When people learn that I’m a nutrition major, I get so many questions about what foods to eat, what foods to not eat, when to eat, and more. But the question that I probably get most often is “Can I have a meal plan?” I will NEVER give anyone a meal plan. Why? I’ll just come right out and say it: meal plans don’t work. I know you’re probably feeling shocked and disappointed right now, but it’s the truth. They don’t. Even meal plans written by a dietitian are restrictive (most dietitians won’t write one for you anyway). Eating only the foods and amounts written on a piece of paper is not going to help you. Instead, we need to practice intuitive eating by listening to our bodies’ cues. So when someone asks me for a meal plan, I give them a document with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack ideas, along with a list of nutrition tips that I think are important for everyone to know.
If you’ve ever wanted a meal plan, then keep reading!
1. Start slowly. If you want to incorporate more fruits and vegetables or lean meats into your diet, then start with one meal at a time. For example, add an apple or fruit salad to your lunch. Once you get used to it, start incorporating fruit into your breakfast and snack or start a new goal. If you throw yourself into it and change your diet completely, then you will have a higher risk of relapse.
2. Serve yourself on a smaller plate. When we serve ourselves, it is easy to just fill up the plate. If you use smaller plates, you can still fill up the plate while getting a smaller portion. I love lots of sauce on my food and for that reason, I often eat out of bowls. When I do that, I notice how much more food I’m putting in the bowl since it can hold more versus when I use a plate. Now that I am aware of that, I either just use the smaller plate or put less food in the bowl. If after the first serving you are still hungry, wait a couple of minutes and drink some water. If you still feel hungry, then get another serving.
3. Take your time when you are eating. This one is important! Try not to rush through your meal. You won’t have time to listen to your body and realize that you are full so you keep eating more and more. Eventually, you are too full to even move. Know the feeling?? Or sometimes we distract ourselves while eating by watching TV or scrolling through social media and again, the mindless activity keeps us from knowing when we are full.
4. Stop when you’re full. I know it’s hard to stop when you’re eating something really good (for me, it’s tacos!). But it is important to stop once you start feeling full. Think of it this way, you’ll have another opportunity to enjoy the food when you’re hungry again!
5. Eat at home more often. Cook your own meals! They’ll taste better and be a lot cheaper.
6. Eat more fiber. Fiber helps to keep you fuller for longer. Fiber can be found in lots of foods like fruits, vegetables, oats, nuts, beans, and more!
7. Watch out for “low-fat” and “fat-free” foods. These foods will have less fat, but the fat will often be replaced with something else, like sugar. Compare the low-fat or fat-free with the original. Does it have more sugar and calories? Then choose the original and follow the serving size.
8. Don’t deprive yourself of what you want. If you want ice cream, then don’t deprive yourself of it. Keep in mind the serving size and the cues from your body.
9. Don’t go it alone. Improving yourself is always hard. Find someone who is willing to go on the journey with you so that you can support each other.
10. Enjoy yourself! Food is meant to be celebrated and enjoyed. Don’t get to the point where seeing food no longer brings you joy. If you ever get close to that point, stop and think about what you’re doing that is making you unhappy. Stay true to yourself and learn to listen to your body.
At the end of the day, it is our happiness that matters the most. Be happy and enjoy yourself on your journey to eating mindfully. Don’t strive for perfection. Strive for better than yesterday.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask!!