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How to Meal Plan to Boost Your Mental Health

Written on April 17, 2024
How to Meal Plan to Boost Your Mental Health

Meal Planning and prepping can be a vital part of your mental health journey. In our fast-paced world, where schedules are packed and demands are high, taking care of our mental health often takes a backseat. However, one powerful tool that can significantly impact mental well-being is often overlooked: meal prep and planning. Beyond just fueling our bodies, the act of thoughtfully preparing and planning meals can have profound effects on our mental health. Let’s delve into how meal prep and planning contribute to overall well-being.

1. Reduced Stress and Anxiety

Picture this: it’s the end of a long day, you’re exhausted, and the last thing you want to do is figure out what to cook for dinner. The result? Stress levels spike, and decision fatigue sets in. Meal prep eliminates this scenario by taking the guesswork out of meals. When your meals are planned and prepped in advance, you’re less likely to feel overwhelmed or anxious about what to eat, allowing you to focus your energy on other aspects of your life.

2. Promotes Healthy Eating Habits

When we’re busy or stressed, reaching for convenience foods loaded with sugar and unhealthy fats can be tempting. However, these foods can negatively impact our mood and energy levels. Meal prep and planning empower you to make healthier choices. By preparing nutritious meals ahead of time, you’re more likely to opt for wholesome ingredients and balanced meals, providing your body and brain with the nutrients they need to function optimally.

3. Saves Time and Energy

In a world where time feels like a scarce commodity, meal prep is a game-changer. Spending a few hours on the weekend chopping veggies, cooking grains, and portioning out meals can save you significant time and energy during the busy workweek. With pre-prepared meals at your fingertips, you can enjoy the convenience of a home-cooked meal without the hassle of cooking from scratch every day, leaving you more time to relax and unwind.

4. Boosts Confidence and Empowerment

There’s something incredibly satisfying about opening your fridge and seeing a week’s worth of nutritious meals neatly lined up. Meal prep fosters a sense of accomplishment and empowerment, knowing that you’ve taken proactive steps to nourish your body and mind. This boost in confidence can spill over into other areas of your life, helping you tackle challenges with a greater sense of resilience and determination.

5. Encourages Mindful Eating

In our fast-paced culture, it’s easy to wolf down meals without paying much attention to what we’re eating or how it makes us feel. Meal prep encourages mindfulness around food. By taking the time to plan and prepare meals, you become more attuned to your body’s hunger and fullness cues, fostering a healthier relationship with food. Additionally, sitting down to enjoy a thoughtfully prepared meal can be a form of self-care, allowing you to savor each bite and nourish both your body and soul.

How do I Begin a Successful Meal Planning Routine?

Creating a successful routine with meal prepping and planning can greatly simplify your life and help you maintain a healthy diet. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get started:

  • Set Your Goals: Determine your nutritional needs and goals. Are you aiming to lose weight, build muscle, or simply eat healthier? Are there certain nutrients you are lacking in, or are looking to increase to support your physical or mental health? Your goals will shape your meal prep plan.
  • Choose Recipes: Select recipes that align with your goals, dietary preferences, and cooking skills. Look for recipes that are easy to prepare, nutrient-dense, and can be made in large batches.
  • Organize your staples and keep them well stocked. This way you’ll always have the ability to throw together something in a pinch.
  • Plan Your Meals: Create a weekly meal plan based on your chosen recipes. Consider factors like the number of meals you need each day, portion sizes, and any dietary restrictions. Aim for variety to keep meals interesting.
  • Make a Shopping List: Once you have your meal plan, make a list of all the ingredients you’ll need for the week. Organize your list by food categories to make shopping more efficient. Be sure to include healthy snacks. 
  • Grocery Shopping: Set aside dedicated time for grocery shopping each week. Stick to your list to avoid impulse purchases and unnecessary spending.
  • Prep Ingredients: On a designated day (usually weekends), set aside time to prep ingredients for the week ahead. This may include washing and chopping vegetables, marinating proteins, and cooking grains or beans.
  • Cook in Batches: Cook large batches of meals that can be easily portioned out and stored for later use. Invest in quality food storage containers to keep your meals fresh.
  • Storage and Labeling: Properly store your prepped meals in the refrigerator or freezer. Label containers with the date and contents to help you stay organized and avoid food waste.
  • Create a Schedule: Establish a meal prep schedule that works for you. Whether you prefer to prep meals weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, consistency is key to success.
  • Stay Flexible: Life can be unpredictable, so it’s essential to stay flexible with your meal prep routine. Be willing to adjust your plan as needed and make use of leftovers to minimize food waste.
  • Track Your Progress: Keep track of your meals, snacks, and how you feel throughout the week. Adjust your meal plan and recipes based on what works best for your body and lifestyle.
  • Seek Inspiration: Don’t be afraid to experiment with new recipes and flavors to keep your meals exciting. Follow food blogs, browse cookbooks, or join online communities for inspiration and support. TikTok and instagram are also fun places to find recipes!

By following these steps and staying consistent, you can create a successful routine with meal prepping and planning that supports your health and lifestyle goals.

Sample meal-prep sessions

Here are some examples of how to use a couple of hours to batch cook meals for the week:

1 Breakfast (frittata bites)

1  Soup (chicken noodle)

1 Grain (brown rice)

2 Cooked vegetables (roasted sweet potatoes, roasted broccoli)

1-3 raw veggies, prepped (bell peppers, carrots, cukes)

1 lunch/snack item (tuna salad)

With this, a person can eat frittatas for breakfast, have soup 2-3 nights, adding rice if needed on nights they are extra hungry. They then grill or sauté an easy protein (salmon, pork chops) to eat alongside the grain and veggies. Raw veggies can be snacked on or added to side salads. Lunch can be leftovers or tuna salad sandwiches. Extra nights can be for a quick and easy meals, more elaborate cooking adventures, or leftovers. 


2 breakfast/lunch/snack hybrids (breakfast burritos, overnight oats)

1 pulled pork shoulder 

1 starchy veggie (roasted butternut squash)

1 other veggie (kale chips)

1 cabbage, chopped

1 snack/dip (guacamole, saved w lime juice in airtight container)

This person can alternate breakfast and lunch with their two prepared meals. One night, they can have pulled pork sliders w/ BBQ sauce, mixing cabbage with mayo an easy Cole slaw. The next night they can use the pork in tacos with guac and fresh cabbage. A third round could be used atop nachos with shredded cheese, beans, guac, and jalapeños, and onions. Guac can also be put on breakfast burritos or eaten with chips as a snack. On other nights, simple protein (grilled chicken, tilapia) can be eaten alongside the squash and kale chips. 


1 snack (no-bake energy bites)

1 stew (chili)

1 other dinner entree (peanut noodles with chicken)

1 salad (chopped veggies, dressing off)

2-3 chopped raw veggies 

This person puts veggies and eggs in a skillet each morning for a quick, delicious scramble. They eat chili a couple of nights, peanut noodles a couple of nights, and on other nights, has salad with a different protein (steak, salmon). Makes leftovers or a turkey sandwich for lunch. Ends up freezing a portion of chili left at the end of the week for a quick dinner in a pinch. Snacks on energy bites and fresh fruit. 

We consider nutrition to be a vital part of mental health and addiction recovery. To learn more about our holistic treatment approach, contact us for a no-cost consultation.