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How to Create a Meal Plan for Beginners

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Meal Plan

How do you create a meal plan? A meal plan is simply a map of what you are going to eat. Planning your meals allows you to take control of your personal nutrition. Need to lose weight? Your plan should focus on macronutrients and calories. Need to lower your blood pressure? Your plan should focus on low sodium food choices. 

The meal plan gives you control of calorie intake.

You will learn more about nutrition and nutrients, as well as portion control. You will begin to eat healthy, nutrient-dense foods as you eliminate those calorie-dense junk foods. Meal planning will also save time in shopping and food preparation in the kitchen.

To begin your personal meal plan, you need to calculate your Total Daily Energy Expenditure, or TDEE, which is the number of calories you burn each day. Start by calculating your basal metabolic rate (BMR) using your age, height, current body weight, and activity level. Your BMR is the number of calories that you need daily to sustain your current body weight. To lose weight, subtract 200-500 calories from your BMR to create your new calorie target. As a general rule, women should not go below 1200 calories per day, and men not below 1800 calories per day. To make this easier, visit Calorie Calculators and plug in the appropriate values.

Use your targeted calories to create a diet.

You can plan this on paper, or there are websites and apps that you can use by simply inserting your choices of foods; for example, Eat This Much is an excellent online meal planner. You should be selecting your foods by macronutrient: Protein, Carbohydrate, and Fats, and let the meal plan do all the calculations for you.

Your initial meal plan provides an outline and suggestions; now customize your plan with foods YOU like in servings that fit your calorie requirements. If you use any online meal planner, it will show your plan in total calories and macronutrient ratios. You can easily adjust your plan to increase your protein intake and decrease carbohydrates and fats. Adjustments in your diet provide quick weight loss and add more lean muscle to your body!

Once you have created your first plan, it is easy to make adjustments, and in no time, you’ll be creating plans for every day of the year.

If you have made your initial calculations correctly and created a manageable calorie deficit (the calorie target BELOW your BMR), following your meal plan WILL help you reach your weight loss goals.

Your healthy meal plan should include:

  • Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products.
  • Lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts.
  • Limited saturated fats, sodium and sugars, and NO trans fats.
  • Controlled servings and portion sizes.
  • Unlimited water with every meal and snack.