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Meal Planning

Meal planning can be very simple, or it can be more involved. Some people plan every meal for the week. That might sound extreme, but if you’re looking to lose weight it can be very helpful. Some people just plan dinners for the week. Others plan a month of dinners at a time. Curl up on cozy afternoon with a cup of tea and leisurely write your plan for the week…or if you’re like me scramble to scratch one down while your 3-year-old climbs on you and you attempt to eat breakfast…

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The plans you make are subject to change of course! But having a plan in place helps get rid of that stress of what to make for dinner, it makes shopping easier, it can save you a lot of money, and it makes it more likely that you’ll make good choices for your meals. That’s really important if you’re looking to eat healthier and if you want to lose weight.

I remember saying to my mom one day, “I’ll cook anything! I don’t care…I’m just so sick of having to decide what to make for dinner.” Well, having a meal plan is kind of like having someone tell you what to make for dinner. The plan takes the thinking part out of it…and with all the things we have to think about, that’s kinda nice.

All you need to do is write down some meal ideas to get started. There are lots of organizers out there. But for now, if you haven’t been a meal planner, you can just list dinners you’ll make for the next week. I have templates I use, but you can also write it on your calendar, on a notepad, on a piece of paper taped to your cabinet or stuck on your refrigerator.

The websites orgnaizedhome.com and tipjunkie.com have some nice meal planning templates. You could also make your own. If you’re only looking to plan dinners, you could also just write them down and post the paper somewhere. My new calendar has a “dinner” space on each day. But do write it down and keep it visible! Sometimes just having it in sight as opposed to tucked in a drawer or not printed out is the difference between success and something-less-than-success.

Some weeks I make a meal plan on the computer and don’t print it out, and guess what happens…I don’t stick to the plan. So, however you plan, keep it where you can see it!

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Hold on to old meal plans and recipes. When you’ve collected enough plans you can just start rotating your meals, shaking it up every now and then with a new recipe.

When I started meal planning, I dug up an old binder for recipes I found online. It is not a very organized binder, and it’s not nice to look at, but it’s a binder. And it has my recipes (stuffed and crumbled) in it…when I sit down to plan I flip through it for ideas, or just look at old plans and pick and choose from them.

We have a lot of repeat recipes. For example, we usually have turkey chili every other week. It’s fast, it’s easy, it’s healthy, it makes a lot of food, it’s easy to have the ingredients on hand, and it tastes good. It’s a standby. Cajun chicken, too. These kinds of things fit in to most plans.

I do try to make new things to try new foods and to add some variety. The first time I try a recipe I usually bring it up on my phone and follow it from there. Then if I really like it, I print it out and it eventually makes it way to the binder. These then get added to the list of meal ideas. I have learned the hard way not to try something new on a busy night.

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We have leftovers for lunch most days. It keeps us eating healthy meals and it saves my husband a lot of money and the trouble of buying lunch. I know some people snub leftovers, but I think they’re great!

So, I plan dinners with leftovers in mind. I often make a big dinner (that makes a good lunch) on Monday. It’s usually turkey chili, crockpot minestrone soup, or a big batch of Cajun chicken. We usually get two days’ worth of lunches from that. I’ll plan another big dinner mid-week.

It’s much easier to eat healthy and with proper portions in mind when you’re controlling the food. If you are used to buying lunch out, try bringing leftovers just a few days a week. Or you could bring lunch Monday-Thursday and buy on Friday.

I love the crockpot, too. I plan dinners for the crockpot based on afterschool activities. So, on a day I’ll have to be running around after school I try to plan something for the crockpot.

There are some nights we have a catch-all kind of dinner. My husband and I might have leftovers, the girls will have some pasta, the boys will have grilled cheese. (It kills me that sometimes these “easy” nights end up being more work than making a regular dinner, but they can be a nice break too.)

As for breakfast and snacks, I try to keep things simple. I have the same thing every day for breakfast and I love it. It also makes things simpler. If you get sick of eating the same thing every day, find a few breakfast ideas you like and change them up. Look for breakfasts you can make ahead and eat without much fuss or take with you.

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Keep healthy snacks stocked, too, and keep these easy. Fruit, cut up veggies, granola bars (healthy ones!), homemade muffins, little packs of almonds or other nuts, to-go packs of hummus, plain greek yogurt with some fruit.

Another way to make things go more smoothly is to squeeze in meal prep during the week. I try to do a big food prep session on Sundays (I make muffins for the kids’ lunches, bake a bunch of chicken, cut up vegetables, hard boil some eggs, make granola) to get ready for the week. But I’ll do little things during the week to help me stay on track.

For example, this morning I was out of my kefir & blueberries that I usually have in the refrigerator. So, when I portioned out my berries for today’s breakfast into the bowl, I set up mason jars with berries and kefir for the next 4 days. It only took a few minutes and I am ready with healthy breakfasts. When it’s time to eat them I’ll just add my granola. If I was running late this morning or in a rush, I would have skipped it, but I had the time and I’m glad I got it done.

So, in short, my tips are:

  • Sit down and make a plan.
  • Plan dinners first (or just dinners depending on your goals).
  • Make your shopping list.
  • Keep your plan visible. You’re more likely to stick to it!
  • Plan big dinners early in the week so you’ll have leftovers for healthy lunches.
  • Eat the same things for breakfast and snacks.
  • Do some food prep on Sundays and…
  • Squeeze in food prep during the week.

Meal planning and prepping seems like a lot of work, but the more you do it the easier it gets. Plus, it saves you time and stress during the week! If you get into the habit, and find a way to make it more enjoyable, the prep can even be a really nice part of your week. It sets you up for a healthier, smoother work week…

My Review of the 3 Day Refresh

I just tried the 3 Day Refresh for the first time in September. Before I began, I googled it to get an idea of what I was in for…and I was terrified by what I saw. Well, maybe terrified is a slight exaggeration. But I was nervous- it seemed terrible!

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I LOVE the 3 Day Refresh!!! It was difficult, yes, but not terribly difficult. I never felt woozy or light-headed or sick. I didn’t cramp up or have trouble sleeping. And when it was over…I felt AMAZING! I was elated, full of energy, and had zero cravings for anything other than healthy food. The feelings lasted a while, too.

I did not lose a ton of weight. I had seen stories of people losing 8 or 9 pounds, or at least 5 or 6. I lost about 3 pounds, but I’m not a drop-weight kind of person. I am pretty near my goal weight (if I had to pick a number- I know it’s not all about that number, but I do have one in my head). I was happy though. It did nudge me past a number I’ve been stuck at for a while. And while I felt a little deflated on the third morning when I looked at the scale, the way I felt the next day more than compensated for it- I felt so good.

So I’ll give you a run-through of what the 3 days look like…each day is pretty much the same. I kept my foods pretty much the same too, but you are given some choices in the guide book.

My box arrived and everything is very clearly spelled out for you…

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Basically, you have Shakeology for breakfast, along with a serving of fruit. So I had strawberry Shakeology blended with ice and water, and half a banana each day for breakfast. Mid-morning I had a cup of green tea. Coffee is allowed, but this was my first time doing it and I wanted to do it by the book to get the best results. In the late morning you drink a fiber drink. It was not tasty, but it was not awful either. I just chugged it down. It reminded me of Metamucil.

For lunch, you have a shake, a fruit option, a veggie option, and a healthy fat. I loved lunch! So I would have the shake (I did not like the shake- I ended up chugging the shake down, too) and half a grapefruit, and celery with sun butter. It felt so satisfying.

You can also have an afternoon snack, and I loved this too. I had celery and almond butter every afternoon. I had never had almond butter before because of nut allergies in the house. But I was very careful and cleaned up well after eating it…and it was soooo good! Very satisfying snack.

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Dinner consists of a shake and an option from a list of recipes. I had the same thing each day- a big old salad. It seemed like the most food to me! And it was tasty- a little olive oil and sunflower seeds. Yum!

The 3-Day Refresh guide offers you a list of options for the fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and dinners you get each day. You can also have vegetable broth with dinner. I had it the first two nights, but not the third. There is no animal protein included in the three days, which is why I chose the package where the vegan Shakeology is included. Plant protein is easier to digest.

I felt pretty good the 3 days. I was definitely hungry, but like I said earlier, it was not terrible. I exercised the first and third days (a short workout) and went for a walk with my husband and children on the second day. So I wasn’t languishing on a coach somewhere. I did have a slight, dull headache the whole three days. I’m guessing that was from no coffee!

I’ve always had mixed feelings about cleanses…I believe our bodies are pretty efficient at doing what they need to do, so we don’t really need cleanses. But then I feel like our bodies are up against so much- so many toxins come into them from the food we eat and the air we breathe. They work hard all the time, maybe a cleanse is a good way to help the body out. A cleanse is a good way to reset the body and help you get your eating on the right track. I also think cleanses can be useful when you’re feeling stuck. Sometimes you can break through a barrier with a cleanse and your body is revved up for better weight loss.

The 3-Day Refresh definitely helped me with my cravings. When I finished, all I craved was good, healthy, natural food. I felt fantastic. My energy was also through the roof. I felt truly elated- happy, strong, positive, refreshed. It was wonderful! And I will definitely do it again and again, periodically to give my body a break, or after a vacation or holiday, to get back into good habits. And (ugh- my first time sharing pictures like this anywhere!) I was happy with my results!! Excuse the mess behind me 🙂

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My tips for the 3-Day Refresh:

  • Plan Ahead. Definitely make sure you have everything you need for each day ahead of time. You don’t want to get caught hungry!
  • Time it Right. Don’t plan to do it when you have a special occasion or a big event. The added stress won’t help! Try to do it when you don’t have much going on. I also found the first day the hardest, so maybe plan around a weekend.
  • Drink your Water. Drink, drink, drink. It will help you to feel more full.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by my experience. Yes, I’m a Beachbody coach, but I truly loved the way I felt when it was all over. And I did not gain the weight back on day 4. In fact, I’ve since lost a few more pounds! It helped me break through a plateau. That’s a big success for me.

Have you ever tried the 3-Day Refresh?