Five Tips for Meal Planning this Fall

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Summer is a wonder, but Fall is just around the corner - signalling change and the need for new routines. Kids are gearing up for back-to-school, and you're gearing up for work mode.

The need for meal planning and developing healthy routines can be looming over many of us this time of year. "How do I get back on track?" Rest assured that developing new routines that suit this season of your life is achievable with small steps.

Here are five tips to help you navigate healthy routines and meal planning this Fall.

1. Emphasize food variety over quality.
"Eat the Rainbow" is an old phrase with high merit. Rather than fixating on perfect nutrient-dense meals, simply emphasize food variety. Exposing kids to various foods without "good" or "bad" labels will help them develop healthy relationships with food. At every meal, think, "How can I add more colour to this plate?"
5-minute lunch: Kids love colourful finger foods. Fill their lunch box with an assortment of: turkey rolls, cheese, sliced apples, blueberries, pumpkin seeds, carrot sticks, hummus.

2. Create a non-negotiable time for grocery shopping.
Healthy routines are built on consistency. Create a non-negotiable time for grocery shopping - input it into your calendar and honour that time. Create a list of "family favourite" ingredients beforehand, emphasize variety, stick to the list, and you'll be set for the week. Remember, when we fail to plan, we plan to fail.

3. Stop and chop.
When you're done picking up the groceries, set aside half an hour to "stop and chop". Before putting anything away, take time to wash the vegetables and fruit, chop and store them in transparent containers. This will make it much easier to grab and go, or add them to existing meals and snacks for a fibre and antioxidant boost.

4. Prep food ingredients, not meals.
I'm all about easy food prep. Rather than pressuring yourself to meal prep intensively, simply prepare food ingredients. Marinate the chicken breasts, cook a large batch of rice, wash and chop veg, hard boil a dozen eggs at once...that way you can mix and match on the weeknights as you go. Easy peasy!

5. Be gentle with yourself.
Remember, no one has the perfect routine. Think of your health journey as an evolving, fluid, process. There is no start or end time. If you find that you're entering a season of life where you're unable to "do it all", remember, that's okay! Meet yourself where you're at, and start slow.

Trista Chan RD MHSc

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