First of all, let’s throw the word ‘perfect’ out the window. If there is one word that makes me cringe a little, it’s the word ‘perfect,’ because it makes you think that there is only one ideal for which you should be striving. Instead, let’s strive to make the best possible meals that we can make for ourselves.
Remind yourself that food is fuel, so use it accordingly. Pick foods that make you feel good, fueled, and ready to conquer your day and workouts — these are personal choices for you to make.
Generally speaking, you should be eating between 3 and 6 meals per day, depending upon your personal preferences, schedule, and digestion. First and foremost, you should listen to your body and see how it responds to the number of meals you eat each day. “Listening to your body” means that you’re paying attention to any stomach upset along with your energy and hunger levels throughout the day after each meal.
Here, I will focus on building an ideal meal using the flexible eating (popularly known as “flexible dieting”) method that I discussed in this earlier blog. In the next blog, I’ll discuss a simpler method for building meals in case you’re not interested in flexible eating.
STEP-BY-STEP MEAL BUILDING
In this instance, I am assuming that you already have your daily macros calculated. If you need help with this, don’t hesitate to contact me and I can calculate these for you.
STEP 1: Pick how many meals you want to eat that day. (This is your personal preference!)
STEP 2: Calculate how many macros on average you should eat at each meal. You do this by taking your total daily protein/carbohydrate/fat (P/C/F) macros and divide them by however many meals you plan on eating that day.
For example, say your assigned daily macros are 150P/200C/60F, and you plan on eating a total of 4 meals that day. Your calculations would look like this:
150/4 = 37.5 P
200/4 = 50 C
60/4 = 15 F
Therefore, you would try to create each of your meals using an average of 37.5P/50C/15F.
Of course, not every meal has to have this exact template of P/C/F. For example, if you want to have a snack after dinner, then you may want to vary these numbers a bit to make that after-dinner snack fit your day, so you should shift some of your macros to your other meals to make your snack fit. But, this calculation will at least get you started on how many macros should be at each of your meals.
IMPORTANT! Please know that this does NOT take into account your pre- or post-workout meals, so please keep that in mind. I’ll discuss pre- and post-workout nutrition and calculating in a future blog, so stay tuned for that. Besides, to reach the goal of eating healthfully, you need to first establish a consistent meal schedule that includes properly-portioned meals. Once that becomes consistent, then you can worry about planning and eating ideal pre- and post-workout meals. Once your hydration and nutrition are on-point, then supplements can enter the picture. Baby steps, people. Baby steps.
STEP 3: When building your meal, first select some nutrient-dense (not calorie-dense) foods like vegetables, fruits, or another food that makes you feel fueled after eating it. Fruits and vegetables not only help you consume more nutrients, but they also help increase your fiber intake as well as leave you feeling full with VERY LITTLE macros being consumed. That’s a win-win!
STEP 4: Since fruits and veggies can often be incredibly low in carbs, add additional carbs to your meal to fit your carb allotment for that meal.
STEP 5: Select your protein of choice. Remember that some meats and meat substitutes have more fat than others, so include those fats as part of your fat intake for that meal.
STEP 6: Get fat! Not really… just kidding. Select a healthy fat such as avocado, nuts, grass-fed butter, or another favorite fat of yours, and add that to your meal.
NOTE: Please keep in mind that every meal doesn’t have to “perfectly” — cringe — fit your P/C/F ratio. For example, maybe you prefer to eat an apple as a snack. That is perfectly fine! This method is only to help you create a basic template for each of your meals to get you started. It is not a perfect method, but it at least gets you started in the right direction with planning your meals. Like I said earlier, these are baby steps to success.
BE FLEXIBLE! Remember that there are no such things as ‘good’ foods and ‘bad’ foods. Food is food.
If you’re craving something fatty, then listen to your body and eat something fatty. However, try to make your fatty meal fit into your day’s macros by eating lean during your other meals.
FLEXIBLE EATING PRO TIP: When it comes to cravings, try to satisfy your craving with moderation. I LOVE dark chocolate, so I try to work a bit of dark chocolate into my macros each day; I do this by adding the dark chocolate to my food tracking app (MyFitnessPal, for example) before I eat anything that day, that way I know I can make the adjustments to the rest of the day’s macros to make it fit. Plan ahead as best as you are able!
There are no such things as ‘good’ foods and ‘bad’ foods. Food is food.
BE FORGIVING. It is pointless to beat yourself up if you over-eat at a meal because what’s done is done. The best thing you can do for yourself is to stop and reflect on WHY you over-ate. What was the biggest reason you stuffed your face? Was it emotional? Sadness? Stress? Boredom? Ask yourself and be honest when answering. Don’t dwell on any ‘errors’ or off-plan eating — try to learn from the experience and move on.
When it comes to cravings, try to satisfy your craving with moderation.
Keep in mind that one ‘off-plan’ meal is not necessarily going to ruin any progress you’re making. Sure, you may experience some bloating and stomach discomfort after eating something that you’re not used to eating, and the number on the scale may increase a bit from the bloat… but there is a difference between weight gain and fat gain. Not all weight gain is fat gain, and it is incredibly difficult (if not impossible) to gain 5-20lbs of fat after having only one unfavorable meal. The problem lies in getting a case of the “f*ck-its” after eating one unfavorable meal, and then allowing it to snowball into eating SEVERAL unfavorable meals instead of just stopping after that one meal. Resist having a case of the “f*ck-its!” That’s a whole other topic I’m sure I’ll discuss in the future.
Hopefully this helps you get started with breaking-up your macros each day to create the best possible meals to fuel you in a balanced way each day. As always, don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions at all by contacting me or adding a comment below.
Resist having a case of the “f*ck-its!”
What if this sounds too complicated to you? Flexible eating is far from easy, and oftentimes, weighing and measuring food isn’t for everyone. And guess what? That’s okay! In the next few blogs, I’ll talk about how you can build your ideal meal in a much simpler way without weighing your food, as well as what to eat before and after your workouts.
INTERESTED IN LEARNING MORE?
Interested in learning more about flexible eating and how to build the ideal meal to fuel your life? Comment below or email me, and I’d be more than happy to help you make sense of it all.
If you’re interested in having your macronutrients personally calculated for you to meet your goals, or having a customized nutrition plan built just for you and paired with attentive coaching, then check-out my Services page first to see what I offer. Message me and we can arrange a time to chat for a free consultation.