Lets talk meal planning.
This can be one of the most daunting parts of starting any diet, especially on a diet like keto that seems confusing at the start. We really, really frown on prepackaged meal plans as well as really drum in the need for tracking. We aren’t the fun police, we actually have a method to our madness. In a bid to try and help you, help yourselves long term here is how I tackle meal planning.
Firstly, why don’t we recommend buying a meal plan?
Let me ask you a question – How likely are you to stick to a lifestyle change in 6 months time, if you are still being told what to eat, over and over? How are you going to go to the shops and make decisions for yourself? How are you going to maintain healthy weight if you don’t know what do eat and cant adapt to life?
Most meal plans – especially ones that are 40 bucks on a page that screams keto at you – are not tailored to you, they don’t vary based on nutritional needs and they are based off generic percentage macros that pay little respect to a person’s protein requirement. Most importantly, you are not actually learning a long term skill. Any clown can chuck butter on a cucumber and tell you to eat it – but do you actually want to eat that as a snack? (and yes, that is actually a meal on one of those online plans).
I’m a huge advocate of Keep It Simple Stupid (or is that the other way around?). That doesn’t mean you need to eat basic meat and veg. It just means you should break your meals down into its core components and build around it – the meat. Through your own planning, you quickly realise how simple it actually is and how versatile each variation of meat can be, by extension of this – how quick and easy tracking can become.
The basic fundamental step of meal planning I follow is balance. I eat three times a day, two large meals, one snack. I pick a protein for each large meal and a treat it as a ying/yang. If I have a fatty cut for lunch, I have a leaner cut for dinner and vice versa.
Think Chicken Breast vs Pork Loin Chop. Structuring it this way hits a couple of really key points for me.
- Hitting protein goals consistently and keeping fat in check.
- Satiating, two large meals is fairly filling.
- Cost effective – I use chicken for lean meals which allows me to use cheap cuts of steak and pork. This in turn saves me money.
- Flexibility. Dont feel like something? Cool, make a swap.
Let’s look at my freezer. I have a very basic selection of proteins. These are my staples:
- Chicken Drumsticks, Skinless Chicken Breast (Lean)
- Pork Loin Chops, Pork Mince, Pork Shoulder Roast (Fatty)
- Beef Mince. (Fatty or Lean)
- T-Bone Steak (whatever fits your budget, this month I picked up Porterhouse cheap). (Fatty or Lean)
- Bulk pack BBQ Sausages (one of the coles variants is very low carb). (Fatty)
So on the surface, this looks quite bland. You’re thinking, where is the variety? The benefit here is, all of these proteins are versatile. They can be used multiple ways with multiple different spices/rubs & sauces to make them feel different enough to not get bored.
So out of what is a pretty mundane list of meats, I’ve got a couple of weeks of meal ideas there that I can rotate around and change enough to feel different.
Some meal ideas include:
- Chicken Breast – Peanut Butter Satay, Pete Evans Simmer Sauces, Vindaloo, Chicken Fajita Bowl, Chicken Parma, Fetta and Spinach Stuffed Chicken, Bacon Wrapped Breast, Chicken and Vegetable Skewers.
- Drumsticks – I love a air fried drumstick or chuck it in the oven. Personal favorite is the “A Night In Mexico” Chipotle / Jalapeno seasoning from Woolworths. There are some good low carb hot sauces from Nandos out there as well.
- Pork/Beef Mince – Burgers with Salad, Meatballs with Zoodles or Bok Choy, Taco Bowls, San Choy Bow, Eggplant Lasagna. I also use a Pork/Beef patty to make breakfast burger patties with my eggs.
- Steak – I trim mine down to 250g and use the off cuts in a Beef Strip Fajita Bowl / Stir Fry. You may find 200g works for you, trim them down, use the trimmed parts for something else.
- Sausages – Bangers and Cauli Mash, Curried / Deviled Sausages.
The other benefit of using the same basic meats for all my meals is, tracking becomes effortless. They are the same meat, they have the same value. Through trial and error find out what amounts work in your daily macros and copy paste. The only thing that changes is what your having with it and once you get a solid collection of sides going, even that doesn’t change much nutritionally. As you get further along and get a good understanding of the amounts, you can split up your meats on shopping day into pre weighed lunch bags to make it even easier.
I do a monthly meat shop, I weigh, label and bag everything based on what I know is a pretty standard days eating for me (I split about 5kg of mince, 10kg of chicken 4kg of steak and 4kg of pork, weigh and bag it in about an hour or so?) and tracking my intake is merely about copy pasting entries and ensuring my vegetables sauces are in check.
Here is a link to an example of how I setup my week based on 1800 calories a day, cutting macros. As you can see, I’m fairly boring in my Meal 1, I eat the same thing most days with only dinner changing as well as weekends.
Feel free to use my template or hit “Albums” in the group and there is a blank template there for you to use. I also make use of a “Week Planner Whiteboard” to quickly map out what each day is.
Lastly, don’t be afraid, Stephen touched on this earlier in the week. The fear of failure can be debilitating. You will stuff it up, it does take trial and error. You aren’t going to do any damage by stuffing up once or twice along the way.
I am an almighty admin and it took me a couple of weeks to nail my macros on keto after years of being on a traditional powerlifting diet with tracking. It’s not an overnight epiphany. Just keep making tweaks here and there until you find a combination that works for you. It’s a couple of weeks of work, for a lifetime of success and self reliance.