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The Beginner's Guide to Healthy Meal Planning

What Do Healthy Meals Consist of?
Meal planning is a highly individualized endeavor; the meals you plan for yourself should be tailored to your own dietary needs, nutritional goals, and tastes. If you are looking to adopt a meal plan, consider talking to your doctor or a nutritionist to determine what works best for you. Some people have certain preferences or dietary restrictions; some are more cautious with what they eat as a matter of taste, and others are more adventurous. Everybody is different. 
Generally speaking, a well-balanced diet should consist of adequate amounts of the three primary macronutrients. Macronutrients are nutrients that the body requires in order to function at optimal levels. They must be consumed through the food you eat, since the body cannot produce them on its own. The three macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

Tips for Healthy Meal Planning
When it comes to planning healthy meals, moderation is important, as are the types of food you’re eating. A balance of the right macronutrients, as well as micronutrients like vitamins and minerals, can help promote optimal health. Again, it is important to plan your meals according to your own needs and goals, but there are some general guidelines that can help you craft healthy, delicious meals. 
  • Choose foods that have a low glycemic impact. Low glycemic foods are those that have a minimal impact on your blood sugar levels. This is important when planning meals according to specific weight management goals. To learn more about low glycemic diets, check out our guide on the glycemic index.
  • Learn how to read food labels. Understand serving sizes and try to limit yourself to the recommended serving size. Look for the breakdown of nutritional facts to see how much fat is in a serving size - and how much of that is healthy fat. Do the same for total carbs (sugar, fiber, etc.), protein, sodium, cholesterol, and vitamins.
  • Plan ahead. A common reason that people may fall into unhealthy eating habits is because eating right takes time. Deciding what to eat takes time. Cooking takes time. For people with hectic schedules, choosing your meal on the fly can be stressful, and some of the fastest alternatives are also the most unhealthy (literally fast food). Planning your meals ahead of time can save you a great deal of time and energy. Whether it’s a day or a week in advance, try knowing what you’re having for breakfast, lunch, and dinner before it’s time to prepare your meal. Planning in advance may also help keep you on track; it helps you avoid the pitfalls of grabbing the first easy thing you can find, and it shows you ahead of time what food you need to buy, so you can be sure you’re incorporating a balance of all the essential macronutrients.
  • Keep a journal of what you eat to track your progress and evaluate what’s working for you.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Meal planning is just the beginning of long-term, healthier eating, and if you’re just starting out, it’s normal to feel confused or overwhelmed. If you’re having trouble, there are plenty of resources available to provide you with meal ideas and help guide you through the process. One such resource is the TLS® Health Guide & Journal, which goes in-depth into macronutrients, the glycemic index, eating to promote metabolism and weight management, balancing your diet with an active lifestyle, and more. The TLS® Health Guide & Journal also teaches you how to create a customized meal plan that aligns with your needs. Through sample meal plans tailored to different nutritional goals, the Health Guide & Journal provides you with a framework for structuring your meals while also giving you the flexibility to choose the nutritious foods that speak to you.