Planning your meals makes healthy eating easier!

Guest Post Sally Marchini, Dietitian

Many of us with diabetes (regardless of type) struggle to maintain a healthy weight, and although I like to make clear that my focus is on Wellness rather than weight, it can be helpful to improve your wellness by ensuring that you’re eating well in accordance with the Australian Dietary Guidelines for Adults (page 2).  If we can improve our wellness, then our diabetes management will also be improved – it’s a Win Win!

In today’s blog we’ll talk about the benefits of improving your wellbeing through meal planning and shopping to a list, understanding why it’s important, and we’ll talk about some ways to make it happen.

One of our community members made an excellent and valid comment about the benefits of meal planning and shopping to a list. She said:

“My sister (non-diabetic) and I try to write a shopping list at home with only healthy foods on it (no junk, apart from Dark Ghana 72% Whittakers chocolate, our one reward) and then stick to it when we go to the supermarket.

It works wonders!! And yeah if you avoid the sweets isles etc makes it much easier! If you don’t see it you don’t crave it as much I find.

There’s so many benefits to this way of shopping too:
3. HEALTHY EATING is easier!”

Research published last year in the journal Nutrition & Diabetes offers a simple but cost-effective solution to the issue of obesity: following detailed meal plans and shopping with a predetermined grocery list, containing just the items needed for the planned meals.

The study’s objective was: “to analyse whether pre-commitment interventions that facilitate healthier diets are a cost-effective approach to tackle obesity.”

In conclusion it found that: “Our findings suggest grocery shopping to a predetermined list combined with SBT is a cost-effective means for reducing obesity and its related health conditions.”

The paper makes a valid point that I’m sure many of us can relate to: “The behavioural economics literature recognises that very often, people’s actual behaviour departs significantly from their intended behaviour. For example, many consumers know all too well that overeating and under-exercising will lead to weight gain and increased risk of chronic illness. Many consumers take the further step of forming an intention to improve their diet and increase activity levels. However, in many cases impulsiveness or poor self-control leads people to behave in a manner that departs from their good intentions.5 This has been described in the consumer behaviour literature as a struggle between the want self and the should self,6 or between the psychological forces of desire and willpower.7

According to an article in The Conversation, “Previous studies have shown that overweight or obese people in standard behavioural therapy who planned meals and shopped to a list lost around 0.67kg a month more than those who received just behavioural therapy.”

So a great way around this issue to make a meal plan for the week ahead and write a shopping list to reflect it. It may sound like a tiresome exercise, but in fact won’t take long and may make a huge difference to your wellbeing as well as to your pocket!

All you need are some easy balanced meal ideas to choose from in the first place. When you combine the thoughts that a balanced plate has about a quarter of the space with a protein-based food, a quarter with a (hopefully low-GI) carb-based food and the rest (half) filled with non-starchy vegetables, with the Australian dietary guidelines of how many of each food group you should have in each day, it should help you along the way. Trying to choose a medium sized, rather than a larger plate also helps.

Some easy balanced meals that are flexible and changeable for variety are as simple as a piece of barbequed or grilled meat/fish/poultry/tofu etc with a low-GI/high fibre carb source such as basmati rice, quinoa, sweet potato, corn on the cob, etc and a load of steamed/microwaved/roasted non-starchy vegetables or a mixed salad.  There are some wonderful ideas for veggies and meals to make them more interesting at All Recipes Australia, and the Coles website just to name a couple of the many available sites.

Once you’ve decided on your menu, all that’s left is to make the shopping list to ensure you have the ingredients for whatever it is you’ve decided to make. Remember it doesn’t need to be complex. Simplicity is a great guide to follow!

Here’s a link to the Healthy Food Guide’s 7 day meal planner that should help you to plan out your meals for the week and create a shopping list from the plan.  Be sure to let me know if you’d like assistance with this!

Also keep an eye out for their 5pm Panic recipes that take less than 30 minutes to prepare. I love that they also give you a Nutrition Information Panel which not only makes working out the carbs for our diabetes easier, but also lets us know if the saturated fats and sodium levels are suitable for us.

The monthly magazine also offers meal plan ideas. I subscribe to it as there are many other hints and tips for healthy eating, and all the recipes are approved by dietitians.

If YOU are a great planner of meals, we’d love you to share your methods in case it helps others who may struggle with the idea.

Good luck! 🙂


Sally is owner of her private practice (Marchini Nutrition), and has had type 1 diabetes for close to 40 years and coeliac disease for many years too.