Few Canadians plan their meals in advance, according to results from an online survey released as part of March Nutrition Month, and a local dietitian says that is contributing to more unhealthy food choices.

A local dietitian says meal planning can go a long way in your health and failing to properly meal plan for the week is a big reason why shopping carts are being filled with more processed foods.

“Meal planning honestly keeps you in check with your goals. If you have goals that you want to watch your budget, you want to watch your waist line, whatever the goal is, planning is essential,” says dietitian Loreen Wales.

Wales says meal planning can make a huge difference in your health and save some money along the way.

“Walking into a grocery store when either you’re hungry or you have no idea what you’re going to buy, people are more likely to spend more money and buy less healthier options and more convenience foods because they just have no clue what they’re doing,” Wales said.

“Even if you think of planning two to three meals per week, and then have leftovers on the other days, you’re actually going to save more money and you’re not going to be in the kitchen all the time.”

Wale says no plan and no grocery list are two big mistakes that lead to buying more processed foods. She says a good tip to avoid that – is to mainly shop around the perimeter of the grocery store.

“We always encourage people to shop the perimeter. It’s your produce, your bakery, your meats, your dairy, and not a lot of packaged foods in there,” Wales said.

“Processed foods are in the middle. So when you come with a list you probably find you shop the perimeter more than the aisles.”

Survey finds just 37 per cent of Canadians plan meals

According to a Canadian survey, just 37 per cent of Canadians plan meals in advance while 63 per cent of Canadians struggle to make healthier food choices in the grocery store at least half the time they shop, while more than one-third struggle at least 75 per cent of time.

The survey found 67 per cent of Canadians prepare a grocery list before going shopping for food, like Ozge Karadagli, who says she heads to the grocery store almost every day and she always has a plan.

“I always have something in my mind,” Karadagli said. “This week, grains, or this week, more veggies and protein.”

Karadagli says she sticks to her list because it helps her avoid unhealthy food while sticking to a budget.

“It’s good for my budget and everything. I always have a sense of how much money I’ll spend weekly.”

The survey also found 52 per cent of Canadians always or very often read nutrition labels before purchase while 11 per cent rarely or never read labels.

Wales says it’s important to read labels and adds if you can’t pronounce an ingredient, perhaps think twice before eat it.

Another tip to shop smarter is keeping chopped vegetables at eye level in the fridge as a way to incorporate more greens in meals.

“I challenge everybody to try it and do that little experiment at home because I promise you, you will find you eat more vegetables,” Wales said.

With files from Carmen Leibel