This is the last part of the Starting Your Weight Loss Journey Series. In my opinion it is the most important as it ties the rest together. Below are Parts 1-5 of the series in case you missed it.
In Part 5, I mentioned that cooking healthy homemade meals is one of my main strategies in developing healthier food habits. Cooking meals from scratch is not something busy moms typically think they have time for.
Let me just say I can relate to a busy life. As I have told you before I work full-time, have two little girls, a needy dog, and even needier husband. I have a house that constantly looks like a bomb went off along with a laundry pile that never goes down. Not to mention family and friends that I would enjoy seeing once in a while. Finding time to cook homemade healthy meals from scratch is not something I thought I would ever have time for either.
I am here to tell you it is possible and easier than you think.
Once you begin to experience the rewards of cooking homemade nutritious meals you will wish you started sooner. Trust me I know.
What about healthy prepackaged food?
The thing with prepackaged meals is you do not have control over the ingredients. Most convenience meals, even if listed as the healthier option, may still have additives or preservatives in order to keep them “fresh” on the shelves. Furthermore, you will find the sodium levels very high in these foods. As a result, the so called healthy foods are actually not as healthy as you think. Of course there are always exceptions to the rule you just need to read the labels.
Additionally, prepackaged or convenience foods are much more expensive that cooking meals at home from scratch. I always hear people say that eating healthy is much more expensive than their unhealthy counterparts. Well I have found this not only to be untrue but the complete opposite. Since I have started cooking meals at home I have cut our grocery bill by $200-$300 or more a month. That is all without coupons!
Now I don’t want to give the impression the only way to lose weight is to cook every little thing from scratch and that you should never purchase prepackaged food. Obviously, that is not realistic. The goal I want you to take from this is to start slowly moving towards substituting healthier homemade meals in place of the prepackaged, take out, or fast food that you have been eating.
One way to do this is to take a look at your food journal and make note of the prepackaged foods you are eating. For example, do you purchase a lot of diet freezer meals such as ones from Lean Cuisine or Weight Watchers? If so, then try substituting once or twice a week a lunch you prepared from home. Or if you tend to purchase a lot of frozen pizzas then try a couple times a month to make your own homemade pizzas. See my point? Before you know it you will be making more homemade meals and new healthy habits will be formed.
System for Making Healthy Homemade Meals Easier
All of this might be starting to sound easier said that done. Don’t get discouraged. As I said earlier I am extremely busy so I understand the time constraints you are under. The system that I use to help me put homemade foods on the table is a simple one that includes combining calories awareness with menu planning, freezer cooking, and make ahead meals. Without these three cooking tactics there is no way I would be able to prepare the meals I do for my family.
Previously, I have written general “how-to” posts on menu planning, freezer cooking, and make ahead meals. You can view them all in the Skinny Mom’s Kitchen article archives.
In this post, I want to focus more on using these cooking methods as a weight loss strategy.
Creating a Menu Plan for Weight Loss
I believe strongly in the power of a plan.
All successful endeavors begin with a solid plan. Weight loss is no different. All too often people attempt a weight loss strategy with only the latest fad diet book and a dream. Unfortunately, we all know how that story ends.
Having a menu plan gives you a road map that, if followed, will provide you with a weight loss strategy better than anything you will find with a fad diet. The reason I say this is because you are the one creating the menu plan. You know the foods you like, what your schedule is, and what your family’s needs are making it much easier to then stick to the menu plan.
To craft a weight loss menu plan you need put together meals and snacks that stay within your daily caloric intake. This can be done by searching out healthy recipes and making note of the calories, other nutritional information, and portion size. If you are unsure of the nutritional information of a specific recipe you can always plug in the ingredients into My Fitness Pal. This online food journal can give you the nutritional information for thousands of different foods and recipes.
By having a weight loss menu plan you know exactly what you are going to eat everyday along with the number of calories. Planning ahead will help you tremendously in keeping up with your food journal.
Another bonus to creating your own menu plan for weight loss is that you are eating the same foods your family is eating. No making separate meals unless you want to. The only difference would be portion sizes and such.
At first this might take a little time. When I started menu planning I remember spending 2-3 hours trying to figure everything out. Now that I have my system down I would say I spend about an hour once a week or every other week putting together our menu plan. Once you form the menu planning habit it will become second nature to you.
By using a menu plan you will take back control over your food, health, and weight. Additionally, you will find your budget shrink and sanity saved. Again, trust me I am speaking from experience 🙂
Freezer Cooking and Make Ahead Meals for Weight Loss
If it wasn’t for these two cooking methods I would NEVER be able to feed my family healthy home cooked meals. When I get home from work the last thing I want to do is prep and cook a full blown meal from scratch. If I did we wouldn’t be eating until 8:00pm. After we walk in the door dinner needs to be on the table within 30 minutes, 45 minutes maximum, or my kids will lose their minds. It is not a pretty sight.
Besides being a sanity saver freezer cooking and make ahead meals have been the cornerstone to my weight loss success. These two cooking methods allow me to cook healthy foods when I have the extra time (I know that made me laugh too) so I can serve the meals during the week when I don’t.
Additionally, I am able to keep calories better in check because I portion the food out before it goes into the fridge or freezer. That way, when I eat the food or freezer meal, I know exactly how much I am eating.
Again I have written a lot on topics of freezer cooking and make ahead meals so please check the archives for more information.
I hope you found the information in this series helpful and can visualize adapting it to your own lifestyle. Don’t get discourage if changes don’t happen as fast as you want. Remember slow and steady always win the weight loss race. Keep at it and soon enough you will be creating life long healthy habits that will lead you lose weight naturally.
I will be expanding on these topics much more in the future. It is hard to get it all out in one post. Good thing I have a blog 🙂
Let me know what your questions are regarding any of the topics I covered in the series. I am more than happy to answer them here or in a future post.