How to Put Together a Meal Plan

by Suzanne Hiscock
There are as many meal plans as there are people in the world.  No two people are going to like the exact same foods or be following the same diet (or way of eating, if you prefer).

I’m going to show you a few ways to adapt your own eating habits, going from simple things to do all the way up to more complicated.

It all depends on how much effort you can put into it.  Some people just don’t like dealing with numbers, so calorie counting is not for them.  That’s fine!  You need to find what works for you.

You can even combine some of the methods/tips to create something unique for you that will help you lose the fat!

The goal here is to end up with several meals and snacks that you can pick and choose from.  Or if you really get into the groove, a full 7 day plan of what you’re going to eat.

Before you start, download my blank menu planner to help you plan out your meals for the week:

Printable Blank Menu Planner

What you want to avoid if you want to lose weight and eat healthy is the indecision you get when you're hungry:  you don’t know what to eat and end up having something unhealthy because it’s quick and easy.  Or you overeat because your blood sugar has crashed and you're getting carb cravings.

That will kill any fat loss goals you have!

If you're ready to dive in to meal planning, here are a few ways to do it:

1) Modify What You’re Eating Now

If you’re pretty consistent with what you eat, what you might want to do is go through your meals/snacks and see where you can get rid of the junk food, eat the fruit instead of drinking the juice, or eat the lower fat version of certain foods (like milk, cheese).

If you feel part of the problem is that you overeat (you eat till you’re more than full), try reducing the portions that you serve yourself at mealtime and add more vegetables instead.  A good rule of thumb is that half your plate should be vegetables.

See:  How to Train Yourself to Eat Less [ With WORKSHEETS ]

2) Use Someone Else’s Meal Plans and Modify It

If you’re following a particular diet (either online or from a book), see if they provide meal plans.  Most usually do.  I find the problem with a diet’s meal plan is that it includes foods I don’t like or sometimes way too many new recipes I’d have to cook up.  Take some time to go through your diet’s meal plan and switch out the meals or snacks you don’t like for foods you do like.

Not into following a diet but want to eat healither to lose weight?  Check out my Soup, Salad and Smoothie Program. It includes a meal plan with delicious recipes and shows you how to incorporate healthy foods into a meal plan.

See:  5 Easy Steps to Swap Out Your Unhealthy Meals for Healthy, Low Calorie Meals
 

3)  Find a Balance Between Repeating Meals and Adding Variety

In talking with successful "dieters", one thing I noticed is that they eat a lot of things over and over again.  Sure, it’s always good to have a variety of foods in your diet because you want to make sure you’re getting enough protein, carbs and healthy fats, plus the necessary vitamins and minerals.  But it’s not like you have to have a gazillion different meals and snacks a week.

I eat a lot of the same things each week. I have two to three different breakfasts, lunch and snacks that I eat.  Since I don’t have to worry about those meals too much, I can take the time to try out different meals at suppertime, if I want.  A fair amount of time, I’ll just stick to a protein plus veggie, but the option is always there to try something new.

4) Make a List of All Your Favorites

What I do is I write out all my favorite (healthy) foods and meals; I break them down into groups like:
 
  • Protein
  • Veggies
  • Fruits
  • Legumes
  • Breads and Alternatives
  • Fats
  • Meal Combinations
  • Snack Combinations

From there, I throw things into different slots depending on what program I’m following.  So, if I’m doing a 3 meals and 2 snacks kind of program, I’ll create a list of breakfasts, lunches, suppers and snacks.  (I tend to do this in my head, but I really should write it out!)

Then I track everything with my fitness tracker.  I’ll get an idea of how many calories my meal should be from my calories per meal calculator.  After that, I adjust as I go along.  I watch out for calories and for the amount of carbs, protein and fat I’m eating in a day and make sure that I’m sticking to my goals.

How To Make Meal Planning Simple

If you find meal planning overwhelming, check out my video with three simple ways to start meal planning:
 

A Few Tips and Tricks
  • To save time, get things ready on Sundays and Wednesdays.  I’ll do things like chop veggies, grate cheese, cook some rice, etc.—whatever I can prepare ahead of time to make things easier on me during the week.

     

  • Get out the measuring cups and spoons, and a food scale if you’ve got one.  Start measuring your food, so you have an idea of serving sizes.  Read food labels, too, and measure out a serving size.  You don’t have to measure things forever; you just want to have an idea of how much you’re eating.

     

  • Eat the fruit instead of drinking the fruit juice.  You’ll feel more full after eating the fruit, plus you’ll get more fiber into your diet.

     

  • Keep junk food out of the house.  Go through the fridge and food cupboard and toss anything that doesn’t fit in with your new way of eating.  Out of sight/out of mind.

     

  • Track your progress a variety of ways.  A scale is not totally reliable.  Take measurements, body fat percentage; look at how your clothes are fitting on you.  Most imporatantly, how are you feeling?  Are you feeling energized and full of life?  Or are you feeling tired and sluggish?  A good healthy diet with enough calories and nutrition (along with exercise) will make you feel strong and full of energy!

     

Ways to Plan Your Meals Ahead of Time

1)  Establish a routine. Most people have success when they reduce the number of food choices they have instead of having too many choices.  For example, you may want to have two or three choices that you consistently eat for breakfast and lunch. 

When you eat pretty much the same things for these two meals, you make it easier to plan and prepare for those meals.  If you’re worried about variety, you can use your dinner meal as the place to experiment with more food choices.

2)  Decide ahead.  If you’re planning to meet friends at a restaurant, visit the restaurant's website to check out the meneu.  Go through the menu and decide what you’re going to eat before you even get to the restaurant.  Envision yourself sitting down and ordering the perfect meal to help you stick to your eating plan.

3)  Satisfying Snacks. Make sure that you have access to healthy snacks at all times.  One of the worst things that can happen when you’re dieting is that you get extremely hungry and then eat a lot at one time. 

If you keep some healthy nuts, dried fruit, or even a granola bar in your purse or briefcase, you’ll always have something to keep you from getting excessively hungry.

See:  7 Healthy Snacks to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth While on A Diet

4)  Use the freezer.  If you don’t like to spend a lot of time cooking, try cooking large portions of your favorite foods and freezing them to eat later.  Then you can just pop a serving out of the freezer and heat it up when you’re too tired or busy to start from scratch.

5)  Sunday & Wednesday Method. Set aside some time on Sundays and Wednesdays to chop, grate, mix, cook and pack whatever you can for your meals and snacks.  It’s amazing how even doing something simple, like chopping vegetables for your scrambled eggs, can save you time during the week.

A little pre-planning can save you time and energy.  More importantly it can help you to reach your weight loss goals quickly!

There are so many ways to create a meal plan.  Hopefully, this is enough to get you started!

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About the Author

Suzanne Hiscock is a PN1 Nutrition Coach, ACE-certified Health Coach, as well as an ACE-certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist. For over 16 years, she has been helping people lose weight and get fit through her website, FitWatch.com. Whether it's with one-on-one nutrition coaching, nutrition programs or courses, and tools or calculators, she can help you to eat better, move more and believe in yourself.