Dude, does planning your meals seem like a monumental process?
Like…..what should you eat? Where is the protein? How many carbs, but not TOO many carbs, because Dr. Oz says you shouldn’t eat too many, right? And veggies! Don’t forget those! But, wait….I’m supposed to eat healthy fats, right? What are those? Where do those go?
So, then, we get overwhelmed and give up.
Or worse, plan a brand-spankin’-new meal for every night next week….
…..only to discover, those meals require ingredients that we don’t have, or don’t use.
So we hit the grocery store and spend a mint on all these ingredients we will probably never use again.
Money down the drain.
Blah, let’s not do that anymore.
Meals DO NOT have to be complicated. They just don’t. In fact, in most of my nutrition coaching experience, those that keep it simple actually ENJOY eating and creating new combos. Simple combos. And reach their goals faster, too.
Alright, so let’s talk about what makes a meal, yes?
Because I am a Precision Nutrition Level 1 Nutrition Coach, I tend to enjoy their guidelines (and follow them myself, with tweaks as needed). I like how they build their meals, because it WORKS. It is SIMPLE. I feel FED. And it is generally STRESS FREE when you get the hang of it.
Each meal, for ladies, includes the following:
- A palm sized serving of lean protein (you know…chicken, lean beef and pork, eggs, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, seafood, etc), or about 20-30 grams of protein
- A fist sized serving of vegetables (shortcut – eat the ones you LIKE)
- A cupped handful sized serving of starchy carbs (whole grains and whole grain breads/pastas, fruit, oatmeal, potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, etc.)
- A thumb sized serving of fat (avocado, nuts, nut butter, healthy oils, some cheeses, etc) if you protein choice if VERY lean, or skip the fat if you are eating a less lean protein choice that meal
Each meal, for gentlemen, is about DOUBLE what ladies enjoy….or TWO palm sized servings of protein, TWO fists of veggies, and so on and so forth.
But how many meals do you need to eat? Well, this depends on YOU, YOUR hunger, and YOUR activity level. Most individuals do well on 4-6 meals per day with a serving of each of the groups above, or 3-4 larger meals per day, with more than one serving of each per meal if necessary. My recommendation is start around four servings, see how it treats you, and work your way up as necessary. Eat your first meal of the day, and don’t eat the second until you feel hunger for a bit (30ish minutes). Then eat again. Repeat this process as needed through the day. **If you have been on a diet for your entire life, the feeling of hunger might not be familiar to you…..and so I recommend finding a credible (certified!) nutrition coach or Registered Dietician to help you sort this one out.**
Of course, there are ways to customize this if needed. Those pursuing specific athletic goals generally need MORE food to fuel their athletic endeavors. Those desiring to put on some muscle will need to eat a SURPLUS of food over time above the level they need to maintain their weight. Those desiring to lose weight or fat will need to eat at a deficit over time. Those that desire to maintain their weight…..just need to find the level of eating that allows them to stay status quo on the scale. Can we get more complicated than this? YES if we NEED to. But, I like to start with this approach because it allows people to learn how to put together meals THEY like and MOST people get a lot of mileage out of this approach before complicating it further (if they ever need to). Of course, like everything, there are exceptions to every rule. But the basics, well….they serve MANY.
It is VERY easy to get lost in details. Should I eat more carbs? Less carbs, but more fat? Really, my short answer is you have to find a way that YOU like to eat. Some people enjoy eating more fat than carbs. Some people want to eat carbs and skip out on fats sometimes. Most of us can under-eat protein pretty easily, and I find that addressing protein first helps shake out a bunch of other things to work on.
So, let’s keep it simple. What does this LOOK like? Here are a few examples:
- Ground beef, 85% lean (so I won’t add an extra serving of fat to my meal), seasoned with salt and pepper, sauteed onions and green peppers, and white rice (dash of soy sauce over the whole mix for good measure)
- Grilled chicken breast over romaine, with extra fresh veggies (onions, mini peppers), with a sprinkle of shaved parmesan and a bit of Caesar dressing, with a bowl of sliced bananas and strawberries on the side
- Pork chop, half or whole baked potato (depending on the size) topped with butter, steamed green beans (from frozen)
You see? We don’t have to complicate this. You can easily adjust these meals based on YOUR needs. I want to add too, that some individuals do best learning how to eat a specific target of calories or macros if they come from a background of chronic dieting….they literally need to learn how to eat an appropriate level of food with a “budget” of calories so they know what “enough” means. Others learn best by eyeballing portions like I’m chatting about here. If you’ve been a counter of calories or macros for some time, I encourage you to drop that for awhile and give this way a try. It might give you a mental break, if nothing else, from all the numbers. Remember, simplicity works, and when we can take away 100 details and break it down into just a few, this all gets easier…..and the easier this is, the more LIKELY we are to roll with it consistently, right?
Here are some more ideas based on MY preferences and needs, but you can always tailor servings to YOUR needs:
If you’ve never tried Kodiak cakes, they are delicious, and you can get a heck of a deal on Amazon for a bulk order. Or, you can go to Target and get a 20oz box for about $4.99.
Is this post helpful for you? Share it with someone who could benefit from it. If you incorporate this into your life…..please keep me in the loop on how that is going for you, because I really want to know. I enjoy hearing how others incorporate stuff into their lives. It helps me learn
Need help sorting through this stuff and UNcomplicating YOUR nutrition needs? I LOVE helping people do that kind of stuff. Email me at tmwellnessrevolution at gmail dot com. I do a face to face (or Facetime/skype!) session with YOU, plus follow up with you for six weeks to find YOUR level of eating that helps you rock your life AND reach your goals.
Further reading: The Best Calorie Control Guide Infographic from Precision Nutrition