When people find out I’m a nutritionist they often ask me if I could write them up a meal plan. My response is always ‘no’.
Now this isn’t because I don’t want to help – those who know me well know I’m always happy to talk about food, sometimes to the point of annoyance – but I don’t believe that meal plans are the right approach to healthy eating.
For me the problem with meal plans is that much like diets they’re too prescriptive. While they have their place in a clinical setting for patients who are managing medical conditions, for the general population it’s more important to develop a healthy, intuitive relationship with food rather than being told exactly what to eat for each meal.
By now most of us have a general idea of which foods are nutritious and which are less so.
We know that fruits and vegetables are going to provide us with more nutrients than donuts and chips. We also know that overeating on a regular basis is not the healthiest approach.
So instead of following a meal plan, focus on the nutritious foods you enjoy and start incorporating more of them into your diet.
If you’re not a huge fan of vegetables/fruits/legumes etc try to find ways to work them into your favourite meals. After all, you’re more likely to eat well if you enjoy what you’re eating.
The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating is another great resource which will help to give you an idea of how many serves of the different food groups you should be aiming for each day. Keep in mind though that it should only be used as a rough guide as every day will be a little different.
At each meal aim for the majority of your plate to be plant based ie. vegetables, salad, fruits, wholegrain/high fibre grains, legumes etc. and consume other foods such as meat and dairy in smaller amounts.
When it comes to quantity remember the Japanese rule of ‘Hara Hachi Bu’ ie. eat until you’re 80 per cent full and focus on eating slowly so you’re less likely to over consume.