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Building a Meal Plan: This Template Is the Perfect Starting Point

Author: Cecilia Snyder, MS, RD

Have you ever come home from a long day, collapsed on the couch, and realized that you have absolutely no mental or physical energy left to spend on deciding what to have for dinner? We’ve all been there a time or two. Any for anyone who’s been on a weight loss journey, you probably already know how feeling exhausted can easily set you off course and lead to making decisions that you might not normally make. Pizza, takeout, a freezer meal… these are the types of options we’re likely to choose in those moments when the energy to make a healthier choice just isn’t there. 

Sometimes, the quick decision simply just has to be made. There’s no absolutely no shame in doing so! But one way to avoid finding yourself in this situation to begin with is by building your own personal meal plan. One that’s right for your individual needs, preferences, and lifestyle. And one that feels like a plan you could stick with forever. So what’s the best way to find this perfect-for-you meal plan? Use a meal plan template and build one yourself! 

Laying the foundation for your meal plan template

Before getting started building your own personal meal plan, there are a couple of factors that you should always take into consideration. Meal planning has its pros and its cons, and simply put, it just might not be right for everyone. 

Meal Plan Pros:

Meal Plan Cons:

  • Time consuming on the front end
  • Unless your meal plan contains a ton of variety, you might grow tired of it
  • Requires trial and error to figure out what type of meal plan process works best for you
  • Without a consistent schedule, it could be tough to find time to dedicate to your plans
  • When unexpected circumstances arise, your planned meal could possibly go wasted
  • Less learning about how to navigate making food choices on a daily basis no matter what setting or situation you find yourself in

As you can see, there are a ton of different ways to look at meal planning. Plus, there are a ton of different ways to go about it! Despite this flexibility though, for many of us, when the word meal plan first comes to mind, we immediately begin to think of all the perfectly prepared and portioned meal prep images that we’ve seen floating around the internet. While that method might work well for some, it’s not for everyone. And this is the point where our through distortions usually begin to come into the picture…  

How could I ever find the time to cook all of this food when I work all weekend? Won’t I get bored of eating the same thing each and every day? But where did they get all of those colorful little containers? 

But, if you feel like the pros of meal planning outweigh the cons, don’t let these thoughts hold you back from customizing your very own meal plan template! The beauty in meal planning is that–your meal plan doesn’t have to look just like everyone else’s does! Maybe you don’t even have the time or means to cook at home at all. Like when you’re traveling, for example. Even in a situation like this, simply thinking about your meals ahead of time and trying to plan out what you’ll have each day can go a long way. 

So by following a few key steps, you have the power to create a meal plan that’s just right for you…  

Your custom meal plan template: Follow these 5 steps!

1. Set aside time

One thing to know up front about meal planning is that it does require time. There’s just no real way around it! Especially in the beginning, you’ll need to think through all of the various components of your plan–how many meals and snacks you’ll have each day, how many calories to allocate between them, whether or not you’ll prepare some items ahead of time. Deciding the answers to these questions requires time and attention. And laying out this framework is the very first step.  

2. Break down your budget

If done right, meal planning planning not only has the potential to save you time on the back, but it’s possible that it will save you money as well. Think about how much money you’d like to be spending on your meals per day (or week, month, year, etc.). This will provide a starting point to make sure that you don’t even up buying too much or too little of the ingredients you’ll need. 

3, Pick your recipes

When choosing your recipes, make sure to think about:

  • Preferences (how much you’ll enjoy a certain meal)
  • Nutritional value (how many calories a meal contains and whether or not it is going to keep you feeling full)
  • Convenience (how long a meal will take to prepare)
  • Easability (does a meal require certain cooking skills and do you have all of the equipment you’ll need to make it work)
  • Budget (enough said)

4. Make your grocery list and stock up

Once you’ve got your budget and your recipes in place, now the real fun begins! Time to go shopping and stock up on all of the ingredients you need to put your meal plan into action. Consolidate your recipes and your grocery list into an organized and easy-to-read format with a meal plan template like this one

5. Get cooking!

Last, but certainly not least, prepare your meals! Exactly how you go about doing this is going to depend on what you decided in step #1. Maybe you decided that you’d like to pick one day of the week on which you’ll prepare all of your meals. Or maybe you picked out recipes that are quick and easy to throw together after work each day. This is going to vary from person to person. They key is just making sure to have that plan in mind already before you dive in and get started. 

Putting it all together and making it stick

Once you’ve mastered these 5 steps, the sky’s the limit when it comes to meal plans! And once you’re in a consistent routine, don’t be afraid to get creative, mix things up, and try out some new ideas. Let’s be honest, you probably don’t want to eat the exact same menu of meals every week or every month for the rest of your life. It’s just not sustainable! But once you’ve got your own meal plan template in place, you can adjust it each week to fit your mood and your needs. 

Your meal plan. Your journey!

Before we go, I’ve got one last meal planning tip to share… if you really want to make the most of a meal plan, consider signing up for the Noom app! Why? Because at Noom, we’ll provide you with all of the tools and information that you’ll need to feel confident with whatever type of meal plan you decide to pursue. 

We know that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to meal planning, or to weight loss in general for that matter! So with the help of your personal health coaches and a support group of peers, you’ll be able to bounce around different ideas and walk through the meal planning process side-by-side with your very own support system. Get started building your custom meal plan today