Beginners Guide to Meal Planning
  • Leah

Beginners Guide to Meal Planning

Why Bother To Meal Plan?

I've struggled with maintaining a healthy weight for basically my entire life. If I wanted to stop making the same mistakes and having to start over yet again, I had to learn how to do a few things differently. Keep in mind - meal planning on the 21 Day Fix or Ultimate Portion Fix are NOT just for weight loss. It can be used to maintain the weight you are at, or even to gain weight, and do all of this in a healthy way, using whole, unprocessed foods that nourish your body. *gets off soapbox* This was my learning curve for finding what works for me:

· Finding a plan that was sustainable. What kind of program works best? The one you can stick to. 21 Day Fix works really well for me, since it doesn't eliminate any food groups, and allows for a lot of flexibility.

· Structure. Some people are comfortable (and able) to eat intuitively. If I try that, I "intuitively" wind up eating donuts at 9 am followed by everything else in sight. I am one of those people who need structure. If you are like me, structure is one of the many keys to success.

· Physical activity. For me, incorporating some kind of physical activity is essential in maintaining a healthy weight. While I have a physical condition that doesn't allow me to participate in high-impact or super strenuous workouts in general (or any activity at the moment), I hope to be able to someday. I've discovered that my favorite activity is a Pilates/Yoga combination known as PiYo. It allows me to maintain flexibility while building strength.

· Planning. Ever hear the saying that "failing to plan is planning to fail?" Yeah. That's become my personal motto. While I've been doing 21 Day Fix for quite some time, I've noticed that I do much better on the weeks where I stick to my meal plan than on the weeks where I wing it because I didn't have time to plan. Meal planning is an essential activity for me. It feels overwhelming, but I promise that just like anything else worthwhile, it gets easier the longer you do it for.

Getting Started

1. In order to be successful, I need to plan. I'm fortunate to have Monday off, so I take a little time each Sunday to write out a meal plan for the upcoming week. This allows me time to get to the supermarket and pick up any ingredients I need for the upcoming week. While I choose to meal plan on Sunday, a different day may work better for you. That's perfectly fine.

2. The first thing I do is get my recipe book or any inspiring ideas (which I write down throughout the week) or have printed out from my favorite bloggers (you can find a list of my top four in this post, which also explains what 21 Day Fix is). I boot up my computer and print out a blank spreadsheet from Becca's blog at My Crazy Good Life, since she took the time to make blank printable spreadsheets for every single one of the plans! How awesome is that?

How To Meal Plan

The easiest way I've found to meal plan (through lots of practice) is as listed below, but you can change it up if that is what's easier for you.

1. Plan your dinners first. I do this since my dinner is the meal that changes the most throughout my week. This can be done each night, but I prefer to sit down and get the whole week of meal planning out of the way. Once I've decided what I'm doing for dinner each night, I tally up the containers for the meal. This helps me to track which containers (food group portions) I'm using and what I have remaining.

2. Lunches come next. This is super easy for me, since I always have leftovers from the night before for lunch. Tally those containers along the side as well.

3. Breakfast comes after that. This is another easy one, since I almost always have the same breakfast every day. If you like variety, feel free! Eggs, pancakes, waffles, french toast, oatmeal, or my personal favorite, yogurt with fruit and hemp hearts. Tally the containers used along the side.

4. Fit in snacks. Snacks are where I like to have my variety. Some days I don't eat a lot of carbohydrates at meals, so I'll have carbohydrates as snacks. Other days, I may have a carb heavy meal, or some drinking planned, so I would include more protein or fruit or vegetables as my snacks. I basically just choose whichever containers I'm short on for the day.

Why Do I Need To Eat All The Containers?

21 Day Fix isn't a program of counting calories. It's more of a portion control system that ensures proper nutrition and macronutrients (called macros for short). While there is a calorie range, all of the ratios of carbohydrates, fat, protein, vegetables, and fruit are already determined. While some days get hectic and I can't always eat everything I planned, I always strive to eat all the containers allotted for each food group. This is because skimping on my portions isn't going to help me be healthy and get to a weight that is good for me, it's going to actually slow my progress. When we don't get enough of the nutrients and calories we need to keep our bodies working, our bodies think "OMG! I'm starving ... better hold onto every calorie we get." So while initially, it seems like a lot of food, think of it as high quality fuel for our bodies. It's worth it.


If you're new to meal planning, it can be confusing and overwhelming. Don't give up. You're worth it, and it's definitely worth your time. Set yourself up for success! If you find meal planning to be too much at first, there's so many great resources on the internet that have meal plans already made for you, no matter which plan you are on. You may want to think about starting with a pre-made meal plan, at least until you get the hang of what it is like. After a couple of weeks, you'll start to understand how the program works, and it'll become much easier. If there's a recipe or an ingredient you don't like, feel free to reach out and ask someone about a swap. There's plenty of people out there in the 21 Day Fix community who are glad to help and want to see you succeed at reaching your goals. I'm one of them. So don't be scared, reach out! I'm available to help you with any questions you may have. Good luck and happy planning!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

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