Imagine you’re looking to make a huge change in your life by ending your sugar addiction. You’ve decided that you’re going to hire a nutritionist to help you with the change and you really want a meal plan to keep you on track and full of ideas for good foods to eat.

This seems like the most ideal way to keep yourself on track, however, you get a hold of the meal plan take a look and realize that you’ve never prepared most of the meals listed on it. This ends up being an even larger task than you imagined and you don’t have any of the ingredients for most of these meals. All of a sudden this helpful tool becomes a burden and an extremely expensive trip to the grocery store.

The point is that meal plans can be an extremely helpful tool and using them can definitely keep you accountable, however, there is a way not to use them. That way is if you are just starting on your journey and your kitchen confidence is rather low.

Rather than have your nutritionist put a massive amount of energy into customizing a brand new beneficial foods meal plan, start slow. Sustainable change comes from implementing in small increments. It is far easier to dedicate yourself to learning how to prepare one new healthy recipe per week than to be expected to prepare 21 new recipes right from the start, all the while life is still happening all around you.

The caveat to this is if you are an extreme foodie, and you have all the time in the world to dedicate to this food journey. If you have that much time and effort to dedicate to the process then, by all means, learn 3 new recipes per day and fill your cabinets and refrigerator with the highest quality nourishing ingredients. If this is not your situation, don’t fret. Many people who step to meal plans in this fashion end up being extremely gung-ho for a short amount of time and the change does not last.

So get passionate about learning a new recipe every so often and slightly change what you’re already doing. You can do this so easily by making substitutions to recipes that you are already comfortable with and taking small incremental steps that stick. Try making some of these simple changes to start:

1. Baking (pancakes, for example) – switch your white flour to buckwheat flour
2. Meat & Fish – look for sustainably sourced, organic options
3. Nut butters – try using organic raw almond butter instead of highly processed, sugar loaded peanut butter
4. Fruits & Vegetables – look for the local, organic and in season options instead of the imported, conventional produce.

Meal plans are an extremely effective tool but you need to use them in a sustainable way so as not to overwhelm you. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of starting this journey to Sweet Freedom, however, bite off only as much as you can chew, because this journey is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.