Creating meal plans or a nutrition plan you can follow is actually something I’ve come to enjoy a lot. I’ve always been interested in numbers and calculating everything in an Excel spreadsheet. I tend to overdo it all though when it comes to meal plans as you can see with my monstrous spreadsheet below.
I was pretty proud of myself. Automatic formulas to calculate calorie intake and optimized serving sizes of individual foods I enjoy to decrease cost for required protein intake or maximize protein intake while reducing carbohydrates within a budget.
Okay. It’s overkill. I’ll admit that, but you can see that it’s a passion I have come to really indulge in. You won’t have to go through all these complex models like the one I did.
What WILL help you is the outline that follows that will truly simplify your meal plans and make it much easier for you to follow them. Of course, if you really do want to make a massive spreadsheet like I did that’s always an option.
Having gone through all that, here are some simple steps that will help you create meal plans for yourself and enjoy what you eat.
Meal Plans – How to Create One and Enjoy What You Eat
1. Set a Calorie Goal
This is probably the most important step, but at the same time it is one you can adjust as needed. If you are losing or gaining weight too quickly or not fast enough you can always increase or decrease the number of calories you are eating. There are a lot of calorie calculators available online, but these are a few that I have used most often:
If you’re not into calculating your calorie amount you can take a different approach. Start tracking calories now. Use MyFitnessPal, Lose It!, FitBit, or some other app that will help you track your calories. Do that consistently for 2-3 weeks and get your average daily calorie intake from there. Then adjust those calories depending on your goal. If you want to lose weight, eat about 200-500 less per day. If you want to gain weight or build muscle, eat about 200-500 more per day.
2. Balance Your Macronutrients
This one can be either extremely simple or overly complicated. As you can see I went the overly complicated route.
The important thing to remember about carbohydrates, protein, and fats is that each has their own role in your body. Generally it breaks down as follows: Carbohydrates provide your body with energy and fuel, protein is responsible for the growth of your muscles, and fats help regulate your body’s functions and also hormonal balances.
Those are just the absolute basics that I find necessary for what I’m talking about here, but you can see some other great resources about macronutrients in on these pages:
So how do I recommend you do it for your meal plans? The simplest way is to incorporate some of each in every meal. Protein sources include chicken, red meat, fish, eggs, and other dairy products. Carbohydrates mainly come from grains, fruits, and vegetables. I prefer eating more vegetables than grains and breads because they are more filling and have less calories. Fruits are also a wonderful “sweet” option for carbohydrates. Fats need to come from healthy sources such as avocados, fish oils, nuts, and seeds.
The key to remember here is that you should eat the majority of your carbohydrates from vegetables, then fruits, and then grains and breads. As far as how many calories to eat of each, I typically aim for 40% protein, 30% carbohydrates, and 30% fats. This can be adjusted as you need, or as recommended by a medical professional.
Pick some of your favorite foods and look at where they fit within those ranges. NutritionData.com is a great place to find nutritional information about common foods.
3. Track Consistently and Be Accountable
If you do everything else and skip this step then you are basically setting yourself up for failure. Tracking what you eat will ensure you are sticking to your plan. If you fall short on any given day you will be able to see what you need to change in the days to come. I find it really useful to have a friend or family member who can help hold me accountable. That is the absolute best way to make sure you stick to your plan.
Once you’ve done all that, then feel free to look around online for recipes or experiment with your own. Make sure they fit your plan and you can finally enjoy the foods you love while staying healthy and fit.