While you many have the best intentions when it comes to eating right, real life sometimes gets in the way. When it’s Wednesday night after a long work day and you need to get dinner on the table for the kids, it’s tempting to stop for a quick fast-food meal instead of laboring over a hot stove. However, if you prepare for a week’s worth of meals on Sunday, you’re more likely to stick with your healthy-eating plan and not grab an unhealthy quick-fix.

“Many people think willpower is the key to maintaining a healthy diet and losing weight,” said Nicole Coppola, a clinical dietician at Geisinger Community Medical Center in Scranton. “In reality, planning your meals well and staying organized with your diet are just as important.”

Plan your meals before shopping

Plan your meals for the entire week before shopping, making a list of the ingredients you’ll need to buy in bulk. When preparing meals in large batches for storage, the general rule is to increase items such as proteins and fats in proportion to the recipe, but add spices to taste. If you know your supermarket well, organize your list aisle-by-aisle to save time while you shop.

Include carbohydrates, protein and fats in every meal

Every meal should include the right ratio of carbohydrates, protein and fat. Try to have 45 to 65 percent of your calories come from carbohydrates, 10 to 35 percent from protein and 20 to 35 percent from fats. When creating meals for the week, plan meals with these percentages in mind and fill the gaps in each of these categories with snacks.

“Carbohydrates, proteins and fats are known as macronutrients, the building blocks of a well-balanced diet,” said Coppola. “You need to eat the right amount of calories and correct proportion of these macronutrients to maintain normal bodily functions and optimal health.”

For more information on building a healthy meal, visit www.Choosemyplate.org. There you will find tips on creating healthy meals such as filling half of your plate with vegetables and fruits, make half of your grains whole grains, choose low-fat and fat-free milk and yogurt, and choose lean protein and vary the choices.

Use the same ingredients for multiple meals

To make Sunday meal preparation more efficient, reuse staple ingredients across several meals. For example, if you are including brown rice in a burrito, you can use the same rice for a fried rice dish. Vegetables like spinach can be used as part of a dinner and also make a great addition to green smoothies.

Practice portion control

The portion sizes you’re served in restaurants are typically too large, so practicing proper portion control when planning meals is essential. It can be hard to judge proper portion sizes, so the best approach is to measure each meal or snack using a food scale, at least the first time you prepare it. Store meals and snacks according to the proper serving size, either individually or in multiples if you are feeding the entire family.

“Portion size is the area where most healthy meals fail,” said Coppola. “For instance, a serving of chicken is about the size of a deck of playing cards, but many people consume two or three times that much at a meal.”

Make use of the freezer and slow cooker

Your freezer and a slow cooker are important tools in weekly healthy meal plans. Freezing prepared meals and then placing them in the crockpot in the morning before leaving for work is the easiest way to have a hot meal ready at night. Make sure you allow meals to cool before placing them in the freezer, since they can cause other frozen meals to thaw and refreeze, which alters their taste.

“With a little forethought and once-a-week preparation, you can revamp your diet to achieve your nutrition goals,” said Coppola.

Four filled food containers on countertop