When you think of meal plans you probably think of the cute ‘bikini diet’ meal plan images and PDFs that you can download from Pinterest. You may also think of the chicken and rice 5x a day meal plans, or the bodybuilding meal plans, or the meal plans that you see your favorite fit influencer touting on social media. The bigger question here though that we’re going to address in this article is are meal plans for the week worth it? When we say worth it, we’re talking worth your time, effort, and financial investment all in an effort to achieve your goals. Or, is there a better way to go, and if so, what are the other options? Let’s dig in, shall we.
What Is A Meal Plan
A meal plan is a structure that you have for the week ahead where you can lay out your meals in advance. A weekly meal plan should be based around your preferred eating times, food items, meals, as well as include snacks, pre- and post-workout meals (if that is part of your lifestyle). By planning for your week ahead, you can also lay out your grocery list, understand how much time you’re going to need to shop and prep your food, have food on hand for when you get hungry during the week as grab and go items, as well as save you money. A meal plan is essentially a menu for your week.
Who Are Meal Plans For
Meal plans are a great tool for individuals who are looking for more structure and guidance in their dietary lifestyle for their week ahead. Meal plans are also a great way for individuals to make sure they’re eating enough, eating for their goals, and meeting their nutritional needs. Meal plans are great for busy individuals, families, athletes, people who are experiencing health disparities, looking to save money, reduce the guesswork around what to eat and when to eat, and more. Essentially, meal plans are a great tool for just about anyone.
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Why Meal Plans For The Week Work
Meal plans work because they take the guesswork out of your routine so that you always have food on hand. They allow you to see how much you’re eating, what you’re eating, and how nutritiously you’re eating. Meal plans make achieving specific health or aesthetic goals a little easier. They also help avoid going too hungry, or too long without eating, so that you don’t get hangry, eat out, feel out of control, or skip meals unintentionally simply because you don’t know what to eat.
Meal plans are also great for individuals who have no established eating routine and who don’t know what to eat. Most individuals weren’t raised in a household or an environment where they were taught how to eat, how to prep and cook food, and how to plan ahead. Unfortunately, as we emerge into adulthood, it is expected of us to know this, so we try to figure it out as best we can. By pre-portioning food, you can begin to use food as a tool to fuel your energy, mood, and your life, rather than feeling stressed out, bogged down, and confused about eating and going to the grocery store.
Meal plans can also help individuals establish basic lifestyle habits, like not eating trigger/allergen foods, improve the amount of protein that they’re eating, learn and understand how to use macros and calories to optimize body composition, and to improve the amount of nutrient dense foods (like vegetables) that they’re eating on a daily and weekly basis. Ultimately, meal plans can work when an individual uses them like a tool to take the stress and pressure off of what to eat and when to eat, so that they have the room and mental clarity to ask themselves how the food makes them feel, how their energy is, as well as other things like how their overall performance both in their life and in the gym is improving (or not).
RECOMMENDED: 1:1 Customized Nutrition Coaching
Why Meal Plans For The Week Don’t Work
Often times meal plans for the week ahead don’t work because they’re not customized enough for the individual, not sustainable (i.e. chicken and rice 5x a day), not designed for the individual’s lifestyle, or they aren’t accompanied by a coach/coaching program to teach them why they’re doing what they’re doing. Often times, in the nutrition world, meal plans can be seen as a band-aid solution to eating better and eating more efficiently, and most often, this is when the individual is blindly following the meal plan, rather than doing the inner work required to make a sustainable and maintainable lifestyle change.
Another reason why meal plans don’t work is because the individual doesn’t follow it. Now this can be because of a few reasons, mainly being that either the meal plan wasn’t made for them and is therefore not something that the individual can connect or resonate with or to see the ‘why’ behind the action. Another reason is that the meal plan doesn’t involve foods that the individual regularly consumes or enjoys consuming, so they can feel too restrictive and overbearing.
While yes, meal plans can absolutely save time, money, and be a very efficient way to plan your week, the caveat is that the individual needs to follow the plan to see if it works for them. Sometimes we see people make up or purchase or download the best meal plan out there, go to the grocery store, make the food, then just say ‘oh well I don’t want that’ and get Door Dash instead. Which, is definitely not going to save money.
RECOMMENDED: 1:1 Nutrition Coaching + Customized Meal Plans
What Is A Customized Meal Plan
While there are pro’s and con’s to meal plans, there is a way to make them work for you and your lifestyle. However, it is not going to be by downloading one for free on the internet or by purchasing the one provided by your social media influencer fitness guru. It is going to be by working 1:1 with a dedicated, professional nutrition coach or nutritionist, who is going to curate and write that meal plan with you (not just for you). In doing so, you will be able to incorporate the routines, lifestyle, and foods that you love, while having your calories and macros balanced for you and your goals (performance, aesthetic, health, etc.). The meal plan should have as much or as little variety on it so that you’re not getting bored of meals, seeing improvements in your energy, sleep, recovery, overall mood state, vibrancy, and so much more.
Customized meal plans should also come with recipes and a grocery list. In doing so, you’ll know exactly how much and of what to get at the grocery store, so that you don’t have to groom through the meal plan to figure out how many apples or how many oz of beef to get when you’re pushing your grocery cart around. Now this all being said, the reason why we recommend having a 1:1 dedicated nutrition coach is because meal plans aren’t a cure all. Just because you can make a plan and follow it doesn’t necessarily meal that you’re going to achieve results, make habit or lifestyle changes, or a be a student of the process. This is where it gets a little tricky and why most people say that meal plans are a band-aid solution.
So instead of blindly following a plan that wasn’t made for you, with foods that you don’t enjoy, we recommend working with a professional to get customized meal plans, recipes, and grocery lists made for you on a weekly basis (by a real human!) so that you can learn how to improve your life, health, aesthetic and performance, from the inside out.
Customized Nutrition Coaching and Meal Plans
Now where to find that? You’re in luck! Here at Swolverine and The Swole Kitchen we do offer 1:1 customized meal plans, recipes, grocery lists, as well as 1:1 dedicated coaching. Whatever your goal is, we have a plan for you. By working together we can find ways for you to improve your overall lifestyle without feeling restricted, limited, or like you have to be in an all or nothing mindset to achieve your goals. We provide you with flexibility, guidance, mentoring, accountability, ideas, habit and goal formation, as well as so much more, so that we can empower you to make choices about your body and the food you put in it, from a place of self trust and intuition.
Are Meal Plans Worth It: Takeaway
In short, meal plans can either work for you or against you, but ultimately, it is up to you if you’re going to be a student of the process and seek out a customized experience rather than following a template meal plan that wasn’t made for you in the first place. While yes, meal plans can be a band-aid and something that you can blindly follow, by coupling meal plans with a nutrition coaching experience, you can begin to learn how and why certain foods, macros, calories, and routines of eating are recommended, so you can begin to rise the tides for all boats in your lifestyle. This means not only being able to achieve your fitness, health, aesthetic and performance goals, but understanding how you got there, so that you can continue to maintain and sustain your goals long term. Also, so you can ditch yo-yo dieting and diet culture, forever.
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