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My Paleo Diet Experiment: The Importance of Menu Planning

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When I began to lose weight 2-plus years ago, the nutritionist I saw had me write a food journal to track my eating.  After a couple of weeks of seeing nothing but big red Xs on my journal, I began to menu plan my meals.  Soon the red Xs were gone, and I began to lose weight.  To this day, I plan the weekly dinners in advance and shop accordingly.  As I embark on my Paleo Diet experiment I quickly realized that menu planning was going to be a great help for meeting my new dietary restrictions.

Over the years, I have collected many cookbooks and magazines loaded with recipes.  Every Sunday before I go grocery shopping, I look through the books to get some recipe ideas for the week’s meals.  As I was creating my menu plan for the week, it didn’t take me long see that many of my “go to” recipes weren’t Paleo-friendly.  After a period of frustration, I realized that these feelings were a result of my culinary habits being stretched.  I went through the same thing when I first became a healthy eater.  After a while, eating and shopping healthy became easy.  With the help of menu planning, following Paleo Diet principles will become easier as each week passes.

So why is menu planning so important to successfully changing eating habits?  It sets you up for success!  In a study on the behavioural treatment for obesity in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Gary D Foster, Angela P Makris, and Brooke A Bailer found that menu planning was an effective tool for weight loss.  Menu planning lets you make smart decisions about what you’re going to eat that week.  As a flexitarian, I regularly eat healthy meals.  Many nights, I eat vegetarian meals, other nights, I consume animal protein. 

However, as I transition to a Paleo Diet, I have to eliminate grains, dairy, legumes and starchy vegetables.  This is not as easy as I thought.  There are a ton of recipes that I used to make that while loaded with vegetables, protein and fruit; they also included grains (flour, bread, and coatings), dairy (cheese, yogurt) or legumes (I ate plenty of beans because my wife is vegetarian).  By spending 45 minutes planning my meals for the week, I was able to find recipes that are tasty and Paleo-compliant. 

Menu planning helps to prevent cheating on a diet.  Since I’m trying to change some of my eating habits, I need to change how I do my shopping.  Wandering down the aisles looking for meal ideas has always gotten me into trouble.  When I was a fatso, I would end up selecting instant foods and make other bad choices because I had no idea what to get, and bad choices offered easy solutions.  Today, I have a list of what I need to eat healthy for the week and I stick to the list.  This has helped me drop 75 lbs. of fat and keep it off.  As I change my diet to meet Paleo Diet principles, menu planning and a grocery list has kept me away from the foods I must eliminate.

Because I have stuck to my menu plan and the corresponding shopping list, my grocery bill for the week was $86.25.  This is about $40 less than our average grocery bill.  I didn’t have to purchase large quantities of meat this week because I have some in the freezer but I did purchase fish, shrimp and scallops.  My savings were from not purchasing bread, cheese, peanut butter and the little junk food I normally buy.  It looks like menu planning is saving money for me too!

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About Layne Pennell

  • Dr Joseph S Maresca

    The Paleolithic Diet consists of fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds and water. Portion controlled lean beef and fish are a mainstay.

    The diet helps to relieve inflammation from the classic foods containing loads of gluten, sugar, heavy creams, heavy sauces and things like hard liquor.

    I have found that the diet works substantially to keep weight down, as well as classic inflammation markers. Exercise is also a concurrent requirement because early humankind were hunters and food gatherers.

    The Mediterranean Diet is another popular route to lose weight and eat healthier choices. Always consult with your physician and professional dietician on specific details. Food choices do have a specific relationship to the blood chemistry and inflammation markers in particular.

  • Wenchypoo

    Try reverse-menu planning sometime–it’s where you keep the foods stocked so all you have to do is thaw, prepare, and cook. For instance, I have a freezer full of meat, and a fridge full of produce, and (my personal fave) a meat schedule on the calendar to rotate types of meat: T (turkey–any form), P (pork–any form), B (beef–any form), and C (chicken–any form). I used to have a V (vegetarian) on Fridays but have turned it into a VENISON night when I had deer meat.

    With the foods in stock and ready to use/thaw, the only planning I have to do is figure out what I’m going to do with the day’s meat and whatever produce I select. Stir-fry? Salad? Casserole? Kebabs? BBQ? Baked, then sauced? Meat loaf? You get the point.

  • Kati Behind the Plate

    Menu planning is such a great way to make sure you get all of the foods your body needs to be healthy – especially when you are trying something new. Good luck! I am sure menu planning will continue to be a huge asset for you.

  • Layne Pennell

    Thanks for the tips Wenchypoo and I appreciate the encourgement from Kati!