on the sides, I recommend eating the sides first (provided they're vegetables). The fiber in the veggies will go a long way toward filling your stomach, leaving you with less room for the meat, pasta, or mashed potatoes on your plate.