Back when I started paying attention to nutrition I craved structure.
A meal plan that I could follow as I learned the in’s and out’s of fuelling my body so that it performed well, looked good and felt great.
For a couple of months, I swore by Clean Eating Magazine’s bi-weekly plan. I posted it on my fridge, used it as a guide to grocery shopping and ate (mostly) the three prescribed meals and snacks.
But as I started to lift heavier in the gym and read more widely about sports nutrition, I came to realize that it wasn’t the plan for me.
- Too few calories (my body needs more than the 1400-1600 most days’ menus provided).
- Too many grain-based carbs (I tend to gain weight around my mid-section if my diet includes too many starchy carbs).
- Too many processed foods (even ‘healthier’ versions of bars, cereals and crackers typically have too much sugar).
- Too many different ingredients required to prepare the varied menu (the more ingredients required, the less likely I am to follow the recipe).
- And not enough protein (protein has been a game-changer for me, helping me put on muscle, reduce body fat and feel satiated between meals).
[Note, that the very first sentence of the last paragraph included the words ‘for me‘. It might be a great meal plan for you. The only way you’ll know is if you follow it and pay attention to how your body responds. ‘Be your own detective’]
Over time, I’ve developed my own, personalized meal plan.
It consists of a handful of options for each of the mail meals of the day. I have three standard breakfast meals that I choose from. Lunch is always a giant salad; 3-5 servings of veggies plus lean protein. Dinner is a bit more varied (but the variation mainly comes from the way the way the meal is prepared, rather than the ingredients). And I have a dozen or so between-meal snacks that I rotate among depending on how many days it’s been since I’ve been to the grocery store.
It’s really very boring. And it totally works for me.
4 benefits of a boring diet
1. You always know what you’ll be eating. For many of us, paying attention to how we’re fuelling our bodies can lead to food anxiety. Stressing over how much of what to eat when. Trying to come up with new, creative ways to put food on the table for our families. Worrying about hidden ingredients that might be undermining our health and fitness goals. Having a list of ‘pre-approved’ go-to meals means that you’ll only need to decide between a small number of options at any given meal.
2. Daily food tracking becomes less important. While keeping a food journal is a great way to learn how best to fuel your body, most of us don’t want to have to do it every day for the rest of our lives. Although I’ve used MyFitnessPal on and off for years, I use it mainly as a menu planner and a way of calculating the calorie and macronutrient content of my go-to meals. Once I know that a breakfast of a spinach and pepper omelette, with avocado and strawberries supports my goals for the day, I don’t need to input it day after day.
[Note: If food journalling works for you, by all means continue to do it. Adopting a boring diet just makes it easier 😉 ]
3. A boring diet makes grocery shopping a snap. Just like my diet, my route through the grocery store is boring and predictable. I buy the same items (and the same quantity of those items) week in, week out. I’m much less likely to forget an important recipe ingredient and less tempted to travel down the supermarket’s ‘danger’ aisles. And I can be in and out of Superstore (having easily spent $300…) in less than an hour.
4. Restaurant meals are more fun. Most of us have difficulty sticking with our healthy eating plans when dining out. Portions are typically larger than we’d serve ourselves at home. Multiple courses are the norm. Even the healthiest options can contain hidden sugar, salt and fat. And there’s so much choice! Following a boring diet has helped me wade through the minefield of restaurant menus. I simply look for a meal that’s close to what I’d be eating at home and ask my server for modifications, if need be. Dressing on the side, extra veggies instead of potatoes, grilled instead of fried.
Plus, choosing wisely with my main course lets me enjoy a glass of wine or dessert if I’m in the mood 😉
Are you a boring eater too?
What are your favourite benefits of a boring diet?
Learning how to create healthy meal plans is only one of the many lessons I’ll be teaching in my upcoming online group training program for over-40 women. Make sure you add your name to my email list so as not to miss the registration announcement!