Have you ever embarked on a meal plan, only to give up after a few short days? If so, you may be wondering, “Do Meal Plans Work?”
Have you ever heard the quote, “give a man a fish, and he eats for a day? Teach a man how to fish, and he eats for a lifetime?” Substitute “fish” for “meal plan,” and you have your answer as to why Registered Dietitians prefer to teach meal planning rather than provide their clients with a set meal plan.
In this blog post, we’ll answer the question “do meal plans work?”, meal planning vs meal prepping and how to stick to a meal plan while providing strategies to help you succeed with your healthy eating goals.
Let’s start with why meal plans can fail and how to identify common pitfalls.
Why do meal plans fail?
Meal plans can fail for a variety of reasons. Here are seven of the most common reasons meal plans fail:
- People stop following them. This is the most obvious reason. If a person chooses to stop following a meal plan, it will not work for them.
- Meal plans don’t teach how to make healthy choices. Meal plans can act as a band-aid solution to provide healthier eating options, but they don’t actually teach you how to make healthy choices on your own. This means that as soon as you’re off the meal plan, you’re back to where you started.
- Meal plans do not teach how to listen to your body and cues. When you’re following a meal plan, you’re at the mercy of what the meal plan tells you to eat. This means you’re not able to listen to your body’s hunger, fullness, and satisfaction cues.
- Following a meal plan can reduce satisfaction in meals. Let’s face it – following a meal plan can get pretty boring if you’re eating the same foods day in and day out.
- Following a meal plan often leads to cravings and overeating of restricted foods. Meal plans often fail to incorporate “fun” foods like chips, chocolate, and ice cream. By avoiding these foods completely, you may start to develop cravings and binge on those foods when you’re around them.
Meal Planning Vs Meal Prepping
You may be wondering about meal planning vs meal prepping – after all, they sound pretty similar. But there are a few key differences.
Meal planning is simply the act of planning out your meals for the day or week. It can involve using a calendar to plan out your meals and grocery lists to ensure you pick up all the required ingredients at the store.
Meal prepping, on the other hand, involves the act of preparing and portioning out your meals ahead of time. Many people will choose to meal prep based on their meal plan so that they’re prepared for the day or week ahead.
How to Stick to a Meal Plan
Knowledge is power, and understanding the common pitfalls of meal plans is the first step toward successfully adhering to a well-structured and balanced meal plan. To stick to a meal plan, it is essential to set realistic and achievable goals, taking into account personal preferences and nutritional needs. Begin by creating a diverse menu, incorporating a variety of ingredients and flavours to avoid boredom and monotony. Prioritize meal prep, making it a weekly ritual to facilitate adherence to the plan. Finally, be prepared to adapt your meal plan as needed, allowing for occasional indulgences and recognizing that flexibility is key to long-term success. By being proactive and strategic, you will be well-equipped to maintain a meal plan that supports a healthy lifestyle.
5 Reasons Why Meal Plans Should Be Personalized.
When creating a personalized meal plan, I keep the following five principles of successful meal planning in mind:
Does the meal plan meet your caloric and nutrient needs?
Does the meal plan provide a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat?
Does the meal plan provide a variety of different foods?
Does the meal plan provide enjoyable foods such as dessert in moderation?
Does the meal plan nourish both your body and your mind?
“When You Have a Meal Plan That Works, You Will Be Much More Likely to Successfully Reach Your Health Goals.”
My job is about far more than just creating recipes for meal plans. I match clients’ goals, lifestyles, schedules, and actual needs to a nutrition and meal plan that is based on each client’s individual caloric and nutritional needs.
Along that process, I coach my clients on how to make it fit into their schedule and lifestyle so that they can sustain the plan, feel good doing it, and continue to see great results.
Meal plans can assist you in reaching your health goals. You will know you are working with someone who is interested in your individual needs because they will not only develop a personalized meal plan but will also:
- Provide a recipe book to go with your meal plans for added variety and appropriate substitutions.
- Learn and pay attention to your meal patterns so that your meal plan is flexible.
- Look for a meal plan that allows you to assemble food on your own with portions and guidelines.
- Make sure your meal plan is 100% tailored to your unique preferences, lifestyle, structure, formula, culture, cuisine, likes, dislikes, health, and family life.
As an expert in nutrition, it is my job to eliminate the struggle of healthy meals for my clients. I do this by breaking down what’s not working first. If a lack of cooking skills is an issue, then I research and recommend cooking classes that can build my clients’ ability and confidence. If time is an issue with my clients, then I discuss their schedules, routines, motivations, and goals. I work collaboratively with my clients to devise a meal plan that works for everyone. In my blog on 8 ways to make healthy eating easy, you will find additional solutions to the challenges that occur from thinking about eating to actually finishing a satisfying meal.
Is the Lack of Customization the Biggest Reason That Meal Plans Fail?
Lack of customization is often an issue for people following a meal plan – especially in the long term. I encourage all my clients to share their recipes with me so we can discuss the overall nutritional value and make healthy substitutions and tweaks.
I enjoy tweaking recipes, including adjusting the number of servings and portion sizes to teach my clients how to make appropriate substitutions for food allergens, sensitivities and dislikes. We also focus on enjoyment and the quality of their meals.
When considering your healthy eating goals, ask yourself if you need to talk to a nutrition professional or another nutrition app? Is meal planning what you need to eat well and nourish your body?
My meal planning and nutritional coaching services help clients become educated and organized, keeping them motivated and held accountable. I am your “best nutrition friend” who will help you navigate a healthier, happier, more organized, less stressful, less time-consuming, and more delicious future with food.
Now that you understand why meal plans fail, it’s time to start looking at a meal plan that will work for you. If you’re interested in changing your relationship with food and creating new habits, schedule a call.