Meal Planning

Implementing Change

What in the World is Meal Planning?

(Updated 12/20/23)

Meal planning refers to establishing a game plan for the meals you are going to eat during the week.  It also includes stocking your kitchen with the ingredients you will need to create the meals via a grocery list. 

By dedicating some time to meal planning, you are setting yourself up for success. You are creating a structured environment where healthy choices are easier to make.  It is an upfront investment that pays dividends throughout the week. 

Benefits of Meal Planning

What is for dinner?
  • Eliminate the 5pm dilemma of ”What is for dinner?” EVERY…DAMN….NIGHT…

  • Minimize risk of making less than optimal food choices out of convenience or hunger
    • When your kitchen is stocked with ready-to-go nutrient rich foods, you are less likely to hit the fast-food drive thru
    • Hungry + no plan for your next meal = more likely to raid the pantry for Oreo cookies + order take out

  • Reduces stress
    • After a long day, the last thing you want to do is ADD more uncertainty and stress by figuring out what is for dinner
    • Stress often triggers cravings for less optimal foods.  Planning ahead may help mitigate the stress trigger.

  • Maximize workouts – Ever had a GREAT workout at the gym just to nullify it with your next meal due to lack of planning?  Planning ahead can support, rather than negate, exercise. 

  • Grocery lists save time and money
    • Streamline your shopping.  Know exactly what you need to make the meals you have planned for the week. Get in and out of the store efficiently.  No more zigzagging around the aisles.
    • Prevents you from getting home to realize that you forgot the key ingredient for the meal you had planned for dinner tonight.
    • Saves money be eliminating impulse buys and buying more groceries than you need.


Meal planning has gained a bit of attention within the research world over the past few years. 

Grocery shopping with list

In 2017, an observational study of 40,554 participants found that meal planning was associated with a healthier diet by means of better adherence to dietary guidelines and greater food variety.  In addition, meal planning was associated with decreased obesity and being overweight in women and decreased obesity in men (1).

In 2020, data collected as part of a 40-week worksite-based weight loss program revealed that meal planning frequency was associated with greater weight loss (2). 

In 2022, a randomized control trial of 108 participants found that meal planning skills were significantly associated with preparing more meals at home.  Prior research has found preparing meals at home to be associated with a healthier diet (3).

Well-Stocked Kitchen

bag of groceries

Imagine if you were to open the pantry and fridge and find ingredients that are able to create a nutrient-rich and satisfying meal. What if you opened the fridge and had a meal already created and ready to go? Or opened the freezer to find a meal that you could quickly reheat and enjoy for dinner.

Is this a fantasy? It might feel like it, but no.

Will this happen overnight? Absolutely not. However, with small and steady changes to the way you stock your kitchen, you can gradually create this reality for yourself.

Stocked fridge

A well-stocked kitchen increases the consumption of nutrient-rich foods.

Ready to stock your kitchen with the means to create delicious and simple meals? The choice is yours.

Get started with the 21-Day Heart Healthy Meal Prep Challenge


(1) Ducrot P., Méjean C., Aroumougame V., Ibanez G., Allès B., Kesse-Guyot E.,…Péneau S. (2017). Meal planning is associated with food variety, diet quality and body weight status in a large sample of French adults. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity,14:12. doi: 10.1186/s12966-017-0461-7

(2) Hayes, J.F., Balantekin, K.N., Fitzsimmons-Craft, E.E., Jackson, J.J., Ridolfi, D.R., Boeger, H.S., …Wilfley, D.E. (2020) Greater average meal planning frequency predicts greater weight loss outcomes in a worksite-based behavioral weight loss program. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 55, 14-23. doi: 10.1093/abm/kaaa021.

(3) Horning, M.L., Friend, S., Lee J., Flattum C., & Fulkerson J.A. (2021). Family characteristics associated with preparing and eating more family evening meals at home. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 122(1), 121-128. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2021.07.002.