CREATE YOUR OWN MEAL PLAN

Nutrition

CREATE YOUR OWN MEAL PLAN

CREATE YOUR OWN MEAL PLAN

While meal planning is typically best left to a dietitian (this is especially the case for individuals with acute dietary needs or existing health condition), costs associated with personalized meal plans can be prohibitive to the average joe. Luckily, with some basic nutrition education, meal planning is a relatively simple process.

To create your own meal plan, it’s essential that you understand the following concepts: energy balance, macronutrient distribution ranges, and scientific criteria for dietary inclusion or exclusion.

1. ENERGY BALANCE

Energy balance refers to the number of Calories you expend relative to the number of calories you consume. Energy balance serves as the sole determinant of weight status. An energy deficit will ultimately promote weight loss, while an energy excess will ultimately promote weight gain.

These laws hold true regardless of the relative healthfulness of the overall diet. In other words, regardless of how “healthy” your diet is, the number of calories you consume will ultimately determine how much you weigh.

2. MACRONUTRIENT DISTRIBUTION RANGES

Macronutrient distribution ranges dictate what percentage of total calories should be contributed by each of the three macronutrients- carbohydrate, protein, and fat. The acceptable macronutrient distribution ranges (AMDR) for carbohydrate, protein, and fat are 45-65%, 10-35%, and 20-35%, respectively. 

These recommendations are set by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), reflecting the body of research supporting disease prevention. Consumption outside of AMDR’s increases the risk of chronic disease and other maladies.

3. SCIENTIFIC CRITERIA FOR INCLUSION OR EXCLUSION

Ever hear the phrase “if it fits your macros?” Also now as IIFYM, the macro-only line of thinking implies that any food can be included in the scope of a general day as long as it fits into your macronutrient range. To be clear, dietary moderation is a great concept- we all need to ease up a little and enjoy, on occasion.

That does not mean, however, that we should turn a blind eye to the very real considerations of sugar, sodium, and fiber content in the scope of a general day. Let’s call this the common sense rule; while Calories and macronutrient ranges matter, so too does good, solid nutrition. We’re talking fruits, vegetables, lean meats, healthy fats, and whole grains, people. Not a solid diet of potato chips, processed meats, and ice cream pints, just because it fits a macronutrient range.

With a working knowledge and appreciation of these three concepts, you’re ready to start your meal plan!

4. DETERMINE YOUR WEIGHT GOAL - DO YOU WANT TO LOSE, GAIN, OR MAINTAIN WEIGHT?

On average, active women require 1600-2000 Calories to maintain weight. Men require more- typically, between 2000-2400 Calories. To lose 1 lb each week, subtract 500 Calories from that number. To gain 1 lb each week, add 500 Calories to that number.

Once you’ve determined the number of Calories you need for your goal, determine your AMDR’s. Most individuals do well in the middle of each of these ranges- keep in mind that these ranges are somewhat fluid- lower or higher a few days each week isn’t anything to fret about. AMDR’s can often be the most confusing prospect for novice meal planners.

If you decide, for example, that you’d like to consume 45% of your Calories from carbohydrate, 35% from protein, and 20% from fat on a diet of 1800 Calories, your calculations would read as follows:

Carbohydrate= 1800 (Calories) x .45= 810 Calories

Protein= 1800 (Calories) x .35= 630 Calories

Fat= 1800 (Calories) x .20= 360 Calories

Want to convert that to grams? Calories and carbohydrates both contain 4 Calories per gram, while fat contains 9. To convert Calories to grams from the above numbers, your calculations would read as follows:

Carbohydrate= 1800 (Calories) x .45= 810 Calories

810 Calories / 4 Calories per gram= 202 grams

Protein= 1800 (Calories) x .35= 630 Calories

630 Calories / 4 Calories per gram= 157 grams 

Fat= 1800 (Calories) x .20= 360 Calories

360 Calories / 9 Calories per gram= 40 grams

5. FINALLY 

Keep in mind that Calories still matter - this can make meal planning tiresome for novice dieters. Balancing macronutrient ranges and Calories can be tricky, but remember, that’s why AMDR’s are somewhat fluid. If weight is your primary goal, Calories matter far more than precise AMDR’s.


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