Meal Planning + Healthy Living for the Spring

I usually have a hard time staying committed to healthy living, and since last summer it’s been a big challenge for me. The problem that I run into is that if I don’t meal plan every week I revert to making what’s easiest- and because I’m vegetarian, easy is usually code for carb heavy food.

Pasta and potatoes. It’s a problem.

Now that the summer is right around the corner and being outside is fun again I’ve been re-committing myself to being more active, and to learn some healthy habits that will stay with me for good. Just to make sure it works I have a two part plan!

meal planning

Part One: Fall in Love with Working Out. Or Develop Stockholm Syndrome.

I want to get in shape for the summer, and then maintain it! To get there I have a new workout schedule that’s going to help me have more energy and drop my winter weight by running and doing weights during the week. Since I have a hard time making being active part of my routine, my only goal at the start is to do something active everyday until it becomes a natural habit instead of something I can talk myself in and out of.

Part Two: Plan So I Don’t Become a Carbetarian

I’m doubling my commitment to change how I eat. Since Jesse isn’t a vegetarian and I am, that means that more of our meals are going to be made together but separate (you can read about our split kitchen here) but it’s going to be better for both of us instead of being lazy about what we eat and focusing on our common foodie ground. I’m also working on being about 90% vegan, so I’ve been searching out new recipes for snacks and small meals of energy dense foods all day. My goal is that I don’t ever want to be starving when I sit down to a meal, and I always want the food I eat to be super nutritious- which I’m hoping will stopping the energy peaks and crashes that I’ve experienced until now.

meal planning

Meal planning is hard for me to tackle when I’m out of practice, so this week I went back to basics with research and a simple meal planning techniques. I hopped onto a site that my friends Amber and Lisa love called Oh She Glows, to find some tasty vegan recipes I could base my week around.

How I Meal Plan

To plan, I write out the days of the week with spaces for meals and snacks, and on the other half of the paper I’ll write out some grocery categories. As I browse through recipes I write in what looks tasty under the meals for the week, and add in the leftovers for snacks or as sides for the next day’s meals. Then I bookmark the recipe and write out any ingredients I’m missing on the grocery half of the page, along with any staples we’re out of .

meal planning

After about 15 mins I have a meal plan and I’m ready to go grocery shopping! There’s something about making a plan and taking charge that makes me feel so much more confident about being able to follow through. The thing that I’ve found helps the most is working with my flaws.  I know I’m always going to tend towards what’s most convenient, so when I already have a plan being healthy and following it is more convenient than trying to plan something at the last minute!

vegan energy bars

The tastiest part of this experiment so far is the Fruit and Nut Energy bites. They’re my default snack all week and they taste like candy! If you’re looking for a healthy and delicious snack I can’t recommend these enough- they’re easy to make and incredibly tasty. Plus if you eat Vegan for long enough? As I’ve long suspected, and explained in the first minutes of this scene from the movie Scott Pilgrim, you get superpowers.

What superpower you would give up meat and dairy for?
I used to think I would only become vegan if I could levitate, but since I’ve been eating vegan a lot and it’s not as hard as I thought I’d also be open to considering it if I gained the ability to stop time :)

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There are 64 responses already, join in!
  1. I’m no vegetarian, but I have tried to be more consistant in using a meal planner over the past few months. I don’t always follow it (I get lazy so easily!), but it definitely helps in my goals to cook more, eat out less, eat healthier, and save money!

  2. If you’re becoming vegan, are you going to go for soy milk? I’m lactose-intolerant and since I was little–three or four–have had soya milk. There’s concern about the way it might affect your hormones, and when I talked to a dietcian she said don’t worry, but to be on the safe side have oat or rice milk instead. I’ve been mainly having oat milk, and although it’s incredibly watery {it’s literally just water poured through a sieve filled with oats} it’s often fortified with nutrients and so it all balances out.
    I have goat’s yoghurt which obviously isn’t vegan, but I had bad experiences with soya yoghurt. It is quite tasty though! And sunflower spread is readily available, vegan and suitable for baking with {yay!} so that’s what I use.
    You’ve probably thought all of this through, but just my two cents.

    • I’m not going 100% vegan, but my starting point is that I’m an ovo lacto vegetarian who’s lactose intolerant so the jump isn’t that big :)

      Thanks fot the advice! I try to keep my diet really focused on plants and grains, so I do have my morning cereal with a little soy milk and a little dairy yogurt, but I don’t feel like either is going to hurt me. It also doesn’t hurt that Jesse is allergic to soy, so that’s another incentive for me to not lean too heavily on it :)

  3. Ooo, congratulations on making the first step and good luck on the journey! I am also challenging myself to lose weight, become more active by exercising more and to start a healthier lifestyle. I am taking part of Kendra’s (www.likeabird.com) 5 Chance Challenge, which is basically a group of us who start good habits this year and maintain them. It’s a support system, for bloggers, basically. :D

    I am not a vegetarian myself, though I have started buying some Morning Star foods – however I adore Pasta and Potatoes, haha. So I totally get what you mean. Plus I have an Italian mother-in-law and while her food and my wife’s is amazing, it’s also filling. Jen and I are on the same challenge of losing weight and being healthier, so we’re going to have to go easy on a lot of our favorite foods.

    But hey, here is good luck for all of us! ^_^

  4. Oh, I find myself starving at mealtimes ALL THE TIME! Partly because I burn through food so quickly (curse that metabolism – some days the amount I eat scares me) and partly because I’ve been eating a bit better lately in the sense that I don’t gorge myself to practically feeling sick, but just comfortably satiated. But this also means I get hungrier quicker – as if I needed any more excuses to snack! It’s hard to get that balance right in a busy life, WHILE eating healthy and tasty.

    • I have a fast metabolism too and it worked against me in the same way! I would be so hungry at meal times that I’d over eat, and have lots of energy highs and lows during the day. I’m loving having really nutritious snacks (the energy bars above are addictive) mid-morning and mid-afternoon so I’m not tempted to plow through too much food too quickly any more :)

  5. Paula

    Great post! And I am totally with you regarding doing something active- no matter how small- to sort of get your body in a rhythm of being active. I’ve been doing that for about 3 months and now my body is hankering for me to add more time and more rigorous exercise so… go for it and start as small as you want, your body will want more after a lot of time.

    And the super power i would want is to get my way. I know it doesn’t sound like much of a super power but if you think about it- if i wanted to fly, I could. If i wanted to be invisible I could. if I wanted all the traffic lights to be green they would. Its just the only conundrum it presents is the whole everyone and every thing else then loses its own will in my presence- if I don’t want it in my way. But still an awesome super power in its own right- having my way.

  6. Paula

    PS I think i’m going to implement your meal planning idea. Its so simple and forward thinking- do you plan your snacks too?

    • I definitely plan my snacks too- mostly because I’m at the studio all day and don’t have a full kitchen, so Sunday is my planning slash shopping slash baking day where I’ll make whatever I need for the day. So every day I have a morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack and dinner planned- they don’t have to be complicated, but thinking about it before hand really helps me.

      Otherwise I would probably eat pizza for every meal and pretzels for every snack, and we all know where that leaves you: with scurvy. ;)

  7. Z

    Oooo, I love Oh She Glows! I’ve bookmarked a ton of her recipes, but have yet to actually purchase the things I need to make them! I need to do what you’ve started: make a plan.

    Good luck!

  8. Oh my gosh “or develop stockholm syndrome.” —> almost peed my pants laughing. Awesome one-liner for a Monday morning!

    Love your plan – I think I might adapt a version of that for exercise myself. I am the worst at working out and I always always talk myself out of it!

  9. I’ve been vegan for just over 4 years now, and I’ve never come across any issues for meal making. For sure I repeat my meals and eat a lot of the same thing, but I find with my stomach, too much variety causes havoc anyway. I’ve also been trying to incorporate more raw foods in my diet. My friend is a raw foodist and has her own business, and she makes fabulous raw vegan foods (and deserts… ). My bf is a vegetarian now, but for most of our relationship he was not, and he was fine with making non-meaty foods at home. We just ordered a spring/summer food share, so we’re hoping that we will be inspired to make different things according to what comes in our food box every week (because it’s always a surprise!). I started to have an interest in fermenting, and another one of my friends has got me into making kefir (coconut for me). Fermented foods is so good for your tummy.

    • I’m excited to start making raw food lunches and see how I like it- it seems like a really manageable way to integrate it into my diet! Jesse’s not vegetarian and is very allergic to nuts and soy, so our kitchen always has a lot going on at meal time- I love making meals that have common ‘bases’ for us, and then we customize them from there. I’ve also heard a lot about food boxes- thanks for reminding me! I think I have to investigate that :)

  10. I love this post! Congrats on making a plan and good luck with it! Those fruit and nut energy bites look delish! Thanks also for sharing the blog “Oh She Glows”-what a great recipe resource! I decided this was the year I was going to get into shape and maintain the results-tomorrow will be the start of week 3 for me with the P90X program and I’m loving it! I even started a blog about it to document my experience, share recipes, and post motivational/inspirational stuff! http://mindianna.typepad.com/p90x

  11. Since I’ve only been vegetarian for a few months (and I have dairy once a day), going vegan seems extremely daunting to me. However, I am a diligent meal planner and I believe it makes your week go a lot smoother if you have a plan.

  12. Meal planning has SAVED me! I never used to tackle it..but last year when I decided to get healthy & fit I really made it a priority and it has been a the source of a few good things: 1) Healthy Meals, 2) Less food stress (the “omg what are we going to eat tonite syndrome”), 3) Less work (I can plan leftovers-yeah!!), 4) More money (we eat out less, good for the wallet & the body!), 5) The number on the scale (eating healthy does have it’s benefits!).

    Enjoy your new planning process..discovering new recipes has become something I really look foward to!

  13. OSG is my go to website for whenever I feel like making a vegetarian meal. I use her recipe for overnight oats and the green monster. Angela is great.

    Meal Planning is wonderful. We do it all the time and it even save us money at the grocery store because we have a set list and we stick to it. I can feed a family of four for $85-$90 for two weeks just due to meal planning.

    I too am going to get out there and exercise. I plan to buy a bike so I can bike to the park and cycle around. I also want to do more walking.

    Have you thought about shopping at farmer’s markets? I’m going to do that solely for my veggies this year. Last year I bought a bag of beans for 35 cents a pound! 35 cents! You can’t even get anywhere near that in the store!

  14. Do you have a website that you would recommend for meal planning? I think that I would require “flight” as my superpower. Because then I could go wherever I want, whenever. And take a couple people with me! :)

  15. Zoe

    I was literally eating Nutella off a spoon, Kelly-Ann styles, while I read this! SO. BAD. Lol! Good on you for having such motivation for eating healthier and exercising! I need to take a leaf out of your book I think, going to check out that snack recipe now! *Puts the Nutella back….* xo

  16. San

    I am really bad at meal planning. I usually buy a bunch of stuff on the weekends and then just come up with meals according to what’s in the fridge. It doesn’t always – but often – work out. Still, I would love to be better with our budget and I guess meal planning would be a step in the right direction.
    Thanks for your tips. (P.S. I could never give up dairy.)

  17. Thank goodness for libraries and cookbooks and blogs! :)

    It’s one of those things—if all of those health/diet magazines would just give a full month worth of homemade meals, each with two daily snacks and one dessert-y type thing, with not a SINGLE lean cuisine, that’d be brilliant. It’d be even better if they could do one plan for vegetarian, one for vegan, one for gluten-free, and one for diabetics. Doing everything right to make that balance work, oh my goodness it can get exhausting. And I’m not a nutritionist, but even then I get one day of meals that included hey—meat that I don’t eat for ethical reasons! It’s sometimes just so frustrating that my solution is to not eat at all, which isn’t good either.

  18. Kat

    This is one of my favorite posts of yours. That meal plan is so simple and yet it somehow never occurred to me to do my grocery list that way – so thank you for that! :) My problem is that I can’t seem to stick to a plan because my idea of what I want for dinner changes from day to day, and more often than not I want to give in to whatever I’m “in the mood” for right then and there, rather than sticking to a plan. It’s a problem. And I hear you on the potatoes and pasta issue! I struggle with the same problem.
    Also, I’m not a vegetarian but I simply don’t really like the taste and texture of meat so I hardly eat any, and maybe some day I will actually give up meat “officially”. However, I could never imagine going vegan. I love my dairy products way too much! ;)

  19. Oh they do have dates in them! They looked like my favourite KIND bar – this looks like a great recipe :)

    Best of luck with the planning!

  20. I have a hard time keeping up with healthy eating too. Some changes I can make so easily, but changing my eating is like asking the impossible. I hope that when I have more time this Summer, I can try to get into the practice of meal planning. Thanks for the inspiration!

  21. Laura

    Meal planning is such a struggle for me but you have definitely inspired me!

  22. Ive been epically bad at meal planning the last couple months and i think it definitely reflects in my energy levels. I need to get back to making lots of healthy snacks on sundays to get me through the week so i’m less reliant on carbs!

  23. man oh man i wish i was as organized as you! i’ve been a long time vegetarian and thankfully my fiance has been more than happy to keep our home and kitchen meat free. it is hard though with busy schedules to come up with good healthy meals at 8pm on a tuesday though, sigh.

    i think you’ve inspired me though to sit down and actually plan out some good weekly menus.

    sadly i think my love of good cheese will forever prevent me from a total vegan lifestyle, but maybe the ability to manipulate time and space would convince me otherwise…

  24. Kara @ Destined For Now

    Great strategies! I think it’s very important to feel empowered about something so important in life. I know I enjoy cooking when I can look forward to an exciting new meal.

  25. Loved this! I am totally a “carbetarian,” it’s seriously all I think about. And if you’re looking for delicious vegan recipes there’s a cookbook called, Veganomicon. Get it. It will save your life and you’ll thank me later. By far one of my favorite recipe books to use when I was vegan last year. :)

  26. Ahhh…meal planning. I must get better at this. I think I just need to take over control of the grocery shopping because my mom has absolutely no interest in this, lol. We probably head to the store 3-4 times a week to buy things for just a few days and you end up spending so much more that way.

  27. I would have to say if I could stop time or be super fast…that would be amazing! I have been vegetarian for a few years now and I go mostly vegan. Cheese has a way of sneaking its way back in now and then. Thanks for sharing how you plan it all out :).

  28. I’m working on meal planning. I’ve been veggie for a year now but my husband and son aren’t and sometimes I just get so lazy and tired of cooking two meals every night. I really need to be more strategic about what I make so that it isn’t such a daunting task for me (and so that I don’t rely so heavily on carbs like you mentioned).

  29. It’s so hard for me to do the meal planning because my taste buds are so hay wire that when the time comes to eat a certain thing off the list… i won’t want it! :( I’m such a cry baby.

  30. Although I’m not vegetarian, I’ve definitely l earned the hard way that meal planning is very crucial! I also just moved out of a roach infested apartment recently, so I’m still working on the habit of even standing inside a kitchen. I might try the technique you mentioned for meal planning, sounds easy enough!

    • Oh my gosh, that sounds so awful! Maybe you could do the meal planning in the kitchen as a first step ;)

  31. C

    I too need to stop being a carb overloader! I’ve been relying on vegetarian fast food too much as well. I don’t like it one bit! Well, I like the taste but I’m sure my body isn’t liking the not so healthy foods. When I first went vegetarian I was really good about making a lot of my own food and now, three years later, I’m letting it go by the wayside. I need to do a plan like this as well!

  32. I’ve recently had to make some changes to how I eat as well, and it’s been the weirdest thing for me. I’ve always had this issue where I would get dizzy, the shakes, and cold sweats if I went too long without a meal. My Dr. told me I’m hypoglycemic, and in the past 2 weeks I’ve had to make a lot of changes in my diet. I was eating too many carbs and not enough protein/fat/veggies, so it’s been a big switch. But, since I stopped loading my plate with carbs (*sob*, perogies!) I haven’t had a single crash. So, so worth it!

  33. Fly. No second thoughts what so ever. I can’t even fly in my dreams, its sad. I have alot of super hero dreams (explain that one, huh lol) and I’m always suppose to be able to and I keep trying by can’t.

    Good luck on the meal planning and better eating! I’m headed to a orientation tomorrow night with a Dr to make a plan to get alllllll this weight I’ve picked up gone. Exciting but scary! Big changes ahead!

  34. Oh, I needed this today. Here I am chowing on an ice cream bar after ordering pizza on the way home from the gym because we were out of groceries and forgot our wallets when we headed out. I like your game plan – I’m going to have to try to move in the same direction. And meal planning is better for the budget, to boot :)

  35. I used to write a food/healthy living blog and am friends with Angela. So fun to see her on your blog! Peas and thank you is the cutest and she has amazing recipes too, in fact if you need more recommendations, let me know! I have a bunch. :)

    • No way! What a small world- definitely send over any vegetarian friendly recommendations you have, I’d love to see them :)

  36. I love meal planning! It makes my meals so much more adventrous if I am able to plan for them a bit in advance. It also saves me $, because I go to the store with a list. But, I still allow myself 2 impulse buys (to keep it fun!)

    My fiance is vegan, and I’m vegetarian (close to veganism, except every now and then I still have an egg) it’s made me embrace things like Almond milk (yum!) and coocnut ice cream (double yum!)

  37. LOVE Oh She Glows. I’m not vegan or vegetarian, but I think everything Angela makes looks amazing.

  38. I’m sooo bad at meal planning. I have a meal planner, and I will write meals I want to make for the week, and even go grocery shopping. Then I will be good for the first day, and make whatever I was planning to.. then the next day I lose momentum. I just get tired and don’t want to make anything that takes any effort. It’s so annoying!

  39. My husband and I gave up meats of all kind and fish for Lent and it was definitely a challenge – not necessarily in that I craved meat, but more because I would get lazy and eat carbs and cheese! I’m back on meat, but I’ve definitely learned some lessons about eating more vegetables and planning healthier meals. Great post! Those fruit and nut energy bites look delicious too.

  40. I love, love a meal plan! It makes healthy eating so much simpler. It’s kinda freaky-deaky that you posted today because I’m sharing a printable blank meal plan chart thing on my blog tomorrow :) I designed it last week but I forgot it was hanging out on my desktop until this morning. <3

  41. I respect your commitments, I admire you for doing this, I’ve thought about it so many times and never got down to it… I need to get organised as such too!
    You might enjoy the following blog which I find deeelicious (even for a non-vegan like myself):
    http://www.veggie-wedgie.com/

    PS I love its design too so when the time comes for FN to fix up my blog please keep this in mind too
    XO
    Smiles from Greece

  42. Good luck my dear! I think doign things like meal planning help so much because when you have a plan, you don’t make poor decisions like eating a bag of potato chips or somethign like that. ;)

    I only plan one meal a week… it’s all I can really handle. I plan a big meal on Sunday and that gives me leftovers for 4 lunches for the week. On weeknights i eat things like baked potatoes or a can of soup, which is pretty lame/not the best meal, but it’s all I can do right now! I think when these tests are behind me, I wil lbe better about cooking more meals!

  43. Hope

    I have been vegan for almost a year now! It’s not too bad and I have even lost a little weight. The main thing is that it’s not about perfection or being a “pure” vegan, but eating whole and healthy foods with lots of veggies. I thought it would be so hard but I actually love the relationship with food that has grown out of it! I also bake a lot so I don’t feel deprived when there are cookies in the office or something :)

  44. Loved this post.

    I am a…lacto-ovo pescatarian (?) and often find myself falling in the carb pit.

    That -combined with quitting smoking- has led me to gain quite a bit of weight which I need to lose ASAP (or I will need a total wardrobe make-over, couple of sizes up..:roll:).

    Now, if I could only get off my a** and be more active…

    I’ll keep dropping by, if you don’t mind. Sth. tells me you’ll inspire me to change my dreadful ways ;)

  45. My superpower would be teleportation! I’m so over trekking to and from the bus stop in the rain, and would gladly go vegan for that :)

    Your system is very similar to mine, actually, though I don’t usually plan out snacks… I just try to get a piece of fruit in my bag to accompany lunch and call it a day. That said, I know that it’s not the most ideal way to run things: I’m always hungry by the end of the work day, and have to fight serious temptation when passing the dépanneur. I’m definitely going to take a page from your book on that front!

  46. [...] see blog posts like this and it really encourages me to get my act together and do some serious meal planning but then I [...]

  47. I love how you do your lists! Such a good idea. :)

  48. Wow! I really love your blog. I have come to it before, but for some reason I never added it to my reader :(

    You are now a daily read for me and I am super excited about it!

    xoxo

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  53. This is a great post! One of my things this year is to learn to cook and start taking my own lunches. I have a hard time going to the market because I never know what to buy.

  54. Samantha

    This article was an incredibly inspiring read this morning. I am also a vegetarian who migrates toward convenient carbs far more frequently than the food that my body genuinely needs (like fruit, vegetables and protein). Creating healthy habits seems to be the key, and for those of us who are too creative to go about it any other way – finding a fun and invigorating way to create those habits without getting burned out. Thank you so much for writing this article that I can so readily relate to!

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