I have been working hard this week at recommitting myself and my family to a healthier lifestyle. I really believe in WW (Weight Watchers)--I've had great success with it personally and feel it is the best long-term weight-loss plan, mostly because it isn't a diet. It's a lifestyle change. For those of you that are not familiar with the concept of WW's "Flex Plan", every food has a points value. The idea is you can eat whatever you want (even those tasty indulgences) as long as you stay within your daily points range and as long as the majority of the time you are eating foods that are more healthy than not.
When you first join WW, I'll admit it takes a bit of effort calculating the points for everything you eat (eventually you remember food point values, but in the beginning you are looking everything up). Everyone is different, but for myself, I have to get all the "work" out of the way. For example, rather than calculating every time I want to eat something, I do it right when I get home from the grocery store in one big "marking session". It only takes about 10 minutes, but saves me lots of time in the future! It also helps remind me which snacks are lower in points if I've got the munchies. If you look in my pantry or fridge, every item has been marked with a magic marker. My cereal box has a big "3" on the side, indicating that 1 serving of it is 3 points. My milk is marked. My juice is marked. So are my salad dressings, canned food, cracker boxes, and all my frozen foods. It's all there. It makes life much simpler! But then you have meals. That's a completely different story. Combining different ingredients for a recipe takes some heavy-duty calculating. For example, for a chicken & broccoli casserole you'd have to look up each item (chicken, soup, mayo, cheese, stuffing, broccoli, etc) and then divide the total recipe points by how many servings.
To keep my sanity at meal prep time, and to also help me know how many points I need to "reserve" for dinner each day, I have used Microsoft Excel to create a spreadsheet. It's 6-Weeks worth of dinners, along with their points values and ingredients. This makes preparation (and grocery shopping) so much easier! Living this healthier lifestyle is far less complicated and takes a lot of the daily "thinking" out of the equation. It's not perfect, but it works for me. And although I don't always follow it exactly, it gives me a good place to start each week with my meal planning.
If you'd like to see a copy of the spreadsheet, I'd be happy to email it to you. Just leave a comment or email/call me. It won't be perfect for your family--I'm sure you may want to make a few adjustments, but perhaps it would be something helpful to get you started! Even if you're not doing WW, at least you'd know all the recipes were healthy (except 2, which I included because they were just to "yum" to give up and I didn't have lighter versions!). I'd be happy to share the recipes, too. Or if nothing else, if you have been looking for a way to be better organized at your mealtime or grocery planning, this might do the trick.