Meal planning can be challenging and feel overwhelming without a strategy. Let me share some simple skills that anyone can learn and turn into a habit. The rewards of planning a healthful nutrition plan will save you money, time and ensure you meet your nutritional goals without running into that hungry feeling while trying to pull dinner together with no plan and no time.

Here are four simple ways to plan meals.

Look Ahead: Ask yourself what obstacles may prevent you from planning a healthy dinner. Do you have a late meeting this week, or will you be driving your kids to an activity one or two nights per week? If you answered yes, pick a meal that can be prepared in advanced, or check out online menus of restaurants in the area you will be so you can pre plan a healthy choice.

Select Entrees and side dishes: If you are planning five days worth of dinners, choose five protein options and five starch and five non starchy vegetable side dishes so you can mix and match throughout the week to create balanced meals with ease.

Take inventory: Now that you have selected the foods and recipes to prepare, make a list of ingredients you have on hand. Add to your grocery list anything you don’t have. You don’t need to preselect which vegetables to buy before going shopping as long as you know the proper quantity needed, you can decide in the supermarket based on what is on sale and looks fresh!

Fill in the rest of the meals: In the same planning manner, consider your breakfasts, lunches and snacks for the week ahead and add to your shopping list the required number of fruits, nuts and portable proteins like boiled eggs, lactose free Greek yogurt and meal replacement smoothies to have the best choices ready and waiting!

If you’re new to meal planning make it easy on yourself, put your plan on paper and follow it for the week. After the first few weeks, make note of your favourite meals, reuse what works and replace or rotate what doesn’t to prevent getting into a food rut. After a few months you will have a personalized menu resource to reference and create endless easy options to enjoy!