Well, I’ve done it. I created a template for meal planning that makes sense to me. Doing this actually reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend once a few years ago. I was complaining that organizing books didn’t have a piece of information that I felt would be helpful to me in my organizational efforts. My friend said (essentially), “You write it then. You could figure it out, and then be the one to write about it.” So, I’m sort of taking her advice now and writing my own solution to my meal-time planning woes.
Here it goes: I learned from USDA’s Super Tracker that based on my age, gender, weight, and physical activity that I need between 1800 and 2000 calories per day. The program then breaks this calorie need into the different food groups. My recommendations are this:
The site gives details as to how much of each group equals an ounce or a cup. If you are interested, you can see that here.
At our house we usually eat 3 meals per day plus one snack in the afternoon. In the past I have attempted to create a template similar to what I’m posting today, but the snacks have always made it difficult for me to do. This is because I like to eat different food groups for my snack on different days. For example one day might be apples with peanut butter, while another day might be yogurt with granola or pecans. You can see that they don’t fit neatly into a plan.
This time I decided to leave out the snack in my plan. Instead, I’m simply dividing the suggested amounts for each food group between the 3 main meals, like this:
These could each potentially be pretty large meals, and it isn’t realistic to think that I will eat (nor my kids) everything that I have listed at every meal. So the logical thing is to create simple meals based on the plan (but with the freedom to omit portions of it) and then create snacks out of whichever food group was missing earlier in the day.
Some thoughts on fruits and vegetables:
If you are like me, then you are looking at the plan I created and thinking, “Wow, 3 fruits and vegetables at every meal is a lot!” That’s definitely what I’ve been thinking, and even if you take some out to eat as snacks instead, it’s still more than I’m used to eating. This is where taking a look at the details on the food tracker has opened my eyes a bit. Although I know the government is using the “choose my plate” graphic now, most of my life I’ve seen a food pyramid with grains on the bottom, and fruits/vegetables on the next level. But mayoclinic.com has created a different pyramid with the fruits and vegetables at the bottom, and the grains (they say carbohydrates) on the next level up. You can see this pyramid (along with others that they’ve created) here.
The following pyramid is one that I created, following the general design of mayoclinic.com, but modifying it slightly to fit my own understanding.
You can see that the fruits and vegetables make up a larger portion of the overall diet than even the grains. This idea is new to me, but I’m feeling like this is the concept that I’m needing (wanting?) to understand when deciding what my family will eat at each meal. Instead of starting my thinking off with the grain and protein (like I tend to do), I think that it would be better to start my thinking with the fruit/vegetable and the grain.
So, there you have it. A meal plan template that makes sense to me, and it’s helpful in my efforts to explain to my kids what we need to be eating too. But we’ve still got a long ways to go in actual implementation.