It’s a prescription.  It’s a written document for exactly what to eat and when.  It can even seem like a command or directive at times – especially when your tastes just don’t jive with what’s up next on the plan.  Yes, I’m talking about the ever popular meal plan and they are everywhere it seems!

I’ll go ahead and apologize to anyone who loves them – or who just relies on them.  No doubt they can be effective for many, many people.  But I just don’t live that way.  I enjoy everything about food from planning, to shopping, to cooking, to sampling and then ultimately enjoying the meal with family and friends.  Start to finish it’s all good. Except, now that I think about it,  I guess I don’t really like the cleaning up part all that much!

So what’s my point  you ask?  Well my point is – how is someone supposed to learn how to plan and shop and eat a healthy balanced diet, or even drop a few pounds, if they don’t spend some time learning about how to make their own meal plans?  And more than that, how can they live a life free of restrictions if they don’t learn how to eat in a relaxed and ‘non prescribed’ manner?  I don’t know many people who can just stay on a written meal plan for the rest of their lives and be happy.  Most people can’t stick to a meal plan – because life gets in the way and often, the plan just doesn’t work.

I think the key is to learn how to modify the things you like and to learn to like things that are more healthy.  The truth is most of us have about 2-3 different things that we like to eat for each meal.  We really don’t require a ton of variety when we like what we eat and often just prefer grabbing something tasty and convenient.  Tasty and convenient.  Hmm – maybe that’s a key?  So let’s add the element of healthy nutrition to tasty and convenient.  Is that possible?  I say, absolutely, by making meal transformations that work for you!

Meal plans are selling because they can take some of the overwhelm out of steps needed to modify behavior.  But, you can do this yourself by just making one modification at a time.  I absolutely love the training I received at Precision Nutrition and the science around both nutrition and making sustainable changes has been incredibly effective for hundreds of thousands of clients.  I want to give them full credit for their approach to ditch the meal plans and avoid another doomed eating regime by making transformations in one’s current diet.  Here’s how  the “Transformation Game” works using Breakfast as example:

  • Think of the meal like a game or puzzle – How can I make this meal just a little bit better for me?
    • Let’s say your favorite grab and go breakfast is whipped cream coffee and chocolate croissant from a drive thru
      • This is not a “bad” thing – its just not working for you these days given your health goals. Maybe you are getting indigestion from eating on the go and the croissant never holds you to lunch.
      • Modification 1 – Instead of croissant – choose whole grain muffin; instead of fancy coffee, try coffee and regular cream and sugar; and grab a yogurt cup on the way to the car so you start getting a little protein.

You are still rushed and busy, but hey, you made some easy changes that are good for you!  Keep going!  Next Level

  • Switch the muffin to low sugar granola and add cottage cheese or greek yogurt
  • Switch the cream to 2% milk
  • Add some fruit to your morning
  • Maybe you are sitting at the table now and not rushing out the door and eating out of packages.  Now you are setting aside time to actually enjoy breakfast.
    • Soon, go ahead and try to meal prep an egg dish (frittata, egg muffin, healthy egg casserole) add some veggies to your egg dish.  Maybe you are drinking your coffee black now or sometimes drinking green tea.  Protein and veggies and fruit have become the stars of breakfast!

Here’s the thing about the “Transformation Game” – the changes add up.  You can do this one meal at a time and examine all your favorite meals to see where you can transform them in a healthy way.  Meal transformation is not about reaching “perfection.”  Whatever stage you are in, all you have to do is shoot for the next stage.  How far you progress depends on what you can reasonably do and what works for you.  Maybe you are great at transforming breakfast and lunch, but dinner is just something you don’t want to compromise – yet.  That’s perfectly ok.  Allow your body to benefit from the changes you are making and allow your mind to enjoy the SUCCESS!

Once you are happy with your refined changes and transformations to several of your meals, give yourself another edge by having a food prep ritual.  Keep those good ingredients on hand and make ahead the things you like that work for you in each meal. Don’t forget to mix and match!  Breakfast for dinner is great!

The best kind of meal plan is one you design, one that is specific to your tastes and one that makes healthy eating convenient and easy.   My programs teach you how to get to this point plus tons of other powerful tools and approaches to a healthy lifestyle.  Fit and healthy people who have a good relationship with food don’t need other people to tell them what to eat ALL THE TIME!  That is certainly my approach to nutrition coaching – to get you to where you just don’t need me or a meal plan anymore!