Meal planning... For some, the task seems overwhelming. How do you plan a week's worth of meals in advance? How do you know that your plan is filled with the nutrients your body needs to perform optimally? Tack on a condition like diabetes, high blood pressure, or celiac disease or a concern like weight loss (or any combination of these), and the task may seem impossible.
General healthy meal planning can be easy.
Take meal planning one day or one meal at a time. Base your meal plan on a healthy eating pattern, like MyPlate (Click here for MyPlate Plans tailored to your age and calorie needs.), the DASH Diet (Click here for DASH Diet sample menus.), or the Mediterranean Diet.
There are a lot of resources out there to help you meal plan. In my latest blog post, I shared my 7 easy meal planning steps. You can also access my guided meal planners here to help take some of the guesswork out of meal planning. They also contain lists of healthy foods for you to choose from when building your meals and snacks.
These diets and resources are intended to help prevent conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. Once someone develops these conditions (or a host of other health concerns and conditions dietitians can help with), they can benefit from nutrition counseling and personalized meal planning with a dietitian.
Meal planning for a specific disease or concern takes professional expertise.
A quick Google search on diet and any disease or concern will result in millions of hits. We all eat, so many people believe themselves to be experts in the areas of food and nutrition. After spending just 5 minutes on one of these Google searches, you're likely to find so much conflicting info that the only "safe" thing to consume will be water. That's just no way to live!
Dietitians spend a minimum of 4-5 years learning about how to tailor diets to the needs of clients, patients, and populations. We take courses in and gain countless hours in medical nutrition therapy, which involves manipulating the diet to improve health outcomes for everything from high blood pressure to diabetes to weight loss to IBS, just to name a few. We spend time in our dietetic internship learning how to feed even the most critically ill hospitalized patents. ...And we do all of this while minimizing risk for nutrient deficiencies and the host of problems those deficiencies can bring (bleeding gums, anyone?).
A Google search can't say what a gluten free eating pattern that promotes weight loss while helping lower blood pressure and cholesterol and manage diabetes looks like...but a dietitian can!
Meal plans provided by a dietitian can simplify the dos and don'ts of managing a condition and provide practical, balanced meal ideas.
Often physicians will provide general nutrition guidance to their patients when newly diagnosed with a condition. I most often see a list of dos and don'ts or eat and avoid. Managing chronic conditions come with a whole list of dos and don'ts and technicalities. Recommendations like, "Eat less than 2000mg of sodium per day," or, "Eat less than 7% of your Calories from saturated fat," are solid recommendations, but how do those translate to actual food? That's where meal planning with a dietitian comes in. We can take those recommendations and show you breakfast, lunch, supper, and snacks ideas that follow those guidelines. We are experts at coming up with tasty, low sodium ideas and helping you select foods lower in saturated fat. Meal plans provided by a dietitian don't just meet the recommendations; they're also balanced and practical. I don't spend over an hour a nigh slaving over a hot stove to prepare supper...and neither do my clients!
Meal plans provided by a dietitian can be adapted to your lifestyle.
Are your mornings super hectic? Do you only have half an hour to cook supper? Are you on a budget? Do you not have access to a microwave at work? Do you have someone with food allergies in your household? As a dietitian, I enjoy helping clients overcome their hurdles, and I have an arsenal of recipes and meal ideas at my disposal that enables us to do just that. Meal plans pulled from the Internet are one-size-fits-all. I collect my clients' food preferences, cooking time availability, and other information about their lifestyle then craft a meal plan that helps to manage or improve their condition/concern while still fitting into their lifestyles.
Not all dietitians meal plan, but we all can help you develop an eating pattern that can help you manage or improve your condition/concern.
When I first started out, I honestly didn't expect to be doing any meal planning. As I sat across from clients, I realized that general recommendations for food swaps like we were trained to do just weren't enough. I learned that if this is a big lifestyle change for someone, they may not have the piles of delicious, healthy recipes needed to help keep them motivated and prevent boredom. I found that having an actual guide to follow reduces some of the stress and helps clients feel more supported and empowered to make healthy changes. While not all dietitians meal plan, this one certainly does! I've seen too many good results and "I can do this" moments to not offer meal planning as a service.
Interested in Receiving Meal Planning Services from a Dietitian?
If you are located within the State of Louisiana, you can call my office at 337-466-6899 to schedule an in-person or telehealth appointment, where I'll learn more about your health concern/condition, lifestyle, and food preferences to help me build a meal plan just for you. If you are located outside of the Louisiana, you can find a dietitian near you by using the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' Find a Nutrition Expert program. Just ask if meal planning is a service they provide.