Meal Prep for a Healthier Diet

If you caught my simple swaps for success earlier this month, you know I am a huge advocate for meal planning and prep. No plan is a plan (and choice) to fail.

Why is meal planning soooo great?

First off, it takes the stress out of what to eat, preparing a meal and feeling good about what you’re eating. That seems like reason enough. But it gets better. Not only does it do all those things for us is actually associated with improved diet variety, diet quality and maintaining a healthy body weight.

In a study by Ducrot et al., 40,554 participants were evaluated to see how their meal planning habits correlated with their diet quality, diet variety, and weight. They used the data from a large-scale French study called NutriNet-Sante that ran for 10 years (2009-2019) looking at dietary and lifestyle factors and their association with chronic disease. 

Meal Planning Habits

All the people in the study stated they made decisions about what they were going to eat (i.e. they don’t have a cook who makes meals for them). About ⅗ were meal planners. Those who did plan meals in advance did the following activities more often than those who did not plan meals in advance were more likely to cook at home more often and plan at least a few days before a meal.

Meal planners were split on their frequency. Forty-six percent meal planned several times a week, whereas almost 39% plan once a week or less. Most people only plan for a few days in advance and plan for weekdays and weekends. 

Nutritional Quality

People who meal plan did not eat significantly more or less calories than those who didn’t meal plan. Meal planners did have a higher quality diets, which included:

  • less saturated fat
  • more protein
  • less carbohydrates
  • more fruit
  • more vegetables
  • more meat
  • less starchy foods
  • more added fats

The study did find that meal planners were more likely to be a “healthy” BMI. The food intake of the groups was self-report, but with what was reported, there was no significant caloric difference between the groups. Who knows if this is a cause or association; my guess is association. I don’t like using BMI to measure health anyway (which I talked about last week), so let’s just leave it at that for now. 

What does this tell us? 

You don’t need to meal plan ALL the time or do a HUGE meal planning day. You can choose what is best for you. No one way works well for everyone. You just need to find a way that will get you to meal plan and stick to it. 

Are you a believer? Have you been meal planning this year? What works well for you? Leave it below!

Also, have you caught my new podcast yet? I’ll talk all about this study on this week’s episode. Head over here to listen!

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