I’m not sure about you and your profession, but seriously the minute people find out I’m a dietitian it’s like I’m a tourist being bombarded with tomatoes at La Tomatina. Suddenly I’m subjected to all things food and nutrition. Questions like, is a,b,c,d,e,f,g,h,I,j,k,l,m,n,o,p,q,r,s,t,u,v,w,x,y,z bad for me?
Do I need to snack? Do you really burn more calories eating the calories in celery? (Seriously, one day I’ll just say I’m a gynaecologist.) But up there at the top would be ‘Perfect, I want to lose weight. Can you write me a meal plan?’
So I’ll ask you this:
Do you do your shopping?
What vegetables do you like?
Do you have any food allergies?
What about intolerances?
Do you follow any cultural food regimes?
When you sit down to a meal, do you finish all your plate?
Wait, where do you sit down for a meal?
Do you own a microwave?
What are your physical activity levels like?
How do you feel about porridge?
How big is your fridge?
Can you cook?
Those questions are one reason why I won’t give you a generic meal plan.
Your answers are another reason why I won’t give you a generic meal plan.
Because what if I told you to eat quinoa porridge?
What if I told you to have porridge with banana and honey, but you’re really more of a savoury person, how would you feel?
How about the asparagus and mushroom quiche for lunch on Wednesday? Do you think your egg allergy can handle it?
Baked sweet potatoes, stuffed with freekeh, smoked almonds, kale and feta sound fantastic, but your oven is broken and your supermarket doesn’t stock freekeh.
Wait, what is freekeh?
Maybe it’s not so simple after all?
These are just a few responses some of you may have. And look, I don’t doubt that some of you are like, well just use rice instead of freekeh or make your porridge with oats, and hey that is great. That’s how I would love you to think, but the reality is, this is not the case for everyone.
As I’ve said before, nutrition is not a one sizes fits all approach. I can’t just print you off a generic meal plan full of everything that I think is delicious and nutritious and expect you to follow it to the t.
But I do get it. Meal plans are attractive.
They are easy to follow, someone has done the work for you and provided you some structure and some guidance. Maybe this will be the key to your success (whatever that may be). Because, hey, a little bit of planning doesn’t hurt and if this is that gentle nudge you need to remind you to get some vegies on your plate each day, then that is fantastic.
However, there can be a down side to meal plans.
And therefore additional reasons why I won’t give you a generic meal plan.
Meal plans can be restrictive due to the fact that we as humans often like to stick to a plan.
Some may even say a meal plan is a set of rules. Therefore, not flexible?
They may not necessarily teach you the basics about food and nutrition either.
And the reality is, sometimes life grabs you by the balls, chucks you in the lake and hangs you out to dry. If you’re anything like me, you’ll put on some gangster rap, drink a strong skinny latte and handle it. LOL I clearly spend to much time on social media. In all serious, some days you just really don’t feel like going to the supermarket, buying the food for dinner and then going home to put it all together. (People and cold weather and traffic and chopping pumpkin. Ugh.). So in that situation, what do you do? Does this stress you out? Or do you just go home and pan fry that salmon fillet you have in the freezer with those super handy steam fresh vegie bags. Maybe even eggs on toast, or that leftover spaghetti Bolognese in the freezer?
How would that sit with you when you were ‘meant’ to have a dukkah-roasted vegetable and quinoa salad?
Think about that for a moment.
When it comes to considering whether a meal plan is right for you, you need to be honest with yourself. This planning and structure may help you achieve ie. your physical goals. But what if it just causes you to stress, or you feel that little bit to rigid, or you just don’t know what to do when the almond crusted chicken breast with broccoli and sweet potato fries you have planned for tea isn’t really what you feel like?
That’s not easy, flexible or enjoyable is it?
I’m not saying meal plans do not work or they don’t have their place.
I’m just highlighting that they really need to be individualised, to meet your needs and therefore, work for you.
Because at the end of the day, healthy eating comes down to not just what you’re eating, but how you’re thinking and what you’re doing. So if you feel a meal plan is right for you, let’s do it. But I’ll let you guide it. I’ll teach you the basics but essentially, together it’s about developing something that will work for you and your lifestyle in the long term, not just for the next 16 weeks until summer hits.