“I want a plan. I’m sick of trying to figure all this stuff out! Just tell me what to eat!”
Can you relate?
While meal plans are very popular (marketing tool), let me give you a different perspective.
First and foremost, I understand you. I was in your shoes, looking all over the Internet for the right meal plan for me. I’ve done it more than once. Guess what?
I’ve never found a meal plan I could stick with. There was always some food that I could not get locally and sometimes it was too expensive for me.
So I started looking for personalized meal plans. Those come as a part of a service and sometimes separately but they were relatively pricey. I am speaking 60€ for a meal plan alone for a month. Honestly, I am not sure I would stick with those plans to the T it anyway! I am the kind of person who looks at a recipe and immediately starts thinking how to change it.
In the end, I am glad I have not bought any meal plan because it lead me to choose the harder way. I got an opportunity to learn about the food I’ve been eating and principles of nutrition so now I understand nutriton and how food affects me.
Here are the main issues with meal plans:
When you have a meal plan, it does not mean you will stick with it. It is normal to want to eat something that is not prescribed and it could even be superior choice! Or maybe you don’t have some of the groceries needed for your meals. Or maybe, you have everything ready but preparing the new meal is way out of your comfort zone. These factors might create unnecessary stress. And what if your friends invite you for a dinner or you are forced to eat outside – will you be able to make good choices?
Even if you follow the meal plan to the T, you don’t learn that much along the way. I follow the idea “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Meal plans focus on macro-nutrients (carbohydrates, fats, proteins) and/or total calories. They might not take into consideration nutritionally important factors as micronutrition but most importantly, meal plans don’t account for human variables such as changes in preferences, lifestyle stressors and other fluctuations we experience daily. Sure, the technology nowadays is very advanced and you can get very personalized meal plan without spending much money. In the end, meal plan is just one tool that is useful for a very specific goal and to be used for a short period of time.
A factor that I have never seen accounted for is “how you eat”. Do you eat your meals slow or fast? Do you chew your food thoroughly or do you gorge yourself mindlessly? The eating habits and skills might be even more important then the actual food you eat.
- Meal plans are short-term ‘solutions’. Once you are done with your one-month meal plan, then what? You will either buy a new one, follow the same meal that you just finished or, which is the most probable, you fall back to your old habits and you are where you started. You lose the results you have invested in and possibly feel like failure afterwards.
Instead of searching for a meal plan, try food logging experiment:
For example I experimented and logged all my food over a three days period. To minimize the possibility to eat more or less than I would usually do by knowing the numbers, I weighted my food in a way that I did not see the number on the scale when loading my plate. Then, I logged my food after the three days period.
The result surprised me. Each day I had pretty much the same caloric intake (within 100kcal range). How is that possible?
- I am consistent with what I eat – I rotate several meals and use the same mindset when preparing them.
- I have consistent eating habits – I eat three times a day, without snacking. That leads to similar portion sizes and even if I am hungrier and eat more for lunch, I naturally eat less for dinner. Like a human being.
- My daily activity is pretty much similar – My training is consistent, my daily activity is consistent as well. And even if I move more on some days than the other, it simply reflects on my appetite. Some days I move more and I am hungrier. Some days I move more and I am less hungry but it catches up with me a day later.
When you have consistent eating patterns (habits) and activity patterns, it is very simple to modify your intake without knowing or counting your calories.
If I wanted to eat more, I would keep my meals and meal schedule the same but squeeze in a snack for example.
If I wanted to reduce the amount I eat, I would eat a smaller dinner or substitute grains/legumes for leafy greens. It is simple as that.
Selling meal plans is a big business. People look for meal plans because they see them as a sure-way to achieve their desired bodies. Most often, people who look for meal plans are either new to nutrition or they have the ‘magic bullet mindset‘.
Unfortunately, meal plan will not help you in either way.
We are not machines, robots, nor calculators. Meal plans are like recipe books. People buy them, try a recipe or two, and then move on. You will not become a chef if you buy a recipe book! To become a chef you need to understand the meal preparation techniques and principles behind food combinations, flavours, and learn the cooking techniques.
Meal plans have a specific use in dietetics and for short term changes that are not focused on lifestyle change.
Goal of coaching is to teach you principles of a good nutrition and build habits that allow you to change how you think and what you do, and practice it. Together with coaching, a meal plan can be useful, but alone it gives you a false sense of security.
Learn how to best fuel your body
If you want to learn how to best fuel your body, stop tracking your food and meet with Daniel who specializes in sports nutrition and can help you create a sustainable diet/food plan that fits your unique needs and lifestyle.
- Click the link below
- Fill-in the intake form
- Wait for my email to schedule a strategy call. I reply within 24 hours.
Looking forward to hear from you,