Daily Tip Number Three: Plan it Out

With this week, and the week before that, having been so hectic, I wanted to talk about something that has been crucial for me: meal planning. With Halloween festivities in full swing, I don’t always stay on track, but having meals ready to go has at the least kept me balanced and not completely nutritionally bankrupt. Meal planning is well worth the time, and for me the most important tip for keeping on track, no matter what the day throws at you.

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But before we dive into meal-planning, I should talk about something else. Before I can make a meal-plan, I need to know what type of plan I need, what resources are at my disposal, and for that I turn to the art of macro nutrients. “If it fits your macros” is the saying of flexible dieting, meaning eat or drink what you like, as long as it fits your macros. Basically, your can have your cake and eat it too.

Depending on your body type and fitness goals, you have a set number of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Your macro numbers are your target range, so eat can eat whatever you like, just stay within those boundaries. I think of it as a budget, you can’t spend more than you have and you can’t eat more than you have. Want to eat a donut? Have at it! But budget accordingly, those donuts cost a lot of carbs. Macro dieting is how people can eat pizza and drink beer and still lose weight. It’s not magic, it’s just an incredible amount of self-discipline and pre-planning to stay within bounds.  For a more in-depth look at macros, see this article from CookingLight for a great introduction to flexible dieting.

So how do you know what your macros are? Well that’s the tricky part. You can create your own, say 30% protein, 30% fat and 40% carbs, or you can have an expert do it for you. The easiest option for me was online at Avatarnutrition.com.

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There, you create a profile and determine your fitness goals, and from there the program creates a macro plan. This is great because you can tweak it as you go along, figuring out what macro combination works. For weight-loss I respond best to low-carb, high protein diets, and my previous macros when I was weight-cutting reflected that.

Once you have your macro parameters, you can now make an eating plan. I like to do my meal planning on Sundays, at the beginning of the week. For me, I find I need most help with lunch, and sometimes breakfast. For an in-depth article on the process, check-out this article from MyFitnessPal blog.

Last Sunday, I had a box of my favorite high-protein noodles from Explore Cuisine. These noodles are made from edamame or beans, and are a great way to have pasta and a crazy amount of protein at the same time.

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I find this particular brand at a specialty health foods grocery store

To go with the noodle, I chose a lower calorie pasta sauce, this time one of my favorites, the Creamy Rosé Tomato and Cream Sauce from the Kroger Private Selection brand.

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The Private Selection brand is sold at Kroger, Baker’s and Gerbe’s grocery stores

This box of noodles has four servings, so I made sure I had four empty containers ready to go. Then, I made the noodles according to the directions. Once done, I needed to know how much was in each serving. To do this, I put a large bowl on a food scale and zeroed it out and then added the noodles. Once I knew the total weight, I just divided by four.

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Then I was ready to assemble each container. I zeroed out each empty container on the food scale.

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Then, I added the correct portion of noodles. From there, I zeroed out again to measure a single serving of sauce. While these noodles are high protein, I wanted to bump it up even more. I zeroed out the container again, and added two ounces of grilled chicken to each bowl, along with some veggies. And that’s a it! Now I had a perfectly portioned lunch bowl.

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I just repeated for the next three containers, and had four lunches ready to go for the coming week.

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For me, it’s okay to eat the same thing four days straight, but I could also have mixed it up a bit. The point is now, no matter how crazy the week becomes, it’s just one more stressor I don’t have to worry about, and spending a few hours on Sunday cooking is well-worth it!

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