Meal Planning Tips for Easier Calorie/Macro Counting

Below are some tips for meal planning. This would be helpful for those who struggle with hitting macros/calories or just want to save time and not have to log food every day.

Remember, in order of importance: calories (eat less than you burn to lose weight, more than you burn to gain weight), then at least get the minimum amount of protein you need, and at least the minimum amount of fiber you need. Where your carbs and fat end up are less important as long as you’re comfortable with your food choices.

Meal Planning Tips

Before you put your meals together in real life, I recommend logging them into your calorie tracker using the following ideas – after each step you can go back and see what room you have left in your calories, and keep adding until you reach your goal (or adjust the servings of what you’ve already logged if you go over on calories).

It’s good to do this at least a day in advance so you don’t really have to think about it the day of.

1. Splurges

Optionally: if you are craving something – a certain dish or some type of snack food that might be lower in nutrition, you can choose to log just a small serving of it first. For example, I randomly crave pizza so I will go and add a serving of it before I log anything else. If I can fit it in after hitting my protein and fiber, then I keep it in my plan.

2. Protein sources

Pick a main protein source for each meal – see “Macro Cheat Sheet” for ideas and also, see below for some leaner protein source ideas (it’s fine if you want something outside of this list also).

  • Egg whites – can be added to oatmeal, used in different recipes (I’ll forward some), used in place of eggs or even added to eggs to add more volume
  • Greek yogurt and cottage cheese (2% or low fat)
  • Lean cuts of meat: http://www.livestrong.com/article/444843-what-is-the-leanest-meat-to-eat/
  • Whey, egg protein, or vegetarian protein – though real food might be more satisfying, this is an easy way to get more protein. Can be added to things like oatmeal, baked goods, smoothies/shakes, etc. Also protein bars can be used to satisfy a sweet tooth and still pack protein. One of my favorites is Combat Crunch. Also protein pancakes such as Power Cakes come with whey powder added.
  • Shellfish such as shrimp and crab, and white fish such as cod, tuna, trout, etc.

3. High fiber sources

Pick 1-2 servings of fruit and veggies per meal (aim for a total of 5-10 servings per day to try to get enough fiber)

  • 1/2 cup cooked, 2 cups leafy raw salad, 1/2 cup cooked greens, 1 small-medium fruit/veggie are examples of a serving

Optionally, pick a high fiber grain or starch for most meals

  • Oatmeal, whole grain bread, brown or white rice, whole grain pasta, sweet potato, regular or red potatoes, etc.

4. Fats

By now you will likely have met most of your nutritional needs – for the fats, fill in with additions like dressing/sauces, cheese, butter, nut butters, nuts, whole eggs  – see more ideas in Macro Cheat Sheet

5. Anything else you’d like!

At this point, if you still have calories left over you could add really anything that you’d like. If you’ve gone over on calories, it’s ok to remove partial servings instead of taking out whole servings of food. For example, you really wanted a 1/2 cup of ice cream but don’t have the room in your intake, try 1/4 cup instead added to your whole grain waffle.

Note that you can have recipes that fit in multiple categories – you might find that something like lasagna is already high in protein from meat used in it and has whole grain pasta if you use it, and has cheese as a fat source. You wouldn’t need to add an additional high protein food for that meal.

Planning for the week:

Once you’ve logged your plan for the day you can then go and cook the food needed for as many days as you want.

As you go through the week, feel free to switch things up. Generally sub a fat source for another fat source, a veggie or fruit for another veggie or fruit, a protein source for another protein source, and a “splurge” for another splurge that’s around the same calories to make it easier.

Using these steps, you can start to eat with a pattern that can make it easier to maintain your results even if you’re not tracking macros!