Creating a Daily Meal Plan

I made the decision to figure out exactly how much food I needed in order to get lean, because I was sick and tired of guessing.

My goal was to get lean.  Lean and mean.

When I calculated my daily calorie number, and my daily macronutrient ratio, I still wasn’t sure what the hell I was going to be putting into my body.  I didn’t know where to start.

What was it going to look like?  How many times a day did I need to eat?  Did it matter when I ate certain foods?  Were there any foods that I absolutely had to incorporate into my meal plan?

In this blog, I’ll be giving some tips on how to create your own custom meal plan – One that you’ll be enjoying for years.  With time, you’ll see how easy it is to change and adapt your meal plan to fit your lifestyle.

Creating a Daily Meal Plan

Once you have determined the amount of calories you will be consuming daily, and you’ve determined your macronutrient ratio, it’s time to start developing a meal plan.

It’s important to remember that it’s okay if you are not following these calorie numbers exactly, but you want to remain close.  Stay close to the numbers, and you will succeed in gaining lean muscle tissue, while minimizing fat gains.

Healthy diet

Don’t be afraid to measure your food.  Buy a food scale, they’re relatively inexpensive.  A lot of people hate the idea of measuring out their food, but once you get in the habit of it, it becomes second nature.  You’ll love the control you feel once you know that you’re not spilling over, and eating too many calories.

There will come a time, when you may not need to measure your food exactly.  I usually suggest that my clients begin measuring their food as an awareness tool more than anything.  It’s important to be aware of how much 4 ounces of rice is, or 6 ounces of sweet potato.  Most Americans aren’t aware of how large their food portions are.  Measuring your food is eye-opening.  It’s a game changer.

Pick foods you love, damn it!  Don’t torture yourself. 

For some, a meal plan means eating the same small meal 7 times a day.  You’ll see people lining up their perfectly portioned Tupperware containers on Instagram with the same thing in every container.

Tilapia, brown rice, and broccoli.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO EAT THE SAME SMALL MEAL 7 TIMES A DAY.

You can change it up!  It’s better if you have a wide variety of macronutrients.  Eat different types of protein, carbohydrates and fats.  There’s no honor in eating the exact same food you hate for an extended period of time.

It’s also important to note that you want to pick foods that you enjoy so that you won’t feel like you’re on a diet.  This is not a diet.  We’re being intentional about the food we’re putting into our bodies, in order to get the most out of it.  We’re being flexible with our food choices, and that’s why it works.

A lot of so-called “trainers” and “fitness gurus” might tell you that you need to eat 7 small meals a day.  They might tell you that 6 of those 7 meals must include grilled tilapia, broccoli, and brown rice.  This is a very archaic approach to losing weight, and if you follow a plan like this… you will be miserable, and you will quit.

Food is meant to be enjoyed!  We want the food we eat to fill us up, give us energy, and fuel our busy lives.  You should be enjoying the food you eat every day.  No exceptions.

The best meal plan is the one that doesn’t feel like one. Be flexible. If you can’t see yourself eating in a similar manner in 5 years, you need a different meal plan.

Tools

There are a few tools you can use to keep track of your food intake.  It’s always a good idea to start tracking the food you eat with a daily food journal.

Write down absolutely everything you eat and drink throughout the day, even if it’s something small.  The act of logging everything you put in your mouth will give you a sense of awareness and clarity to what you’re consuming.

You can determine very quickly what your eating habits look like, and at what times of the day you eat or crave certain foods.  You may come to find that you crave junk at specific times of the day, and just being aware of these times can help you avoid the continuation of unhealthy habits.

myfitnesspal screenshot

A very useful tool in creating a meal plan quickly and easily is the MyFitnessPal App.

This application on your phone gives you the ability to track the food you eat daily.  It’s very easy to use, it has a lot of great features, and it’s free!  It gives you the macronutrient breakdown of the food you’re consuming, so you know exactly how many grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fats are in the food you’re eating.

You can scan the bar-code of most items in your local supermarket, and it will pull up the macronutrient profile immediately.  This app also allows you the ability to track your water intake, and your workout times and activities.  You can even set up a profile on the app that will allow you to follow and track your friends eating habits, and they can follow yours as well.  This is a fantastic tool which can aide in the motivation and accountability of healthy eating.

When you are aware of the unhealthy things you’re putting into your body, it will be much more difficult to continue on with unhealthy and sabotaging habits.  You may avoid eating junk simply because you don’t want to log it!

Track the food you eat, and become aware of the nutritional value of the foods you consume.

Sample Meal Plans

Below I have listed a few meal plans that you can use as examples to help you write up your own meal plan:

** Keep in mind; I am not a registered dietitian/nutritionist.  I’m giving very general guidelines and practices that have worked for me, and my clients.  My hope is to give you a few examples to help guide you.

Meal Plan #1:

  • Meal # 1:
  • Instant oatmeal – fat: 2g, carbs: 33g, protein: 4g
  • Medium sized honey crisp apple – fat: 0.2g, carbs: 17.2g, protein: 0.3g
  • Meal # 2:
  • 1 and ½ scoops of natural peanut butter – fat: 12g, carbs: 6g, protein: 5.2g
  • ½ whole grain bagel – fat: 1g, carbs: 26g, protein: 5g
  • Meal # 3 (Protein Shake blended w/ ice and water):
  • Whey protein powder (2 scoops) – fat: 4g, carbs: 16g, protein: 40g
  • ½ banana – fat: 0g, carbs: 15g, protein: 0.5g
  • ½ cup of frozen strawberries: fat: 0g, carbs: 6.5g, protein: 0g
  • Meal # 4:
  • 6 ounces of grilled chicken breast: fat: 3g, carbs: 1.5g, protein: 33g
  • 5 ounces of steamed broccoli: fat: 9g, carbs: 9g, protein 5g
  • 4 ounces of white rice: fat: 3.5g, carbs: 45g, protein: 5g
  • Meal # 5 (Protein Shake blended w/ ice and water):
  • Whey protein powder (2 scoops) – fat: 4g, carbs: 16g, protein: 40g
  • ½ banana – fat: 0g, carbs: 15g, protein: 0.5g
  • ½ cup of strawberries: fat: 0g, carbs: 6.5g, protein: 0g
  • Meal # 6 (Protein Shake blended w/ ice and water):
  • Whey protein Powder (2 scoops): fats: 4g, carbs: 26g, protein: 40g

Macronutrient Breakdown:

  • Fats: 42.7g, carbs: 223.7g, protein: 178.5g
  • Fats: 384.3cal, carbs: 894.8cal, protein: 714cal = 1,993.1 calories consumed

Meal Plan #2:

  • Meal # 1:
  • 5 egg whites – fat: 0.5g, carbs: 1.2g, protein: 20g
  • Instant oatmeal – fat: 2g, carbs: 33g, protein: 4g
  • Meal # 2:
  • Whey protein powder (1 scoop) – fat: 2g, carbs: 8g, protein: 20g
  • Medium sized honey crisp apple – fat: 0.2g, carbs: 17.2g, protein: 0.3g
  • 1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter – fat: 8g, carbs: 4g, protein: 3.5g
  • Meal # 3:
  • 7 ounces of grilled chicken – fat: 3.5g, carbs: 1.8g, protein: 38.5g
  • 4 ounces of sweet potato – fat: 0.1g, carbs: 22.8g, protein: 1.8g
  • Meal # 4 (Protein Shake blended w/ ice and water):
  • Whey protein Powder (2 scoops): fats: 4g, carbs: 26g, protein: 40g
  • ½ banana – fat: 0g, carbs: 15g, protein: 0.5g
  • ½ cup of strawberries: fat: 0g, carbs: 6.5g, protein: 0g
  • Meal # 5:
  • 5 ounces of beef (95% lean) – fat: 15.2g, carbs: 0g, protein: 22g
  • 4 ounces of whole wheat pasta – fat: 3g, carbs: 82g, protein: 14g
  • ½ cup of marinara sauce – fat: 1g, carbs: 5g, protein: 1g
  • 4 ounces of broccoli – fat: 7.2g, carbs: 7.2g, protein: 4g
  • Meal # 6 (before bed):
  • Casein protein powder (1 scoop) – fat: 1.5g, carbs: 11g, protein: 25g

 Macronutrient Breakdown:

  • Fats: 48.2g, carbs: 240.7g, protein: 194.6g
  • Fats: 433.8cal, carbs: 962.8cal, protein: 778.4cal = 2,175 calories consumed

Meal Plan #3:

  • Meal # 1:
  • 1 English muffin – fat: 1g, carbs: 25g, protein: 4g
  • 1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter – fat: 8g, carbs: 4g, protein: 3.5g
  • 4 egg whites – fat: 0.4g, carbs 1g, protein: 16g
  • 3 tablespoons of salsa – fat: 0g, carbs: 1.5, protein: 0g
  • Meal # 2:
  • 5 ounces of grilled chicken breast – fat: 2.5g, carbs: 1.2g, protein: 27.5g
  • 4 ounces of white rice: fat: 3.5g, carbs: 45g, protein: 5g
  • 5 ounces of steamed broccoli: fat: 9g, carbs: 9g, protein 5g
  • Meal # 3:
  • 5 ounces of beef (95% lean) – fat: 15.2g, carbs: 0g, protein: 22g
  • 5 ounces of fajita peppers (green, red, yellow) – fat: 0.3g, carbs: 8.5g, protein: 1.3g
  • 3 ounces of onions – fat: 0.1g, carbs: 7.7g, protein: 0.9g
  • Meal # 4 (Protein Shake blended w/ ice and water):
  • Whey protein Powder (2 scoops): fats: 4g, carbs: 26g, protein: 40g
  • Meal # 5:
  • 5 ounces of grilled chicken breast – fat: 2.5g, carbs: 1.2g, protein: 27.5g
  • 4 ounces of white rice: fat: 3.5g, carbs: 45g, protein: 5g
  • 5 ounces of steamed broccoli: fat: 9g, carbs: 9g, protein 5g

 Macronutrient Breakdown:

  • Fats: 59g, carbs: 184.1g, protein: 162.7g
  • Fats: 531cal, carbs: 736.4cal, protein: 650.8cal = 1,918.2 calories consumed

Again, It doesn’t really matter when you eat the food items

Based on current research, the concept of “nutrient timing” isn’t particularly important for people trying to look and feel better.

The total amount of protein, fats and carbohydrates you eat, over the course of the day, is more important for body composition and performance than nutrient timing strategies. 

We’ve been told lies regarding this for a very long time:

“Don’t eat carbs after 6 PM.”

“Don’t eat carbs after 4 PM.”

“Don’t eat carbs after (insert any hour in the afternoon here).”

“You only have a half an hour anabolic window after training to get your protein and carbs in!”

The fact of the matter is that your body will absorb and utilize the food in the same way regardless of the time of day that you eat it.  You can eat carbs before bed, as long as it fits your macronutrient ratio.

Remember, carbohydrates are not the reason you will become overweight – the surplus of calories will be.  You need to discover what works best for you.  Do your own research, and do your own experimentation.

Eat the food items that make up your macronutrient ratio on your own terms.  If you don’t like eating breakfast, then don’t eat breakfast.  If you want to eat 5-6 small meals spread out evenly over the course of your day – by all means – do it.

Something to consider: 

There have been studies indicating that people who skip breakfast and eat fewer times throughout the day tend to be heavier than those who eat a healthy breakfast and eat four or five times a day. This may be due to the fact that people who skip meals tend to feel hungrier later in the day, causing them to eat more than they normally would.  It may also be that eating many small meals throughout the day helps certain people curb their appetites.

Stay tuned!  In the next blog I’ll give you some more tips and tricks that will help you create an easy,  sustainable meal plan.  We’re setting ourselves up to win!

 

by Kyle Devlin

My name is Kyle Devlin, and I'm a certified personal trainer based in Kansas City, Missouri. My approach is simple - Consistent hard work and dedication equals success.

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