We’ve come to that point in the year when our drive is slowing, our resolutions are fast fading in the rear view mirror and we’re heading full throttle into another year of excess and vices. Where our waistlines are concerned, it’s not so much the living in the moment that’s detrimental to our dieting efforts, but the lack of foresight in our dinner decisions. The odd giving in to temptation is fine – nobody is perfect and occasionally nothing will lift the mood more than a delicious sweet treat – but with a little preparation for healthy, nutritious meals, it’s much easier to stick to our pledges. So, here are 5 IDEAL strategies for meal planning.

CHOOSE A FIXED DAY AND TIME FOR WEEKLY PREP

To plan your meals, choose a day and time when you’re generally available for meal prep. Typically this will be something manageable; a few hours, one day a week, depending on your skills of course. This might be at the weekend if you work weekdays, or it could be on a Monday or Tuesday if you’re a stay-at-home parent. Take a look at your calendar and choose a day and time that works for you, timetable it in, and set a reminder. By doing meal prep at the same time every week, it will become a habit, and you’re less likely to forget to do it.

MAKE A LIST OF WHAT YOU NEED MORE OF…..

You should be aware of what your diet has been lacking – eating healthily, after all, is as much about putting good stuff in your body as it is avoiding bad things – so make a list of items you’d like more of in your meals. This should include oily fish, green vegetables, fruit, grains….you get the picture. Then search recipes online that include these ingredients and print them out, ready for cooking on your prep day.

….AND WHAT YOU SHOULD AVOID

Now for the boring bit….the same rules as above apply to food you should be avoiding. Make a list of ingredients which you know you shouldn’t be having loads of (chocolate, we’re looking at you) and scan your cupboard, fridge and recipes for those items. Give them to your neighbour, key them under lock and key or simply avoid eating them – willpower dependent, of course!

MAKE IT FUN

Prepping and planning without actually enjoying the fruits of your labours immediately can be excruciating. But, you can make the experience fun and delayed gratification is a great skill to learn in the dieting game. Download some new music or podcasts you’ve been meaning to listen to, enlist help from a chatty friend, or set yourself and race yourself – anything to make things more enjoyable and frivolous!

PREP PARTS AHEAD OF TIME

Finally, although you’ve set out a particular time for meal prep, you can get ingredients ready ahead of time to save yourself some work. By prepping ingredients ahead of time, the most boring part of cooking will be out of the way, leaving you free to get creative and experimental. You might do this when you get home from the store, or it could happen the next day. Whatever you choose to do, make this a habit, too.

Prepping in advance might include frying off some bacon, cooking meat, chopping vegetables, and even putting ready-to-eat foods in containers for lunch. All of this work will be greatly beneficial in the long run, and will go a long way to fighting off the urge turning to unhealthy processed foods as snacks.