Back to School, Back to Meal Planning!

Steph Wagner MS, RDN

August 10, 2022

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Back to School, Back to Meal Planning: Blog Series Part One


back to school back to meal planning bariatric food coach

Click the link below for the audio version of this blog!

Click on one of the teal boxes below to jump ahead to a blog in this series! 

Some Seasons in life, you are ready to get back to meal planning

Are you feeling ready to get back to bariatric meal planning?

Back to school to me is the second “New Year” of the year. Whether you are in the school calendar or not, you can sense Summer is winding down. The traveling and long days of sunlight are shifting.

Most of us are ready to get back to a routine. We are ready to get back to meal planning and having more consistency in our meals, especially at dinner time.

Meal planning survey results

When a question comes to my mind, I like to create a quick survey to email out to my subscribers.

This time around, I was really thinking about meal planning styles. It makes sense to me that we all have different styles, because we all have different personalities. Plus the Season of life or the Season of the year can impact the style of meal planning that works best.

Before I could pinpoint the styles of meal planning, I wanted to know more about who is already meal planning, how long it takes them and how far out they plan.

The first question on the survey was to determine how much people really enjoy meal planning.

As it turns out, not that many of us really love it. Only 6% of respondents gave it a five out of five. There was a good amount of votes for threes and fours which tells me there are enough of us that enjoy the help it provides!

Nearly 39% of answers fell in the ones and twos. I wonder if we want to like meal planning or we really like when there is food in the house, but maybe its a misconception that people really love writing or even following a meal plan.


The next question was how frequently people meal plan. On a scale of 1-5, just 7.6% of respondents answered a five.

But notice that’s more than how many people said they ENJOY it at five (that was 6.2% of people). This tells me there are more people planning even when they don’t necessarily enjoy it.

Similarly, there were less ones on this scale compared to those who enjoy it. 22% gave it a 1 for enjoyment but 19% gave it a 1 for how often they plan. The majority of answers are between 2-4 which leads to wonder if we plan sometimes or we make a loose plan but isn’t what we consider really meal planning.


When you meal plan, do you plan for all three meals? I wondered this question because I have found post-op patients wonder if I have a meal plan they can follow for all three meals, but when it comes down to it the dinner only meal plans tend to get used more.

Many of us have the same rotation of breakfast and leftovers at lunch. Meal planning dinner tends to be the bigger need.

For these results, the sometimes group won out at 37.8% and runner up was no, I don’t plan all my meals at 29.1%. Still a quarter of the answers said yes! This might mean they know their rotation of breakfast and lunch so its easy to plan for?


When you plan your meals, how far out do you plan them?

Most people plan for a week or for a few days. Not many plan for more than a week at a time. Some will plan just for the day head.



Do you plan meals more on your computer or pen and paper?

I find this interesting. Many things are easier on the computer these days (there is a meal planning tool for members here on!) but in the end, many of us still like the jot it out on a calendar with pen and paper (40%).

But let’s all notice that 29.9% report their meal plan is in their head!


How much time do you spend on planning your meals?

This is really encouraging news to me. 46.5% of people reported they take less than 30 minutes a week to meal plan. Slightly less than that, 36.8% of respondents said less than one hour a week to plan.

Just 9% of people said it takes them more than an hour. The good news with meal planning is that you do get faster at it and can even recycle meal plans you’ve already written to save you time!


The good news about meal planning

Meal planning doesn’t have to be a perfectly outlined calendar with all meals and snacks for the day. Phew!!!

The survey results had me wonder. The first couple questions I asked if they enjoyed meal planning and if they did meal plan. There were several ones and twos reported.

However, when we got into the specific questions like how many days at a time or how long it took them, they started to answer as if they did in fact meal plan.

Perhaps they answered the first questions thinking of meal planning as a detailed calendar of what they would eat all week.

That is the good news. Meal planning looks different for all of us, because we ARE different. We think differently, have different schedules and figure out our food life in different ways. It’s not often a black and white meal plan.


Some tips to simplify bariatric meal planning

Back to school and back to meal planning! Back to school Season can be really busy for many of us. Getting back into meal planning really needs to be simple for us to stay with it.

My starting point when getting someone back to meal plan is to have them make a list of all the meals they could make without a recipe. Off the top of your head, write down all you think of. (It doesn’t have to be bariatric specific yet).

If you often make tacos, spaghetti, burgers, order a pizza or grill out then write it down. See if you can write down at least 10 meals.

The next step is to then tweak that meal (that you already know how to make) to focus on the protein source. Below is an example:


Taco night can still be taco night just focus on the meats, veggie and salsa.

Spaghetti night can go over zucchini noodles or green beans.

Burgers can still be burger night just eat it with a fork instead of a bun.

Pizza night can be one of my favorite recipes on this site: Pizza chicken.

You get the idea. You are already underway with a bariatric meal plan and you didn’t have to look up a single recipe.


Write down these meal ideas on your “Go To” list of meal ideas. (The one shown above is a Members Resource. If you are a current member go to Meal Planning in the top menu and then blank templates.)

You can do this for all meals too! While 29.9% of people keep their meal plan in their head, I recommend putting it to paper.

When dinner time comes around, you are tired. Willpower dwindles at the end of the day. Or when you grab your phone to order groceries, your mind might decide to go blank like mine does!

Make your list of go-to meals that you could make without a recipe. This is a great foundation to being a meal planner! Next we’ll cover more about our meal planning styles.

Next up, meal planning styles for our unique personalities

Thanks for reading part one in our meal planning series! Next we will talk about meal planning styles.

Some of us like the big picture and some of us want the details. Neither is wrong! Let’s talk more soon.

Ready for more meal planning resources?

I have got you covered!! Bariatric Food Coach membership unlocks ALL my meal planning resources including  over 600 recipes, a custom meal planning tool, pre-written menus, blank templates, shopping guides and more!

Click below to find out about membership! Our current offering is a $25 gift card to Bari Box when you purchase a 12 month subscription!

Become a Member 


bari box promotion August 2022

Promotion details!

In honor of our August theme of meal planning we are offering a promotion!

Join Bariatric Food Coach Membership for 12 months and we will email you a $25 gift card to Bari Box!

Bari Box is the only bariatric meal delivery company. Click this blog to read more about their amazing meals. 

Please allow 48 hours for your gift card email to arrive. New customers only. Promotion ends on Monday, August 22nd.

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