Ahhh pre-made meal plans…I gotta tell ya, I love to hate ’em. Finding them, selecting them, and most of all, following them. They are stinky, like fish. That will make more sense in a few paragraphs. Promise.
Why are they stinky, you ask? Well I would be more than happy to tell you.
The food we eat is connected to everything in our lives. Everything. Your budget, your spouse (or lack of spouse), your kids (and their preferences, allergies, and appetites), your schedule, your culture, and your mood all play in to the food you choose to eat. That being said, someone would have to thoroughly understand all of those things about you in order to select foods that are good options for a meal plan for you. Now, how many meal plan makers know you that well?
Let’s take, for example, some meal plans I’ve been on in the past for different blog experiments. For the heart healthy meal plan I followed, the ingredients increased my grocery budget by 75%! Typically I use dinner leftovers for lunches, but that meal plan used NO leftovers for ANYTHING. You know what that gets you (besides an expensive grocery trip)? A fridge full of leftovers waiting to go bad. It also leaves you cooking two meals every night – dinner and tomorrow’s lunch. Not sustainable, functional, or enjoyable.
My final gripe about following meal plans made by others? Sometimes I just don’t like the food. Like, for example, coleslaw. I’m not a huge fan, but it’s on the meal plan, because the person who made it didn’t know me and my lack of appreciation for coleslaw. So here I am, either eating coleslaw or feeling as though I somehow “failed” my meal plan because I didn’t like it.
And you know what else (yes, I lied about the final gripe part)? As a dietitian, my goal is to empower my patients to live a healthy life they love. Now even if I gave them the perfect meal plan that worked great for their lifestyle, are they empowered? What will they do when the week-long meal plan is over? Will they just eat the same food week after week forever?
Of course not.
Remember the old saying, “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day, but teach a man to fish and feed him for the rest of his life”? Well, a meal plan is a fish.
I can give someone a meal plan fish and they can meet their nutritional goals for a week (if they manage to stick with a meal plan someone else made), or I can teach someone how to plan for themselves and meet their health and quality of life goals. Truly, they are the only ones who know themselves well enough to do it. So usually, if my client’s would like to have weekly meal plans, we set aside a portion of each of their appointments and make the meal plan together. It’s not easy and it’s awkward at first, but once they get the hang of it they are empowered. After a few sessions they’ve got the hang of it and they’re making their own meals plans (that they love, that fit their budget and their health goals). They can eat for life – on a budget and with foods they love! And that is why I love what I do.
And why I hate stinky meal plan fish. End rant.