We believe good nutrition lights the spark to thrive in all of us, no matter who we are, what our age is, or where we live. And research supports that belief. Giving your body the nutrients it needs to thrive starts by making meals with the correct balance of protein, carbs, and fat, along with plenty of vegetables! But how do you know how much you should be eating? A personalized nutrition plan can help. Here’s how to build one.
Figure Out Your Daily Calorie Requirements
The first step in building a nutrition plan is to ensure you’re getting enough calories each day in order to meet your needs. Your daily calorie needs will vary on a number of different factors, including your age, weight, height, sex, and activity levels. There are online calculators that can help you easily do the math depending on your specific variables.
Once you’ve figured out your daily calorie needs, decide which is right for your situation — if you’re looking to gain, maintain, or lose weight. As a general rule, it’s not advised to eat less than 1,200 calories per day unless under the supervision of a medical professional.
Decide How Many Meals You Want to Eat
Now that you have your daily calorie target, decide how many times a day you’d like to eat. Some people like 3 meals and 2 snacks, others 4 meals, others 6. There really is no right or wrong number of meals you should eat in a day — it’s ultimately what works best with your schedule and preference. That said, eating every 3-5 hours has been shown to keep energy levels stable.
Once you decide on how many meals you’d like to eat, divide your calories accordingly. For example, a person eating 1,800 calories per day might find 3 meals at 500 calories each plus a 300 calorie snack is ideal to meet their needs.
Break Down Calories to Macronutrients
Now that you know how much and how often to eat, it’s time to break it down into macronutrients. This is protein, carbs, and fats. Again, some people prefer to be higher in one macro than another, but most people do well with a balance somewhere around 10–35% of their daily calories from protein, 45–65% from carbs, and 20–35% from fats. The key is to find a balance that you can stick with long term.
Pick Your Foods
Once all the math is done, you can use the numbers to figure out how to enjoy your favourite foods and build your meals around them. Make sure you include a variety of sources for each macronutrient, as well as plenty of colourful fruits and vegetables in order to ensure that you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs. You should also try your best to combine macros in each meal, as this will help you to feel satisfied between eating times. Fiber is another important nutrient that can help you feel fuller longer. It’s found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, so be sure to incorporate them when possible.
Measure Your Portions
Another important factor when building a nutrition plan is to measure your portions. You want to ensure that the nutrition you’ve planned for is the nutrition you’re actually getting. While eyeballing might get you close, it’s no substitute for the accuracy of a kitchen scale or measuring cups and spoons.
Finally, no nutrition plan is complete without adequate hydration. Drinking enough water ensures that all your body’s systems are running optimally. If you find yourself struggling to get your daily water intake, set reminders on your smartphone and keep a big bottle next to you during the day.
Limit Certain Foods
As much as a nutrition plan can help ensure you’re getting the right nutrients, it’s important to limit certain foods. Limiting caffeine, sugar, and processed foods will help you feel your best and better fuel your body. Using a daily food tracking diary lets you monitor your progress over time.
Sample nutrition plan for a 35-year-old female who is 5’4”, weighs 150 pounds, and is moderately active. Daily calorie needs of around 2,200 to maintain weight.
Daily protein 10-35% = 220-770 calories
Daily carbs 45-65% = 990-1430 calories
Daily fat 20-35% = 440-770 calories
Breakfast: 2 large eggs, 1 pc rye toast, 1 tsp butter, 1 banana = ~ 475 calories
Lunch: salad base with spinach, tomatoes, cucumber, carrots, ½ cup quinoa, 4 oz chicken, 2 tbsp dressing, 6-inch pita, 1 cup strawberries = ~750 calories
Dinner: 5 oz chicken cooked with 2 tsp oil, 1 cup sweet potato, 2 cups broccoli, 1 cups blueberries = ~680 calories
Snack: 2 tsp peanut butter, 1 small apple = ~140 calories
Snack: ⅓ cup hummus, 1 cup chopped vegetables = ~200 calories
Sample plan total: 2245 calories