It All Begins With Planning

150 Pounds Gone ForeverDiane Carbonell lost 158 pounds almost 14 years ago, and has maintained that loss for all these years. A mom to seven great kids, Diane loves sharing her weight loss experience, through writing, speaking, and individual weight loss coaching. She is the author of 150 Pounds Gone Forever, and you can catch up with her on her website, Fit To The Finish, and of course on Twitter and Facebook.

This is a guest post for October Unprocessed. If this is your first time here, welcome …and it’s not too late to join in!

Fifteen years ago I weighed over 300 pounds and almost every meal I put on our table was full of processed foods. Casseroles with creamed soups topped with buttery crackers were the norm for our family. I bought only canned vegetables and we ate lots of fruit topped with sugar. I occasionally even let my kids have frozen kids dinners which were about as healthy as a chocolate bar.

Everything changed when I got serious about my weight loss and ended up losing half of my body weight. All in all I lost 150 pounds and write about my weight loss on my blog, Fit to the Finish. In the ensuing fifteen years, I have learned a lot about nutrition and healthy eating. One thing I haven’t done though, is become a gourmet cook or a foodie.

I’m okay with that.

Diane Carbonell with her old shirts

You see, I have seven kids and am a simple cook at heart. I used to pour over glossy food magazines imagining the happiness on my family’s face when I served them a beautiful, exotic dish of food. The reality of being a busy mom to a family of nine means that my goals are to serve healthy nutritious food that is easy to prepare and delicious. Sometimes, it is even attractive.

It all begins with planning. Sure it is easy to pour some soup on chicken, top it with crackers, and call that a well-balanced, healthy meal. But the truth of the matter is that the chemicals, sodium, and unpronounceable ingredients are not things your body needs. Planning your meals can be done on a single piece of paper or a great app on your phone.

When I sit down to plan the meals for my family, I begin with the main dish. We eat chicken a few times a week, but all our other meals are vegetarian in nature. I write down the main dish for all seven upcoming nights. A typical main dish week for us would be simple foods such as rosemary chicken, minestrone soup, black bean and rice tortillas, stir-fry chicken, vegetarian lasagna, teriyaki vegetable bake with brown rice, and panko dipped chicken fingers.

After I have the main dishes written out, I simply section off a piece of paper into aisles of my grocery store. (If you are in need, here is a .pdf download of a grocery store list by aisle from my book, 150 Pounds Gone Forever. ) After planning the main dishes, I add in simple, easy-to-prepare side dishes such as salad, steamed vegetables, roasted root vegetables, whole-wheat rolls, and fruit. Every time I add a dish to my menu, I simultaneously add the ingredients I will need to purchase for the week. I repeat the same process for lunch and breakfast.

The whole exercise takes me less than 30 minutes.

People ask me about coupons. Honestly, because we eat so little processed food, I find very few food coupons in the paper that help me out. There are some breakfast cereal coupons that we occasionally use, and I do like finding yogurt coupons. But aside from those, I am not a coupon queen. I do find that I spend less money at the grocery store than my friends who have smaller families because I am foregoing Oreos, expensive crackers, prepackaged deli lunches, and frozen meals.

The benefits of planning simple, delicious meals to serve your family are numerous and exponential in nature. I see my older children developing a very discerning palette when it comes to processed foods. They often refuse to eat highly processed foods when out in social situations and tell me later that the food looked unappetizing and “disgusting.” My younger children have grown up with simple, homemade, unprocessed foods and some of them have never set foot in a McDonald’s or Burger King. My hope is that as they grow older they will pass on the love of simple, homemade food to their families.

Planning and cooking great tasting meals for your family is not a chore, but rather a blessing that you can give your family every single day of the year.

A photo of Andrew Wilder leaning into the frame and smiling, hovering over mixing bowls in the kitchen.

Welcome to Eating Rules!

Hi! My name is Andrew Wilder, and I think healthy eating doesn’t have to suck. With just three simple eating rules, we'll kickstart your journey into the delicious and vibrant world of unprocessed food.

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October 9, 2012 8:35 am

Congratulations Diane! Planning is crucial, you are absolutely right. And it’s awesome to see the successes that you have had. I am glad you have 7 kids to pass all of this important information on to – it’s important that the people in this world who are reproducing are those who can help their kids lead healthy, happy lives!

Chef Kirsten
October 8, 2012 3:24 pm

Diane, thank you so much for sharing! I love your point about coupons – with real food you hardly see them.. or need them! I myself lost over 100 pounds by switching to the mainly #unprocessed lifestyle and will NEVER go back! That is the legacy I want to leave for my children too – a real food, healthy living and balanced lifestyle, just like you are. Thank you so much for sharing your story and inspiring others. 🙂

October 8, 2012 11:10 am

I could relate to your shopping routine in so many ways. I, too, rarely have coupons, I skip shopping in whole rows of the grocery store. I also plan my meals and shop with a list. I have no cravings for what I consider junk, It takes a while to rid your palate of those habits, but it is well worth it.

October 8, 2012 9:54 am

My husband and I eat very well. I cook almost every meal from scratch. However, he wants to have a very large family. Lets not get into all the reasons as to what scares me about kids but one huge issue is being able to provide nutritional food for them. I don’t want to become lazy and put TV dinners on the table because my family went from 2 to 7 🙂 BUT after reading your story it gives me hope. If you can do this with a family of 9 then anything is possible! Thanks so much for sharing.

October 8, 2012 9:23 am

Just the story I needed to read, thank you for the great tips! I hope my boys grow up not eating the junk that I did. 🙂

October 8, 2012 9:11 am

Great tips, Diane, and what a gorgeous family!

October 8, 2012 9:08 am

Inspiring story!

October 8, 2012 8:57 am

What an inspiration you are to so many home cooks!

October 8, 2012 8:32 am

I need to lose 30-40 pounds–weight keeps creeping up when I don’t quite lose it all in between babies. Success stories with real food (not WW low-fat cheese, fat-free cookies ect) are SO helpful and encouraging to me!

October 8, 2012 7:15 am

Thanks for the encouragement, Diane! Even empty-nesters like me need to plan meals in order to avoid reaching for junky snacks. I work in my church office. Candy and baked goods are available there almost every day! Having my meals planned and prepared is crucial to my healthy eating plan. 🙂