3 Things I Learned from Menu Planning

After a summer of eating out, grilling out, and spending time on vacation, I used labor day weekend as an opportunity to get my “life” back in order.  

I woke up on Labor Day feeling out of sorts.  In my head, I had deemed September 1st “the first day of the rest of my life.”  And, as an important “start-over” date.  Despite all these great intentions, I just felt nervous.

Would I be able to stay on “plan” this time?  

Would I be able to curb my night-time eating that had been spinning out of control?

How would I incorporate all my work-related dining out activities?

Could I make this work again?

In the midst of all the fears that were running through my head, I realized more than anything that I didn’t have a plan.  I did what any girl in 2014 does, I jumped on Pinterest to find a meal planning resource that would help me along my way.  First and foremost, I wanted to decide what it was that I would be eating for the next week, and food-prep the crap out of my Monday afternoon.

I found several different meal planners out there, some that tracked daily meals, many that focused on family dinners, and only one that tracked all the meals and snacks I wanted to plan.  This one ended up being my favorite, and I have plans to create my own on a rainy day.  We’ll see…

In filling out the squares last week, a lot of lightbulbs went off and I learned more than I ever could have imagine.

3 Things I Learned from Menu Planning | No Thanks to Cake
1.  Without a plan, I had no plan.

We’ve all heard that saying “failure to plan is planning to fail.”  When you write everything down that you plan to eat on paper, you realize this very quickly.  I quickly began to reflect upon how previous weeks had gone.  I had to make healthy choices every single day, and competing with those healthy choices were their unhealthy cousins… unhealthy meals.

I was counting on my will-power to help me make it through the week.  When co-workers asked me to join them for lunch, I could easily say yes… because I was hungry.  I hadn’t had a snack all morning and was ready to eat anything I could find.  When friends suggested dinner out, I didn’t have a plan otherwise… so, why not join them for Mexican food?  And, then, sitting at the table, I’d have to once again make healthy decisions.  To stay on my “virtual” plan, I’d need to muster up the willpower to skip the chips and salsa, and to forgo the quesadillas in lieu of a simple grilled chicken salad.  Sometimes I did well, other times, not so much.

In the end, there were too many decisions to be made every single day, and too many opportunities to slip up.  With a concrete plan in place, I found myself with structure, convenience, and peace of mind.  I’m not saying I executed the plan perfectly, but I was about 150% better than weeks without a plan!

2.  My kitchen was snack-deficient.

By the time I filled out my meal plan, I had already gone grocery shopping for the week.  Now, I was sure I had healthy foods busting out of my fridge and cupboards; however, when I looked at the food I had planned to eat, I found out very quickly that I was completely deficient in the snack department, and I made plans to correct it immediately.

Why are snacks important?  Because in those moments where you get hungry, you define your day.  Do you reach for a bag of carrots and Laughing Cow cheese (a favorite snack of mine) or do you start digging through the cupboard for something-anything that might be tasty?

I had healthy snacks on hand to get me through maybe Wednesday, but I needed snacks for a full seven days.  Outlining what I would eat each day shone a flashlight on the situation and helped me make sure that I had plenty of snacks on-hand, pre-packaged, and ready to go.

Food Prep | No Thanks to Cake

3.  Having a Plan Reduces Stress

Overall, I felt much less stressed throughout the week when it came to making healthy decisions.  I was able to anticipate the needs that came up throughout the week, both planned and unplanned.  I was able to travel out of town and stay completely on-plan with oatmeal from home and a build-your-own salad at a pizza place.

Meal Prep | No Thanks to Cake

My schedule is also nuts.  By the time I get home, I’m tired and hungry.  Having a plan of what was for dinner… and having those foods on-hand and ready to eat/prepare made things so much easier!  And, again, kept me on track…

I felt at-ease, knowing that this area was all planned out… all week long!  One less things to worry about!

I’m going into the this week and have once again written up my plan.  It may change a little bit.  I may eat Subway on Tuesday, and eat chicken on Monday.  Who knows… but I’ll stay within this framework and make good decisions.

3 Things I Learned from Menu Planning | No Thanks to Cake

Mostly, I’ve got all the foods I’ve outlined in my home… prepped and ready to go.  Even if I hit 80% to this plan, I’d call that a win!  I love the feeling of being prepared to be healthy for the week, and I plan on doing just that!

Have you considered meal planning? 

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Overcoming an Occupational Weight Loss Hazard

As of the first of the year, I got sorta-kinda-but-not-really-yet-in-a-way promoted.  My company did a reorganization of my department, and while my paycheck still looks the same, I took on a whole heck of a lot more responsibility and stress.

Nearly two months in, I’m sort of regaining my stride (sort of), but something new has popped up that is so crazy.

I’m entertaining customers over meals on most days!  Last week alone, I had three meals at fabulous restaurants in town (Denver folks:  The Rio, Pappadeaux, and Jason’s Deli.)  Now, the foodie in me gets excited, but that girl who just re-committed to weight loss freaks out a little…

All I REALLY want to do is to be left alone to my Jenny lunches and my pre-planned snacks.  That would be so much easier… but I can’t really take my food to the restaurant and not eating with the client would be just plain awkward.

So, I’ve been learning to work with it… and I thought I’d share a few tips I’m come up with.

Dining Out Tips | No Thanks to Cake
Check out the Menu Ahead of Time

I am notorious for this.  When I get an invite to dinner/lunch, I always go online and see what the options look like.  Most chain restaurants will even have a nutrition guide posted, which I’ll reference when making my choices.

I can always find SOMETHING to eat.

Also, the trick about reviewing the menu and choosing your meal ahead of time is that you will not get distracted by the menu when it’s crunch time.  For me, I also walk into the restaurant completely confident about what I’m eating and that I’m staying on track… which assures I’m going to enjoy my night.

Don’t be Afraid to Customize Your Meal

I used to be a little hesitant to ask for special requests with my meals.  I never like to draw attention to my strange order, but at this point… I just don’t care anymore.  I like my food my way (after all, I’m Sally Albright), and there are so many people that are ordering even stranger meals than I do…

Be clear and specific about what you want.  Break it down for the server clearly, and thank them profusely for building your salad just the way you want it.

Example of a recent order:  At Pappadeaux this week, I ordered the Chopped Salad with Grilled Chicken (no breading), instead of fried, no cheese, no croutons, no bacon, no egg.  Add extra tomatoes and cucumbers, with a light vinaigrette on the side.  The server didn’t even flinch, and the order came out perfectly…

NTTC Bonus Tip:  Scan the other salads for extra veggies you want to add to your salad.  I always do this!

Pre-Party with Your Own Appetizer

Load up on a healthy snack before you head to your event.  Most times, I choose vegetables because they’re incredibly filling and low-calorie.  Example:  Here is the snack I ate before I went to a work dinner this week.

Dining Out Tips from NTTC | No Thanks to Cake

These vegetables with my Roasted Red Pepper Dip filled me up nicely before I arrived at the restaurant.  This helped me to ignore the bread on the table and to say “No Thanks” to the appetizers that were passed around the table. #NTTA

Plan for an On-Track Day for All Your Other Meals

You may have one meal that is a little in-flux, but the remaining two and all the snacks you eat throughout the day should be on point.  I find this easy to do by using my Jenny foods.  I’ll write down exactly what I intend to eat for the planned meals, and then pick my restaurant choice based upon balancing out the rest of my day.  Example:  If my day is carb heavy, maybe that meal out needs to be carb-free.

Regardless, make a plan for the entire day… and stick to it!

Watch Your Liquid Calories

With socializing, there is often alcohol present.  As you talk and laugh throughout the night, you may lose count of how many glasses of wine you have or mixed drinks you down.  Set a target for what you will consume while you’re out before you walk into the restaurant.  Maybe it’s one glass of wine, and if so, consider pairing it with your meal for the most enjoyment.


Wet your whistle the remainder of the night with water, and lots of it.  This will help you stay hydrated, avoid ordering more vodka, and keep you satisfied.

Enjoy Your Time

Your friends, family, and co-worker want to visit with you and enjoy time with you.  They are not watching what you are eating like you are.  Relax, create your plan, and enjoy your night.

What other tips do you have for staying on track while dining out?

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Asking for Help and Recommitting to Jenny

Last Monday, I was driving home and talking to my sister-in-law Beth on the way home.  And something hit me… it was time to take action.

While I had been thinking about it for a while, I’d hesitated.  I’d told myself that there might be another way.  I told myself that I could just do it on my own… but in the back of my head I knew what I really needed to do.

Instead of driving all the way home, I took a turn in the opposite direction… in the RIGHT direction, if you will.

I drove myself to my local Jenny Craig Centre.

Beth and I talked about it, and she really encouraged me to do it.  I hung up the phone with her, and called Jenny to see if my favorite centre direct had time available to see me.  Of course, she made the time and ten minutes later, I was at Jenny Craig waiting for the first “official” consultation that I’d had in about a year.

I’d felt overwhelmed for the past few weeks, and I needed a plan.

It had been a long time since I had sat in that very seat, in this position.  Used to sitting in the waiting room very proud of what I’d lost, I hadn’t experienced that “I need help” feeling in a long time… and, it brought me to tears.

I don’t think the tears were sad tears, instead tears of relief.  I’d finally asked for help.  I’m finally leaning on the support system I’d used in the past, and I felt confident that I could get a handle on what had been going on.

After an amazing pep talk with Maria, I walked away with a week’s worth of food, a plan, and piece of mind that I would lose that weight I’ve been haunted by for the past six months.

Jenny Craig Foods | No Thanks to Cake

I shared with you guys that I’d gained back about 15 pounds in the second half of 2103.  Since then, I’ve been trying to eat better… and workout more… but in reality, I haven’t been consistent.

For me, the best way for me to lose weight is to actively participate in a program.  I’m not one of those girls that can eat on program one day, and off program the next… my body likes consistency and with consistency, I find peace.

Jumping back on program with the Jenny Craig program has been amazing!  I was able to slide right back into my comfortable place on this program, dining on some of my favorite Jenny meals.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I’m eating well.. and dining on quite a few beautiful meals!

Jenny Craig Food | No Thanks to Cake

I’ve been leaning on my volumizing strategies, following a food plan daily, and I feel amazing!  I’ll be weighing in for the first time with Maria later today.  I’ve scheduled to visit with her on Mondays after work.  Looking forward to seeing that scale start to move!!!

Sometimes we just have to pause.  Sometimes we need to re-assess.  And, sometimes we need to go back to what we know works.  I’m back.


Over the years, I’ve come up with quite the collection of Jenny Craig Volumizing Recipes.  Click the image below to see the full list of creations and to try some new favorites!

Jenny Craig Volumizing Recipes | No Thanks to Cake

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Reality Check {or that Post I Didn’t Want to Write}

Since I began writing here at No Thanks to Cake, I’ve always committed to being honest with you guys.

I share what’s really going on.  I post what I really eat.  I only review products that I really love.

The other thing I do… is that I use this blog as an outlet for what I’m feeling.  Rather than turning to food to smother what’s going on, I try to write about it.  In most cases, a blog post for me can be very freeing.  I’m hopeful that what I share with you today will do exactly that.

Three years ago, I began a journey to lose 91 lbs, and I’m not there yet.

Before-After | No Thanks to Cake

And, in the past few months, my weight has been slowly creeping up on me… which has inspired this post.

Here’s my confession:  I’m up 15 lbs.  Yes, I just typed that.  On the computer.  On my “weight loss” blog.  I’m up 15 lbs.

In light of this weight gain, I desperately needed the holidays.

I needed to be eating biscuits and gravy for breakfast with a side of monkey bread, a big buttery Thanksgiving dinner, and a carb-loaded Italian feast on Christmas Eve.  I needed to eat every bit of it, so that’s exactly what I did.

Monkey Bread | No Thanks to Cake

I ate it without restraint, and without really worrying too much about the calories that were going in.  It’s rare for me to do this, but I’m glad I did.


A wise friend told me today that some times the holidays are the best inspiration for healthy living, and I couldn’t agree more.

So… Cheers to the decadent, indulgent, wine-drenched holidays for making it blatantly obvious that I needed a plan.

My weight fluctuates a little bit every day, so I don’t get concerned with 2 lbs, 5 lbs, but when I started to see 10… I got nervous.  Not nervous enough to take action, but still nervous.  When my pants started to feel a little tighter, I knew that it was getting worse, but I still didn’t take action.

What did make me take action was eating holiday indulgences and physically missing the gym over the past week.  The way I feel when I eat unhealthy foods is ridiculous.  I feel sluggish, less motivated, and just lethargic.  Multiply the average unhealthy snack times five days…. I don’t want to feel like that anymore.

I’m desperate for vegetables, and I’m craving time on my yoga mat.

For the first time in 3 years, I will be planning to lose weight in the new year.  I don’t have 91 to lose this year, but I do have a solid 15 that I’d like to lose and never find again.

Also, for the first time, I am working with a life coach who specializes in helping women to adopt healthier relationships with food… I find it to be no coincidence that I have a support team on hand to help me move forward in 2014.

Bottom Line:  It’s time to address it, and that’s exactly what I plan to do in upcoming weeks.  And so the journey continues…

How do you recharge post-holidays?  

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