Are you looking for an easier way to meal plan and eat healthier, but have no time in your busy schedule? Or, every time you want to start, you come across an overwhelming number of diets and conflicting nutritional advice, making it harder to know what approach is best for you.
When it comes to your meals, the one-size-fits-all approach does not work. Everyone is unique, and the ideal eating habits will be different for everyone, depending on their metabolism, lifestyle, weight, gender, etc.
Adopting a flexible meal planning strategy that is personalized to your preferences, goals, and metabolic age, will help you simplify the process and supports long-term dietary success. By knowing what you should eat, how much of it, and when, you'll see that meal planning will get quicker, easier, and more nutritious.
To achieve a healthy metabolism, eating the right foods, at the right time is key to functioning at its optimal level. You can help your body by planning and preparing your meals and snacks ahead of time.
Not only will you be less stressed, improve your diet quality, and help you reach your weight loss goals, but you’ll have time to do other things you enjoy. Keep reading to learn more about how to create a healthy meal plan to reach your goals, using a personalized nutrition approach.
Meal planning is the act of planning your meals ahead of time, generally before your week begins. This includes creating a meal plan and shopping list, as well as preparing and cooking your meals. However, keep in mind that your individual goals will require you to adjust your diet, and there’s no one-size-fits-all.
There are many enjoyable benefits to meal planning, including saving time and money, making healthier choices, and maintaining a more nutritional diet. Furthermore, having dinner ready for your family is helpful if you have a busy work schedule and other life commitments.
Additionally, you'll also be able to control your food portions and reduce the temptation to eat unhealthy foods. If you want to increase your metabolic health and eat nutrient-dense foods, paying attention to healthy habits is essential. A study conducted in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (1) also found that meal planning was directly linked to a healthy diet and lower levels of obesity.
No matter what your goals are, you can benefit from meal planning because it's a way to get organized and integrate long-term healthy habits. Remember that you do not have to have it all figured out, but having a rough guide can make a big difference.
Meal planning can be daunting, but once you understand the long-term benefits, you'll see that it's relatively easy. The first step is to prep your pantry. For some quick and healthy food options, download our free grocery list cheatsheet.
You'll need to think about what you're planning to eat, head over to the grocery store to buy ingredients (tip: basics can be used in many meals), and ultimately cook your meals.
To make things easier, try using a nutritional app that meets your metabolic needs, and look for various recipes that you enjoy.
Also, identify your health goals and assess your current eating habits. This way, you can create a personalized weekly plan. In fact, measuring your metabolism is where you should begin.
The idea of cooking a week’s worth of meals in one day can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Follow these steps to get started:
You don't necessarily need to engage in meal prep for all your meals in order to reap its advantages. If the idea of cooking a week's worth of food seems overwhelming, you can begin by focusing on a single meal or even just one day's worth of meals.
As you develop the habit of preparing meals in advance, you can slowly but steadily expand the scope of your meal prepping. Eventually, you'll find yourself comfortably prepping the necessary number of meals to sustain you throughout the entire week.
We all have our favorite recipes, and by personalizing them to your macro recommendations, you can use a nutritional app to log and save your recipes. When it comes to meal prep, no-cook recipes prove to be splendid choices, as they eliminate the need for cooking and can be readily prepared ahead of time. Salads, grain bowls, wraps, and sushi are among the delightful examples of such recipes.
Once you’ve decided on your recipes, make a list of all the ingredients you’ll need. You can use this healthy items grocery list to keep in check. If you already have some of the ingredients at home, great! If not, add them to your shopping list.
If you’re creating a meal plan for weight loss, let Lumen take the sting out of this process. Our app will guide you with macro combos that will suit your body, restructure your habits, and coach you on your way to metabolic health!
As you look over your meal plans and grocery list, remember to include flexible meal plans for high and low-carb days. Learning about the different types of carbohydrates will help you make more informed choices. Alternating between low, medium, and high-carb days (AKA carb cycling) will teach your body how to process different amounts of carbs, which will improve your metabolic flexibility, leading to optimized energy levels, and better weight management. Our Lumen metabolic coaches have created a list of guidelines for healthy meal prep.
These meal prep ideas include:
Stock up on versatile ingredients, both for high- and low-carb meals. Foods such as lean proteins, non-starchy vegetables, healthy fats, and whole grains.
Have a variety of ingredients readily available so you can easily adjust recipes based on your carb intake for that day.
Learn to modify recipes. For example, replacing rice with cauliflower rice or using zucchini noodles instead of pasta.
Get creative and cook meals that control your carb intake.
Print this nutritionist-approved 7-day low carb recipes.
A recipe to try: Salmon with Cauliflower Rice
1 tbsp olive oil (optional: parsley for topping)
Salt and pepper for taste (or other favorite seasonings)
Cauliflower and rice
A recipe to try: Lemon Pepper Grilled Chicken with Rice and Lentils and Steam Broccoli
Lemon, salt, and pepper for seasoning
Rice with lentils; or quinoa, lentils and pomegranate salad
To know when to eat a low- or high-carb meal, you’ll first need to calculate your macros. Determine your daily caloric needs and then figure out how much of those calories you’re going to allocate from macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fats).
Meal planning and exercise or movement are essential aspects of maintaining a balanced and healthy lifestyle. A well-structured meal plan not only fuels the body with the necessary nutrients for optimal performance but also aids in effective recovery after physical activity.
By incorporating nutrient-dense foods and tailoring meal plans to individual activity levels, individuals can ensure they have the energy and stamina required for their workouts while also supporting muscle repair and growth.
A pre workout meal plan synced with exercise schedules can help optimize nutrient timing, maximize physical activity benefits, and promote overall health.
The connection between meal planning and sleep is a vital, yet often overlooked, component of overall health and well-being. A well-designed meal plan not only provides the body with essential nutrients but also plays a crucial role in promoting restful sleep.
Consuming a balanced diet rich in foods containing sleep-enhancing nutrients, such as tryptophan, magnesium, and melatonin, can help regulate sleep cycles and improve sleep quality.
Furthermore, incorporating mindful meal planning practices, such as avoiding large, heavy meals or stimulants like caffeine and sugar close to bedtime, can prevent sleep disturbances and promote relaxation.
By establishing a strong link between meal planning and sleep, individuals can support their body's natural sleep patterns, leading to better rest, increased energy levels, and improved overall health.
Meal prep can be challenging at first, but you can gradually start by incorporating a few meals throughout the week.
Once you develop a habit, you can begin adding more meals. With consistency, meal-prepping will become part of your routine, and you'll see the long-term benefits.
Stock up on food storage containers to store your prepped and cooked food.
Make sure you have your staples in your fridge or pantry.
Print out meal plans, like this one, and have a grocery list ready with your healthy ingredients.
Use a meal planning app that will help make the process (and decision-making) easier
In addition, you should track your progress so that you can see the momentum clearly and stay motivated to keep going.
Second, join a community of like-minded people who share the same goals and values. Look for people who will support and hold you accountable on your health journey.
Remember, you do not have to be an expert to start. And also, don’t worry about getting it right the first time.
You can start now by downloading this nutritionist-approved printout of low-carb meals to make things easier.
You won’t always be able to stick to your plan perfectly. You may have an event where you can’t control the food served, a busy day that keeps you from the grocery store, or an illness that keeps you from working out.
That’s okay. It doesn’t mean your journey to better health is over, or that you won’t have a healthy lifestyle. The trick is to not get discouraged but just to begin again the next day.
Creating goals, identifying your metabolic health, and meal prepping can be intimidating if you are a beginner. However, once you understand what it takes, you can implement strategies to help you on your weight loss and overall health journey.
Make this journey fun by experimenting with various diets and meals using flexible meal planning to find what works for your lifestyle and health goals.
Now that you are aware of how important your metabolism is, you can create a personalized plan, like incorporating a macro diet, to meal prep and continue your weight loss journey.
As you work on a better and healthier you, remember to be patient, persistent, and kind to yourself.
Ducrot P, Méjean C, Aroumougame V, Ibanez G, Allès B, Kesse-Guyot E, Hercberg S, Péneau S. Meal planning is associated with food variety, diet quality and body weight status in a large sample of French adults. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2017 Feb 2;14(1):12. doi: 10.1186/s12966-017-0461-7. PMID: 28153017; PMCID: PMC5288891.
Smith RL, Soeters MR, Wüst RCI, Houtkooper RH. Metabolic Flexibility as an Adaptation to Energy Resources and Requirements in Health and Disease. Endocr Rev. 2018 Aug 1;39(4):489-517. doi: 10.1210/er.2017-00211. PMID: 29697773; PMCID: PMC6093334.
Healthline. (n.d.). Fitness, exercise, and eating healthy. Healthline. Retrieved April 19, 2023, from https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise-eating-healthy
Marine is a registered dietitian with a passion for well-being, health and metabolism. She started her career as a clinical dietitian, opened her private practice to accompany patients from various backgrounds in their health journey, and is now providing nutrition support for Lumen’s customers.