Planning meals to meet your goals isn’t as challenging as it sometimes seems.
In the nutrition field, we often get caught up with terminology. Many people think of a good way to plan nutrition as three meals and two snacks. While that’s a perfectly reasonable option, it often gets us thinking in little boxes that limits our food choices.
What constitutes a “meal”?
What’s a “snack”?
When we think about meals, we might expect to have something large and complicated.
The word snack might get us thinking about snack foods, which for many people are things like chips, crackers, chocolate or granola bars.
Nuts and fruit might be considered one of the “healthy” snacks, but that’s really missing the point.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s a meal or snack, the important thing is that you get in the right amount of protein for muscle building and fat loss over the course of the day.
When you design your nutrition plan, it’s important to figure out how much protein you need to eat and then divide that quantity of protein into the number of meals/snacks you want to eat.
I actual prefer the term “feedings” to meals or snacks because it takes away the idea about what that particular meal should consist of.
The main thing that each feeding should consist of is protein.
Generally at least 20 grams of protein at a time.
If you weigh 160 pounds, you’ll be aiming for 160 grams of protein a day (1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight).
So let’s say you want to do 4 feedings a day.
This gives you 40 grams of protein to consume per feeding.
That’s not too crazy for most people.
A protein shake consisting of 40 grams of whey protein (NOT a mix of tons of calories and sugar you get from one of those commercial juice/shake places) can even be one of those protein doses.
Apart from that, you can get about 40 grams of protein with about 225g of chicken breast, 200g of lean ground beef, a couple of wild haddock filets, 1 1/2 cups of cottage cheese, or about 1 1/2 cups of Greek Yogurt.
Try using the myfitnesspal app to find out how much protein the food you’re eating contains.
Although nuts, beans, and lentils have some protein, they’re best to add to a a feeding, rather than being your primary source of protein in a meal.
If you’re having a couple of large meals (with more than 40 grams of protein, in this example), you can have nuts as a snack…or you can add them to one of your meals like this:
Chicken Burger, Roasted Zucchini, Roasted Red Peppers & Pistachios
Eggs, Eggs Whites, Macadamia Nuts, Blueberries
Ground Turkey with Spices & Tomato Sauce, Steamed Okra, Red Peppers & Pistachios
You might have 30 grams of protein from a meat/egg source and then combine that with some nuts, lentils, or beans to bump up the protein content.
Almonds, for instance, have about 15 grams of protein in 1/2 cup, probably the most you can eat at one time without experiencing digestive upset.
You can also combine a couple of different types of protein sources (if you can’t seem to eat enough of one type of protein) like the chicken and cottage cheese below:
Chicken Breast, Cottage Cheese, Homemade Kale Chips, Roasted Asparagus
Pick your favourite proteins and your favourite vegetables and put them together in whatever combination you feel like having that day.
There’s no need for fancy recipes.
Just use whatever dry or fresh herbs you like, or perk up your protein with mustard or salsa…or even use a little seafood sauce on your fish:
Wild Haddock (with seafood sauce), Baked Sweet Potatoes, Broccoli
And just so eating doesn’t become a huge chore, don’t force yourself to eat too frequently either, unless larger meals are difficult for you to digest.
Contrary to popular belief, eating frequent meals doesn’t “stoke your metabolism” or make you burn more calories.
What IS important, however, is keeping your intake of protein high enough and, to a lesser extent, eating protein regularly (protein dosing) to maintain your muscle mass and enhance your muscle recovery from exercise.
The minimum I generally recommend is 3 feedings a day, and 4 is preferable.
Trying to cram in all the required protein and vegetables is going to be tough if you only eat twice.
You’ll also have large gaps when you’re likely to get VERY hungry and then be less likely to make the right decision at those meals.
So base your feedings around protein like chicken, fish, lean (and preferably grass fed) meat, turkey, eggs, and perhaps a bit of cottage cheese or yogurt. Add small amounts of nuts, beans, or lentils to bump up the protein content.
Keep it simple.
Because eating well and staying lean shouldn’t be a chore.
P.S. If you want to get lean (and stay lean!) for a lifetime, my Lean365 Online Membership Program can help! $47 a month gets you all the nutrition, exercise, and psychology & lifestyle guidance you need to get the body you want. Check out the details HERE.