Question:

Given that you don’t offer meal plans, how do I to put one together myself? Is it okay to find a good balanced day and just repeat it?

Answer:

For several Living Healthy blog posts, I have provided a sample menu to help readers see how different foods might be included to meet their goals. These are never meant to be repeated day in and day out, although (with a multivitamin/mineral) one probably won’t end up with a deficiency if you did. The best residential foodservice of highest nutritional quality strives not to repeat menus weekly, but perhaps monthly. By switching the sides, at home I certainly might prepare my favorites meals more often.

Most often when building a client’s meal plan, I don’t start with trying to meet RDAs for all micronutrients. (Gasp!) Unless there is a specific medically therapeutic diet they need to follow, we’ll work with larger parameters first, then fine-tune the plan. Most people are familiar and comfortable with calories and macronutrients, so we translate those into common food servings among different food groups.

Tailoring your own plan rather than following a preset menu means a greater likelihood of adhering to it, thus greater success. Assuming you readers are healthy adults who can control portions*, here’s my advice to construct your own sensible meal plan:

Step One

  • List out all the fruits and vegetables you like and what form/preparation. Try to include all colors of produce. Keep in mind the season/harvest so you can get them fresh.
  • Name all the whole grains you can cook or are willing to buy prepared.
  • Identify 5-7 other complex carbohydrates (usually starches) you’ll eat.
  • List the lean proteins you like and what form/preparation.
  • Decide how many servings of low-fat milk and yogurt you’ll consistently eat daily or weekly.

My short list:

Fruit

Vegetable

Whole grain

Starches

Lean Protein

Dairy

peach

Brussels

oatmeal

potato

soy sausage

nonfat milk

apple

bok choy

corn

pasta

chicken

plain Greek

berries

carrots

quinoa

bran cereal

shrimp

vanilla yog.

grapes

green beans

brown rice

wheat bread

tenderloin

soymilk

melon

broccoli

barley

potato

beans

 

Step Two

  • Fill in a fruit or 1-2 vegetables for every meal that you’ll schedule.
  • Include a whole grain or complex carbohydrate with each main meal.
  • Add a dairy and/or protein to your first meal of the day.
  • For snacks, write in leftover combinations of a protein or dairy plus a carbohydrate source (fruit, vegetable or starch).
  • Include an unsaturated (plant-based) fat where needed as topping or condiment.
  • Be sure there is a lot of variety to support nutrient adequacy.
  • Depending on your goals and lifestyle choose whether to incorporate an occasional “extra.” (If you know your caloric intake, keep it to less than 10% of your daily total calories.)

My one-day example:

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Snack(s)

apple

broccoli slaw

green beans

plain Greek yogurt

oatmeal

corn cob

sweet potato

blueberries

soy sausage

chicken breast

pork tenderloin

garbanzo bean (hummus)

nonfat milk

mayo in slaw

margarine

carrots

 

 

2 Milano® cookies

olive oil in hummus

Step Three

  • Shop accordingly so you can follow your plan!
  • Remember to be flexible and have alternates available.
  • Plan ahead for travel or dining out.
  • It’s fine to make changes and additions to your meal repertoire or incorporate new recipes.
  • Enjoy!

* If you aren’t good at managing portions and feel you need to count calories, I’d suggest using a meal-planning service or app. For a specific nutrient goal, restriction, or to treat a medical condition, it is best to work with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and follow the advice of your physician.

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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Have a nutrition question? Our registered dietitian is ready to help!

Email nutrition@lafitness.com or submit your question below and it may be featured in an upcoming article!

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