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Meal planning - the basics

How to build a meal plan

Creating a meal plan can be a perfect way to keep a track of healthy habits and weight loss goals. It is an effective tool and resource for professionals to work with their clients on, by building a plan that helps them to meet their goals. This is how it can be done.

The five key principles in building a successful meal plan

The first key point is using your current diet, this can include your favourite meals. It can be changing and adapting the compositions of meals in order to achieve a better macronutrient balance, such as referring to the Eatwell guide, this provides different food groups that clients can choose. The image below shows a plate of all the foods chosen from the Eatwell guide.

The second point is to understand your dietary preferences by creating an individual tailored menu around your choice and needs. The following questions can help to build the meal plan:

Are you a grazer or a strict three meal a day person? What foods do you love and what do you hate? What time of the day are you most hungry?

The third point is recommending a range of options for each meal. This can be achieved by having a variety of vitamins and minerals ensuring that it is balanced and includes a variety of different foods. This helps to create variety and excitement in the meals so you don’t get bored of eating the same meal every day. You could try having at least 5 options to choose from for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

If you are working with a nutritionist or dietitian you could consider nutritionally analysing the meal plan or your current dietary intake to see the macro and micronutrient breakdown. This will also allow you to see if there are any areas to focus on.

How people can create own meal plan?

Why not create your own meal using the suggested templates below. Feel free to add in the meals you prefer and this can help in planning ahead.

5 day meal plan
Download PDF • 566KB
Weekly plan
Download PDF • 62KB

What are the benefits of meal planning?

-It helps to ensure nutrient needs are met - If you are aiming for a specific goal such as weight loss or muscle gain, it is a good idea to note down a specific calorie and macronutrient intake. Designing a meal plan provides you a choice of food you may like to eat. In this you might find that you become more confident in choosing meals that provide the right nutritional quality to achieve your goal.

-It reduces stressful decision making - Deciding what to eat, reading complex food labels and trying to calculate how many calories you are eating can be time consuming and stressful. Following a meal plan means that all the calculations have already been done for you.

-Enables you to plan ahead-You can shop and prepare meals beforehand, which can allow you to reduce food waste. Also, it can help to keep you on track and reduce temptation.

Practical ways to save money

-Regularly checking which foods you have in stock- Taking a note of all the foods that you may have in the cupboards such as tinned or dried items like pasta and rice or even any seasoning or sauces you already have, can help you to keep on top of any items you need or already have. This is a great way to save money on foods and prevents shopping for extra items.

-Reduce Meat Consumption-If you are trying to reduce the amount of meat you are consuming, you might want to try making small changes such as reducing the amount of beef mince used in a bolognese and replacing it with vegetables or tins of lentils etc.

-Making a meal plan-Planning a meal can save a lot of time and money. It can be as simple as deciding on what meal you would like to cook, making a list of those ingredients you need, checking in the cupboards to see if you have any of ingredients and then shopping for the ingredients needed. You can also batch cook and have meals ready in the freezer or fridge for the week ahead.

-Use Supermarket coupons- Part of meal planning is to look out for coupon codes or discounts online which can be used in store. This can help you to stay within your budget and can compare price matches before buying products.

Thanks to Ranveer for this week's guest blog. She has recently completed a Royal Society Public Health Diploma in Nutrition and Weight Management level 4 in May 2020. Before completing this course she also did a level 2 course in Nutrition and Health and a level 3 in Diet and Nutrition for Children. Having done these courses it has inspired Ranveer to seek employment in the nutrition and health sector to further her knowledge and experience in this field.


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