Personalized diet plans can be a confusing and difficult topic to tackle. I’m not going to lie, it’s not easy.
Here’s the crazy part.
A healthy diet plan is FAR MORE important than any training routine when it comes to having a fit body.
You could have the perfect weight lifting routine in place but if your nutrition isn’t on point then it won’t matter!
Diet makes up about 80-90% of your fitness journey. You can’t outlift a poor diet.
However, with the right resources, you can create your own free personal diet plan in no time at all!
In this blog post, we’re going to go over how to easily create a balanced diet plan by following these steps:
Step 1: Figure Out Your Diet and Nutrition Goals!
Before you consider doing any diet planning, you have to define your diet goals. Without knowing them, how can you possibly plan to achieve them?
Are you looking to build muscle with a diet plan? Maybe your diet plans for cutting.
What is the Best Diet Plan?
The best customizable diet plans follow the SMART method:
Specific: What is your goal? You need to be specific with what you want to accomplish, even with the simplest diet plan.
Measurable: How will you know when your diet goals have been achieved? You need to know how to measure your progression. Maybe you want to track muscle gain in your diet plan. If you don’t track your progress, you’ll never know if you’re headed in the right direction or need to alter your plan.
Achievable: Good goals can be achieved in the allotted time. Are yours?
Relevant: Does this goal align with your other goals and interests (for instance, maybe you want to bulk up while eating vegan)
Time-bound: When do you plan on achieving these results? Are you trying to stick to a diet plan for a month? Parkinson’s Law states that the work always expands to fill the allotted time. Without strict deadlines on your goals, the work required always adjusts to fit the available time.
Step 2A. Forget About Calorie Counting!
Forget about calorie counting diet plans – you need a beginning diet plan personalized for YOU.
The first step in creating your diet play is, quite frankly, the hardest one…letting go of calorie counting. If you are currently on a diet that requires you to count calories, try and put it behind you and embrace your new life with flexible eating!
Instead of counting calories or points, you are going to learn about what I call “calorie quality”.
One of the things that most effective weight loss programs have in common is a focus on healthy eating instead of calorie counting.
The key to maintaining a healthy weight is to eat a balanced diet with plenty of whole foods and as little processed junk food as possible.
Why Should I Avoid Calorie Counting?
Each food has a different calorie profile.
Unless you plan to eat the same meals each day or memorizing the different nutritional content of ALL the foods you do eat, you should not be counting calories.
Life gets in the way on most days and we often don’t have the time to do this.
Plus, whether you’re hiking in the woods or on vacation, it’s near impossible to maintain a strict daily count without sacrificing enjoyable moments in life!
Instead, you should be focusing on eating the right amount of high-quality foods that will help your body and mind thrive in a weekly diet plan!
Step 2B. If You Plan to Count Calories, Get It Right!
If you are going to use calorie counting diet plans, be aware of the secrets that will help you get it right so you don’t end up sabotaging your weight loss or gain efforts. We also have some tips on how to make calorie counting easier for you!
How many calories should I be eating?
If you are set on counting calories, the most basic way to calculate can be to take your goal weight and multiply it by 20 (if you believe you have a fast metabolism), 16 (if you believe it’s relatively average), or 14 (if you believe your metabolism is slow) and you should be able to find your daily caloric intake goal.
For example, I weigh about 160lbs and would like to get to 180lbs despite my fast metabolism and decently active lifestyle. I would take 180×20 which would equate to about 3,600 calories needed to be consumed daily.
It’s important to note the math here is NOT exact and depends on your diet and exercise routine.
How do I find my Total Caloric Expenditure (or TDEE)?
Your TDEE is exactly what it sounds like – total calories burnt during the entire day. The best way to calculate this is actually by finding your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) which is exactly what this sounds like – how many calories you burn while at rest.
Most calculators will ask you your gender, age, weight, and height here (which you probably know by now). You then enter this data into the calculator and it will give you a number.
Step 3: Calculate My Macros
To create a nutritionally balanced diet plan that will meet your calorie, macronutrient, and micronutrient needs, I recommend using our Macro Calculator.
What’s a macronutrient?
Macronutrients are the three main types of food: carbohydrates, protein, and fats. They are sometimes referred to as “macros”. When you plug your details into this calculator it will tell you how many grams of each macro per day is required for you to maintain (or gain or lose) weight.
What are carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy. They are contained in most foods (although this is not always true!) and therefore make up a big part of a muscle building diet plan.
Why do we need carbs?
You have probably heard the term ‘net carbs’ thrown around, which refers to how many carbohydrates are available to you in a particular food – after the fiber content has been subtracted out from total carbohydrates.
Why does that matter?
Well, fiber takes too long to digest and so technically shouldn’t be counted when figuring out carbohydrate intake for your meal plan.
How many carbohydrates should I be eating?
The general rule is that about 45-65% of your caloric intake comes from carbohydrates.
Eating enough carbs is important for energy, and if you don’t eat enough carbohydrates then your body will be forced to burn fat for fuel.
The problem with doing this is that body fat contains less than half the calories of carbs and proteins (about 3-4 calories per gram).
This means that if your diet is very low in carbohydrates, you won’t have much energy left over at the end of the day.
Consequently, you should aim for a moderate amount of carbohydrates which should give you plenty of energy while allowing some room to eat a little bit more of other foods without going overboard.
What is Protein for?
Protein is a very important macronutrient, and its primary function is to maintain and repair all of your body’s tissue – muscle included.
How much protein do I need?
It’s difficult to find a specific number for protein requirements because it varies based on age, weight, fitness goals, and activity levels.
You might read on the internet that to “make gains” you need two grams of protein per pound of weight which is not true!
Generally, a good starting point can be to just consume the same number of grams compared to your weight in pounds.
For example, an adult male that weighs 190 pounds with little muscle mass would need 170-200 grams of protein per day.
Since this will all depend on your numbers then there isn’t a set amount for how much protein you should be consuming each day.
The easiest way to work out if you’re getting enough or not is by tracking the results from your training routine. If your workouts are lacking in performance (e.g., lack of energy) then chances are you’ll want to make sure it doesn’t come down to a lack of protein.
As a general rule, you’ll want to get around 10-35% of your daily calories from protein sources with the rest coming from healthy fats and carbs!
How much fat should I be eating?
Fat is a crucial part of the human diet, but many people make the mistake of focusing on carbs and low-fat foods.
As mentioned before, fat contains more than twice as many calories per gram compared to carbs or protein. This makes it ideal for people who want to lose weight but don’t want to compromise their energy levels.
You should eat around 25-35% of your daily intake from healthy fats.
Why is Fat so important?
Fats are a great energy source that is easy to digest, meaning they can be used as an immediate energy supply.
Fat also plays many other important functions in the body:
Provides cushioning around organs and joints for protection, Helps maintain skin health (e.g., keeping it supple), Protects from tissue damage in wounds (e.g., burns) and trauma, and Helps produce certain hormones such as leptin which helps you regulate your appetite.
The key here is HEALTHY fats. There are three different types of fats:
1. Saturated Fats – found in meat, butter, and other animal products such as eggs.
2. Mono-Unsaturated Fats – found in high amounts in plant-based oils (olive oil) and nuts like almonds or brazil nuts.
3. Poly-Unsaturated Fats – this kind of fat includes Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids, which are very common in fish, and some seeds like flaxseed!
Which kinds of fats are healthy?
You should focus on getting most of your fats from mono and polyunsaturated sources.
These healthy fats keep cholesterol levels in check, and you should try to reduce the amount of saturated fat that you eat (especially if you’re at risk for heart disease or high blood pressure).
How can I include more Fats?
Add a little bit more fat to everything suitable.
For example, instead of using low-fat dressings as a dressing for salads use regular ones, but just consume less!
Another great way is to have a tablespoon or two of olive oil sprinkled over dinner, not only does it taste great but it’s also greatly beneficial for your health!
Oils are better than cream or butter because they contain less saturated fats and have more unsaturated fats (like Omega-3).
Won’t fat make me fat?
Even if you create a diet plan to cut weight, you still need fats!
The main cause of weight gain is eating too much.
If you’re eating a lot of calories then it doesn’t matter what foods those calories come from – fat or carbs. You’ll still get fat!
Again, remember that when you consume more energy than your body uses up as energy for daily tasks (what gets burned off) then your body will store it and use it later on.
So if you over-consume calories through unhealthy fat sources like cream and butter you’ll always be fighting an uphill battle against fat gains.
My advice would be to keep it healthy by going with olive oils instead!
Incorporating the proper numbers for all three macros is vital in a diet plan to build muscle.
Step 4: Find Foods You Enjoy That Fit Your Diet and Lifestyle
You can’t stick to a diet plan for three days and expect results.
You need to find the foods that you like and are available.
If you have an important business lunch or dinner scheduled in a few days, it probably wouldn’t be wise to choose a diet of only nuts and berries.
You’ll need to find other foods that fit your diet but give you more variety — not just from a taste perspective, but also because it’s hard to eat the same thing every day without getting bored.
The key is being realistic about what fits your lifestyle and goals.
If you love burgers but don’t want to give them up completely, look for leaner cuts of ground beef (less than 15 percent fat) or turkey burgers instead of those made from beef.
Or try using pita as your bun and load it up with lots of veggies, like onions, tomatoes, and cucumbers.
If you live in a small town where the fast-food restaurants are few and far between, think about planning ahead.
It only takes a few minutes to do some research online and then jot down any great menu ideas that catch your eye.
Then when you’re at work or school, or just hanging around the house, check out the menus and options nearby before choosing where to dine.
That way, you’ll know what you can order without blowing your healthy eating plan (and budget).
The best foods for a diet plan should be grouped by carbs, protein, and fat content.
Here are some healthy carbohydrate examples to include in your diet:
-bell peppers (green or red),
-cabbage(savoy if you can find it!)
The list goes on forever! You’ll need to do some research about what’s best for your goals and lifestyle.
Starchy Carbs to includes:
-Sweet potatoes or yams
– oats (plain, not the sugar-filled packets)
-Whole Wheat (bread, pasta)
-Beans and legumes
These are the carbs that you should try to eat at least three times a day.
Fruit can also be considered as starchy carbs on occasion depending on what it consists of.
These are great for people who need more carbohydrates in their diet so make sure to include some variety in your diet plan weekly.
Fruit has tons of fiber too and can be added to your diet plan with smoothies!
Some great fruit for a diet plan include:
-Cherries (in moderation!)
–Berries (blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries)
– Bananas (one of the best and so easy to include in your diet plan via shakes)
– Apples (these are good for people who struggle to eat enough carbs)
Anything that is not considered a “sweet” fruit will fall into this category! So long as it isn’t loaded with sugar in some way or another you’re good to go.
If you’re trying to create a diet plan with no sugar, you would need to stay away from fruits.
Next up, we have PROTEIN!
The key thing to remember here with any protein source is moderation!
Don’t just stuff yourself full until you get sick! Always eat until you feel comfortably full and stop there — then wait 20 minutes before getting seconds.
That way you won’t ruin your healthy diet by overeating!
Lean Protein (Protein Sources) which include:
– Chicken breast, turkey breast, and drumsticks
-Lean beef (sirloin steak, lean chuck roast) — no more than three times a week.
This is because you’ll get the most benefit out of chicken and turkey breasts. After all, they’re much leaner than regular beef.
You can try slicing them up and putting them in pasta or on pizza if these are things you enjoy eating.
-Tuna (in water or oil)
-Protein Shake Powders like Whey and Soy Protein, which have between 18 to 30 grams of protein per serving.
-Dairy is also a great way to get protein and calcium in your diet. In the US there are tons of options for these foods including yogurt, milk, cheese, and cottage cheese! Make sure to buy low-fat/skim versions if you can find them.
-Fish and seafood of all kinds. These are the most popular protein sources for a reason! They’re high in lean, low-fat proteins that taste great. Plus, they have tons of vitamins and minerals to help with muscle growth.
Fish is also rich in omega fats which can reduce inflammation as well as Omega-three fatty acids which may decrease your risk of heart disease and improve mood/stability!
Other types you should try including: salmon, tuna fish, crab meat, shrimp, etc; these will vary depending on what’s available at your grocery store or local farmers’ market.
-Soy products like tofu, soy milk, etc. These can be used in place of meat if you’re vegetarian or vegan!
The only thing to keep an eye on is the amount of fat contained within them; for example, choosing edamame instead of beef will let you indulge without feeling guilty about it later.
Also remember: these are still sources high in protein so don’t go overboard with your portions either (16 ounces per day max)
Last, but not least, we have Fats!
Fats are also super important to include in your diet, but you have to choose the right ones.
Good Fat is usually found in “hidden” foods like nuts and seeds (so long as they aren’t roasted) and fish and eggs.
Bad Fats are found in things like: fried food (chicken wings, onion rings, etc), French fries, fast food burgers with mayo/ketchup on them, any kind of processed peanut butter with any sugar added.
Try eating more healthy fats for example instead of fried meat/vegetables eat those vegetables steamed or sautéed! And use a little bit of olive oil or a lighter cooking spray instead of using regular oils.
Some examples of healthy fat choices to include in your diet are:
-Nuts (peanuts, walnuts, almonds)
-Fish like Salmon or Tuna Fish: these are great sources of Omega fats which can reduce inflammation as well as Omega-three fatty acids which may decrease your risk of heart disease and improve mood/stability! These should be consumed at least once per day.
-Extra virgin olive oil or canola oil for cooking purposes. These are also great to cook with because they have a higher smoke point than other oils so you won’t burn the food as easily and it’s better for your heart health!
-Peanut butter. One of the easiest fats to include in a diet plan protein shake because it has tons of benefits like adding muscle mass and improving brain function by increasing blood flow; plus, peanut butter just tastes delicious!
-Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, flax, chia)
These are great to sprinkle in a shake or mix into your cereal because they’re quick, easy, and delicious!
This will vary depending on what type of fat you consume; make sure you choose wisely based on the health benefits.
Step 5: Stockpile Recipes and Ingredients for Variety!
If you’re not already a cook, start cooking.
Learn how easy it is to prepare your diet plan cheaply at home. Stock up on good recipes and mark your favorites for quick reference.
Prepare your grocery list based on the recipes in your diet plan and stick to it!
Remember that variety is key; keep trying new options so that you don’t lose interest in eating healthy foods!
This will help eliminate the temptation of buying food that’s convenient rather than nutritious, such as fast food or junk food from the vending machine.
Also, be sure to compare prices between different brands before making a purchase to make the cheapest, healthy diet plan.
Some expensive brands are less filling than cheaper brands so save money by purchasing more-filling foods in bulk if possible.
This may mean shopping in several different stores but don’t let this deter you if it means saving a few dollars!
Decide what types of dishes you make most and do some research to find healthy options to make them.
You can even go as far as finding recipes for healthier variations of your favorite condiments!
You also need to pay attention to the meal prep instructions as the way you cook affects the macro content!
If you live a busy life, compile a list of your favorite restaurants with healthy options. You should be able to ask the staff for nutritional info for the menu items.
Or you could save money by adding meal replacement shakes into your diet plan with nutrition-packed foods.
It’s also important to note that calories don’t just come from the food you eat; they’re in beverages like milk or juice as well.
Be sure to keep track of these so it doesn’t throw off your calculations later on when trying out different diets/meal plans.
If you’re a skinny guy looking to gain weight such as myself but struggle to choke down all the necessary calories, I highly advise incorporating a homemade weight gainer shake into your diet.
I used to drink several of those powdered shakes online, but after looking into the actual ingredients, I learned that they are full of garbage you don’t need. You should focus on creating your own using natural ingredients.
A simple shake can consist of milk, a banana, 1/2 cup of oats, peanut butter, and flaxseed. You can easily find some recipes to create to help you consume more calories!
Step 6: Create An Eating Schedule
One of the most important aspects of your diet plan and workout routine is when you eat.
When you eat affects how much weight you lose.
The reason for this is because if your body doesn’t have food in it, then it won’t hold onto fat. After all, it’s looking for nutrients that aren’t there.
So when you first wake up, before doing any other unnecessary activity like checking email, make sure to have a small meal waiting on you that will fuel your body quickly and efficiently without making you feel sluggish with low energy levels.
You want to follow an easily manageable schedule so every day of eating follows the same pattern: breakfast, snack/lunch, afternoon snack/dinner, bedtime snack/light dinner, and always end the day with a bath.
This schedule will allow you to get into a rhythm and keep your body working at an optimal level for burning fat.
What happens when you skip meals?
Your body goes into starvation mode automatically which means it’ll start storing whatever food is around rather than using it as energy.
A good starting point can be to space your meals and snacks three hours apart.
This should keep you from getting too hungry or being too full before the next meal.
Our bodies don’t care how many calories we eat as long as they keep coming in.
To avoid skipping meals, prep your meals in advance!
Step 7: Track and Analyze Progress!
What progress you track and analyze will depend on your goal.
If your goal is to gain weight, it would make sense to monitor your weight gains.
If your goal is just to eat healthier to BE healthier, your focus should be more on how you feel throughout the day. Are you feeling more energized and happy?
This will give you an idea of what foods may make up most of your diet (or lack thereof), which will then allow you to create an appropriate meal plan.
Write down your goal/ideal final weight on paper or in a notebook.
This will be the baseline of where you want to end up at.
Example: If you are currently 150lbs and want to get up to 180, write down that number on paper or on your computer (or whatever method suits best for you).
Make it visible so it constantly reminds yourself what your goals are.
Write down your weight every week or so and just see how close you are getting to that goal.
Another way to track your health is by paying attention to how certain foods make you feel.
Did eating that bar of chocolate leave me feeling sluggish?
Is it because I ate too much sugar or fat? How about if I eat an apple instead; does it give me the same feeling?
This is an exercise that you can implement if you want to eat healthier but are not sure how.
It will be a great way to gain insight into foods that make you feel good and will help form your diet plan.
Step 8: Adjust and Learn!
How long will it take?
You can’t expect results after just sticking to a diet plan for seven days!
Stick to your diet plan for 21 days and if you still haven’t seen the results you were hoping for-don’t panic.
You could be following the diet perfectly, yet still not seeing results as quickly as you’d like.
Remember there are lots of factors that affect weight loss, including water retention, muscle mass, and metabolic rate.
Weight often fluctuates by five pounds each week — up one day, down the next — which makes tracking weight weekly misleading.
Instead, look for trends over several weeks to determine if you’re making progress or not.
If you stuck to your diet plan for 30 days and there’s no changes, go back and do the math again on your macro goals.
Diet Plan Tips
Remember your “why”!
This is the most important factor that will lead to long-term success.
Consistency is key! If you follow your diet plan for a month, you should definitely see results!
So, don’t be afraid to make changes and do your research. And remember the 80/20 rule: you CAN enjoy life, but that doesn’t mean it’s an excuse to go overboard!
Even the best workout and diet plan won’t work unless you are willing to commit yourself.
So what is your “why”? Why do you want to improve your health? Do you want to make a diet plan to be fit? Ultimately the “why” should be something tied to how this will make life better, not just how it’ll affect how others perceive you (such as fitting into skinny jeans).
Bottom line: if there’s no emotional payoff for you, it’s hard to keep motivated.
Don’t skip meals!
Your body needs fuel to function properly and going too long without food can make you feel foggy, fatigued, and out of sorts-not exactly the feelings you want when hitting the gym!
Skipping meals lowers your metabolism; and when your metabolism is down, so is the amount of food you need to consume to keep up with energy needs.
Avoid starvation (excessively limiting calories/starving yourself) because this will make it hard for you to stimulate natural hormones and it may hurt your body in the long run.
The best diet plan includes the healthy foods you like best!
Once you find out how much you need to eat, it’s time to decide what foods to add to your diet. The diet plan is with foody you’ll actually eat while getting your macros.
If you don’t enjoy what you’re eating, you’ll never stick to your personal diet plan.
To create your best diet plan, meals should be healthy and fit into your lifestyle!
Look at the foods you eat today and ask yourself: is this good for me? Can I include more of it? Less of it? If necessary, add them or take them away from your diet.
Develop a strong mindset.
When it comes to a nutritious diet plan, it’s okay if you don’t execute it perfectly, not many people can. As long as you’re following your diet plan, for the most part, you will see results!
It’s important to have a good relationship with food, and as long as you’re tracking your macronutrients and eating MOSTLY healthy foods, it’s ok to indulge in a treat now and then!
Frequently Asked Questions
How much water should I be drinking?
Water is one of the most important things for human consumption.
You should aim to drink half your weight in ounces per day which can be anywhere between eight and twelve glasses (depending on gender).
It’s also important to keep hydrated when you’re trying to lose weight because the process of losing weight makes your body release a chemical called anti-diuretic hormone (ADH).
This stops you from urinating out excess water and can make you feel very bloated. To drink more water, start by setting a daily goal of drinking two glasses of water before noon.
If you don’t like the taste, add in some citrus fruit or fresh mint leaves to give it a little flavor boost.
You also need to take care of yourself after each workout by replenishing lost fluids as well as electrolytes such as potassium and sodium.
When is my body truly hungry versus just wanting food because it wants comforting?
If hunger hits hard — your stomach is growling and you’re cranky — grab a piece of fruit or some veggies. Or drink a glass of water with a squeeze of lemon juice in it. This will tide you over until your next meal.
What if I have no time to cook?
I get it; life gets busy!
If you’re seriously short on time, try taking lunch to work instead of eating out every day, as this can save you tons of money in the long run.
Plus, cooking at home is a great way to control portion sizes while keeping calories in check.
On days when cooking just isn’t an option, find healthy ready-to-eat foods that make good options for losing weight and maintaining energy levels throughout the day.
Stay away from processed foods: they’re full of sugar, sodium, and chemicals that can lead to increased health issues.
Is it true that food with high-fat content slows down your metabolism?
No, and I’m glad you asked!
There is a persistent myth that fat will slow you down. The opposite may be true.
It’s also untrue that carbs make you gain weight.
As long as you’re eating whole foods — not processed or packaged — and staying within the suggested macronutrient ranges in your diet plan (based on your goals), you don’t have to worry about your metabolism slowing down!
A big key here is to find a diet plan that works for YOU-not one based on what someone else has done and then stick to it for life.
The fact is, you need fats to burn your basic calories (fat, carbohydrates, and protein are called “macronutrients”).
When the body doesn’t have enough fuel from food or fat stores in the liver — it burns whatever it can get: That’s right, muscle tissue.
It’s something like starting a fire with twigs and branches — when those are gone, the fire goes out because there’s nothing else to burn.
So if people cut back on carbohydrates and eat only fat they may lose weight but not muscle mass!
There are many reasons why people might think they have to cut back on fat and emphasize carbohydrates: To lose weight, people must either eat less or become more active.
What can I do if I dislike vegetables?
If you don’t like eating veggies, try different ways of preparing them in hopes of finding a way to make them more palatable.
If all else fails, you can take a daily vitamin that includes vitamins and minerals your body needs but doesn’t get from food.
Look for one that also includes the B-vitamins riboflavin and pyridoxine, as these two are vital for metabolizing fats and protein; as is Vitamin K1 which helps with calcium absorption in bone tissue.
Keep in mind: there’s no quick fix here.
The only thing that will help you achieve your goals is dedication!
YOU have to truly want this change or nothing will come of it.
Make sure to set realistic expectations so you’re not setting yourself up for disappointment once reality slaps you in the face.
Eating healthy isn’t impossible but it does take time and planning.
Again, not everyone will be able to plan out their diet exactly at first but you will get the hang of it with some experience.
Well, now it’s time to put all this information together to create YOUR OWN personal diet plan that’ll work as great as it possibly can!
There’s no one perfect diet plan so we need to take into consideration what works right for us (our goals) as well as what is easy for us personally.