Listen on the go!
Fitness expert Chalene Johnson once did a podcast episode on the top habits of incredibly healthy people. I was listening in my car (I just love Chalene's podcasts on coaching, motivation and also on business), and when she mentioned that one of the habits of people who have been able to make 'healthy' a lifestyle was having just a few meal go-to's to reach for, I gasped and smiled. Why? Well truthfully I don't know why, because what I should have done was scream to the top of my lungs: "I KNEW IT!". I've been using this method for years, and it's what I refer to as a meal rotation system. It's also what I'm going to introduce you to today, in the hopes that it helps you save time while cooking and shopping, keeps you eating deliciously but really healthily, and because, once you hear what it's all about, you'll realize that perhaps you've been sort of doing it without noticing. The difference is that now I'm going to help you make it a conscious habit and we're going to take it to the next level. It also happens to be the best tool ever for people who are just getting started with cooking and are feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the recipes out there and is still trying to find their sweet spot in the kitchen.
So what is a meal rotation system?
A meal rotation system is a fancy way of saying "I'm cooking these meal favorites at this moment". Meaning, for the current month, two weeks or whatever period is comfortable for you, you're going to have some usual suspects in your rotation. This means 3 or 4 favorite breakfasts you're currently loving, 3 or 4 quick and easy lunches, 3 or 4 scrumptious dinners, and some snacks. It doesn't mean this is all you're going to eat, or that you're going to have a specific plan for every single meal in the coming weeks. It simply means that you're going to get familiar with a reduced number of recipes or meal ideas you absolutely love, that are healthy, and that will help you get delicious meals on the table without too much overwhelm.
Enter... the kitchen binder
If you've watched our FREE video series on revamping your healthy eating habits in and out of the kitchen, you know that I explain that planning your meals (even if it's just the night before) is one of my favorite tools for healthy eating, and with it comes my kitchen binder trick. This is a small binder with just a few pages in which you'll keep your meal planners (check out the free video series to get access to those and learn all about my two meal planning methods), as well as a list of meal ideas so you can get inspired quickly.
Your new meal rotation system is the perfect match for meal planning and for your kitchen binder, since what you'll be doing is reducing those options and then rotating them every few weeks, so that cooking is simpler, and grocery shopping is a snap.
Once you start your kitchen binder system, you'll be including just a few pages with only the description of the dishes that you currently have in your rotation (don't worry, I'm giving you a ton of examples below). You might have a page for September, another for October, November, etc., or week 1, week 2, week 3. Or simply: Menu 1, menu 2, menu 3, and rotate them and use them as you like. In each page you'll write down those 3 or 4 ideas for each breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.
This doesn't mean you won't be having things that aren't on that list, you can add in or swap out anything you want. It simply means that when that "what am I going to make today" brain fog hits, you have your usual suspects waiting for you, possibly some leftovers to simplify the process, and most likely all the food you need to make them, already in the fridge.
The pros of a meal rotation system
I decided that this would be the title of this post since I haven't been able to find any cons to taking this approach. If you take this system with a grain of salt, feel total freedom to mix things up when you want to (remember this isn't a meal or diet plan, just a reminder of your go to dishes for this period), this is such a HUGE time saver:
- Having these usual suspects for your chosen period of time means, shopping is easier since you'll be buying multiples of a certain variety of products. Grabbing 5 tomatoes on the spot is faster and simpler than buying 5 different items for 5 different dishes right?
- It will be easier to keep some really healthy yet satisfying meals in mind and therefore on the table. I'm obsessed with our tofu lettuce cups with a Thai peanut sauce which are super healthy (you can find them in our online program). I know that if I keep these on my list, I'll remember, I'll buy everything I need, and keep it stocked.
- You'll indulge in favorites. Meaning, the meals you add to your list will most likely be some healthy options you simply love to make and eat. This will help you stay on track, it will make the process of cooking more simple and you'll always be excited about what's for dinner.
- You'll experience a reduction in overeating. YES! Why? Because no matter how much you love the food you're eating, you'll get into the habit of making it several times during that rotation period, removing that "I don't know when I'll have this piece of deliciousness again" thought. If you know you'll have it again soon, you'll be able to eat until satisfied and prevent mindless eating.
- It saves time in the kitchen because you can batch cook, chop a ton of veggies in advance, prepare a big batch of sauces or salad dressings, and you'll likely have leftovers which you can just warm up the next day.
- It saves you from cooking something less healthy or going for the takeout drawer when you just can't think of what to make or you don't have the ingredients for the dishes that came to mind.
- It's a straight path to feeling more organized in the kitchen, and as you know if you've watched our 3 part video series, feeling organized with your meals helps reduce stress, reduces overeating and over spending.
- You can make your list of usual suspects for the period you've chosen, with healthy options in mind, but also thinking of having variety between the dishes you write down. Include something really filling and comforting, something warm, something light and refreshing, something naughty. Use your creativity, your favorite cookbooks for ideas, or write down some favorites from our online program, and you'll have great variety.
- You cook faster because you get really familiar with how to prepare those dishes. I can make my lettuce cups in my sleep now! Without the need to measure anything out. This is what I call cooking freedom!
- A meal rotation system will really help you increase your confidence in the kitchen since you get to repeat and improve on your dishes and really learn from them.
- Any cons? Provided that you vary up your different sheets with options after that period is over, and that you don't obsess over straying from these options you've included, all is good. It's one of my favorite methods and it's a common denominator in people who are really healthy.
Yes... it rocks!
Some examples and ideas
Let's say you've selected a few favorites for the upcoming two weeks (you can adjust this if you want to do this weekly or monthly too).
You'll now write down 3 or 4 favorites for breakfast lunch, dinner and snacks. Keep in mind that you can always leave room for improvisation, and for eating out. You can also add or take out anything from the list at any time. Remember, this is not a meal plan, it's just a list of your current healthy favorites. You're the boss is all I'm sayin'.
Meal rotation idea menu 1
- Cooked oatmeal topped with blueberries, banana and strawberries, and sprinkled with cinnamon and unsweetened coconut flakes.
- Overnight oats topped with berries, banana and kiwi.
- Whole grain avocado toast, fruit and coffee or tea.
- Whole grain waffles topped with fruit and a drizzle of maple syrup, coffee or tea.
- Green smoothie made with banana, pineapple, kale, hemp seeds, almond milk and coconut flakes.
- Pb and j roll ups filled with peanut butter, jelly, banana slices, hemp hearts, all rolled up and warmed up in a skillet.
- Non-dairy yogurt topped with berries and some granola.
- Veggie crudités with hummus for dipping.
- Tempeh BLTs with some kale chips.
- Veggie bowl with brown rice, black beans, steamed greens and salsa and guacamole on top.
- Corn and black bean burrito with all the fixings.
- Stuffed roasted sweet potatoes or regular potatoes with lentils, mushrooms, onions and spinach, topped with pesto or fresh marinara sauce.
- Roasted vegetable pasta toss with some almond parm and fresh basil leaves.
- Super light zucchini lasagna served with quinoa.
- One of my favorites: A simple plate of lots of steamed or grilled asparagus sprinkled with garlic powder, crispy tofu with chimichurri sauce and quinoa.
- Cauliflower rice with veggies and soy sauce.
Meal rotation idea menu 2
- Banana berry smoothie with pea protein or hemp seeds, some almond milk, ice and spinach.
- Your favorite artisanal whole wheat bread, English muffins or bagels, preserves, peanut butter or vegan cream cheese or non-dairy butter, coffee or tea.
- Tofu scramble with mushrooms, peppers, onions and spinach.
- Your favorite homemade energy balls (dates, cashews, coconut, cranberries or raisins, almond butter, cacao, a little vegan protein... all these make great options for the ingredients, so try mixing them up and making different combinations).
- Roasted sweet potato wedges with hummus for dipping (my latest obsession).
- Toast with peanut butter, sliced banana, cinnamon and a drizzle of agave.
- Chocolate chia pudding with fresh fruit.
- Tempeh or tofu bacon cobb salad.
- Tomato soup and grilled vegan cheese sandwich.
- Nori rolls or wraps filled with vegetables.
- Tempeh no-chicken salad stuffed pita pockets.
- Veggie stir-fry with peanut sauce.
- Fresh summer rolls filled with tofu, scallions, carrots, shiitake mushrooms and sweet potato wedges. Served with soy sauce.
- Chili and cornbread.
- Veggie bowl with roasted veggies, whole wheat couscous and a topping of hummus and pumpkin seeds.
These are just some ideas, but the sky is the limit. You can find some of these recipes and lots more ideas in our youtube channel, and even more so in our online program, where we even get to batch cook together!
You get to choose what options go on each list, and how long you'll be using that list for inspiration before rotating it with another.
This is a system that really works, and once you start putting it into practice, you'll love the comfort of knowing you always have ideas and the ingredients in the fridge if you go shopping with this list in mind. You'll gain confidence in the kitchen and you'll feel excited to have your favorites and reduce stress when it comes to meal planning and prepping.
Don't forget to check out our FREE video series for more ideas on how to get organized and plan out your meals, and feel free to share your top favorite plant based meal ideas with us in the comments below! That way everyone can grab some ideas. What are those go to dishes you turn to time and time again? Leave 'em below!
Thanks for reading everyone!
If you'd like to take your cooking to the next level, we'd love for you to join us in our video-based online program My Brownble, where we teach you how to cook amazing vegan food, and help you on that ongoing quest of finding balance. You'll learn how to indulge in your favorites and still prioritize your health, creating healthy habits that last you a lifetime.
In and out of the kitchen.
...and there's so much more. You can check out all the details here.