“Tina, just tell me what to eat!”
If I had a dime for every DM, blog comment, or email reply I received saying, “Tina, just tell me what to eat,” I’d be a gazillionaire! And I totally understand. Eating the ‘right’ foods in the ‘right’ amounts at the ‘right’ time of the day can be overwhelming and confusing – like we don’t already have enough going on juggling kids, work, household responsibilities… the list goes on. And on.
I understand it’s tempting to just want to be told what to eat. One less thing to think about, right? Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple. First of all, every person has different macro and caloric needs, so an across-the-board meal plan won’t always work. Second, we’re unique individuals with different likes and dislikes, food sensitivities, food access, etc., and that must always be taken into account. And, perhaps most importantly, it’s boring to eat the same foods day in and day out and that repeated pattern leads to binge eating that can seriously impact your progress.
Even though I don’t believe in a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to eating, I know that seeing how other people eat is helpful for generating ideas and defining what would work in your own day. So, I created a “framework” for creating meals and how I plan my day. I’ve broken it down into two parts which you can read about in detail and then save the images for quick reference in the future.
How to Make a Power Plate
Whenever I make myself a meal, whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner, I make sure that I include what I like to call the foundational four: protein, fat, starch (carb), and vegetables. Having these four things on my plate will ensure I’m getting the macro and micronutrients I need.
For breakfast, this might look like sweet potato hash, breakfast sausage mixed with all sorts of veggies, or leftovers from dinner.
At lunch, I might choose a homemade personal-size pizza on a low carb cauliflower crust topped with mozzarella, broccoli, and lean ground turkey.
For dinner, this may be a grilled chicken breast on top of a leafy greens salad with 2 tablespoons of my favorite salad dressing.
Each one of these meals incorporates the four elements of a power plate. Following this formula can be helpful for making an easy plate that has everything you need for a healthy and filling meal.
‘Create a Meal Plan’ Template
Building off of the power plate, you can use the ‘create a meal plan’ template below to make an easy-to-remember weekly meal plan that will keep you on track to reaching your goals. This simple formula incorporating the foundational four: protein, fat, carb, and vegetable, covers all of your bases at each meal while maintaining the balance of macro and micronutrients your body needs.
You’ll notice that each meal, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, features a slightly different combination of the foundational four. This is my personal go-to combo because I prefer to eat a bit more carb-heavy in the morning, which is when I exercise. My body needs more energy for my workouts, and carbs are the easiest to use, so I often front-load my day.
Honestly, it’s up to you how you stack your meals. This plan is what works best for me in terms of weight management, organization, and helping control my hunger. But, if fat loss is your goal, be sure to time your starchy carbs around your workouts.
The Bottom Line
So, if you wanted to know ‘what to eat,’ that’s it. Pretty easy! Create a meal plan based in protein, fat, carbohydrate, and non-starchy vegetables and you’re on your way to developing a personalized and balanced nutrition program.
I will never prescribe or recommend a ‘one-size-fits-all’ meal plan, but I certainly understand the need for a simple formula. This framework, based on the foundational four, has been something I’ve used as my own guidepost for years and even recommend it to my one-on-one and group coaching clients. Especially useful when traveling or when you find yourself ‘in a pinch,’ both the power plate and create a meal plan templates will provide you with the nutrition you need to get long-lasting results without overcomplicating things.
Do you follow a set plan or system for your daily meals? Does it include the foundational four? What is your biggest struggle when it comes to figuring out what to eat? I’d love to hear from you…let’s chat in the comments!