Did you know that one of the most searched terms, related to plant-based eating on Google is ‘vegan meal plan’?
Indeed, it might be a burdensome task to do all the planning and preparation, related to nourishing your body with food. Not only one has to decide what to prepare for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but also find time to shop for ingredients, then plan time for cooking, and this all is actually the easiest part! How do you make a menu that’s varied and nutrient-rich enough to meet all your nutritional needs? How do you make sure your meals are both satiating, satisfying, and also please the taste buds? (Because let’s face it, you won’t survive on bland meals more than a week!)
Something else to note is that it may take months or even years for certain nutritional deficiencies to surface even if you truly believe you’ve been eating right (has happened to me and other family members).
Considering all this, a ready-made meal plan, mapped out by a nutritionist seems like the perfect idea! After all, what’s easier than having a professional tell you exactly what and when to eat, while taking all the guesswork out of your meal planning and preparation.
Well, the issue is, that a meal plan cannot be a good fit for everyone, because we are all different! And even if a nutritionist worked with you to make a meal plan, suited to YOUR tastes and needs, you would still need a HUGE amount of flexibility to make it work.
Why? Well, because we live in an ever-changing environment, and our needs and tastes change all the time.
What do I mean? For example, your meal plan says that you should have avocado toast for breakfast. However, you wake up and you feel like you’ll throw up if you need to eat another avocado right now (don’t get me wrong, you may be in love with avocados, but it’s just how you feel THAT morning).
Then you start stressing out, because the avocado toast fits PERFECTLY with the rest of the meal plan for that day! And, in the end, you force yourself to eat what’s in the meal plan, because you are not sure if it will ‘work’ if you have something else.
Now, tell me, do you believe forcing yourself into following a strict meal plan is healthier than eating whatever comes to my mind?
The answer is no! And here are a few more science-based reasons why meal plans don’t work:
1. They encourage perfectionism.
It’s right there on the page, in black and white. Eat this — exactly this — and you’re on track. Eat something (anything) else, and you’re not following the plan anymore.
This feels good, at first. You’re batting a thousand, keeping a clean sheet, telling friends and feeling great about it.
Until the willpower runs out. When the thought of another sweet potato burrito makes you ill, and besides, it’s Thursday evening and your friends are getting guacamole and margaritas.
And what happens then — when your plan is based on perfection, and you’re not perfect — is the house of cards collapses.
Maybe you get back on the wagon for a bit, but it doesn’t feel the same now that you’re not perfect. So the next slip-up comes faster than the first, and soon, you’re done.
Pass the gaucamole.
2. They don’t ease you in.
When most people try to follow a meal plan, they set a start date. And on that date, they start. All the way.
It’s 0 to 60, overnight. You keep on eating your normal way through the weekend (well, maybe a little worse than usual, since after all, you’re starting a plan soon!), you pick up some new, strange groceries on Sunday, and when Monday hits, you’re on the plan.
All or nothing.
Yes, this is the way to start seeing results as fast as possible.
No, this isn’t the way to create a habit that lasts.
A way of eating, that, a year from now, you’ll still be doing.
The habit-change research shows that changes last when they start with the smallest possible steps, so that we can preserve our willpower while the new habit gets wired in our brain.
In other words, every time you eat the way you’d like to, you add a fiber to the cable. Add enough fibers before the willpower runs out, and you’ve got a habit that lasts.
But when you dive right in, gung-ho on Day 1, your willpower doesn’t stand a chance of winning this race.
And finally, the biggest problem with meal plans…
3. They don’t teach you not to need a meal plan!
I mean, why would they?
If the meal plan company survives only as long as you keep paying your $15/month, it doesn’t take an MBA to figure out that getting you off of their plan isn’t exactly their first priority.
Which would be fine, if the only cost was the subscription fee.
But it’s not. There’s the time it takes, every week, to learn new meals and shop for new foods, without being able to put it on autopilot because you’ve made the mealsbefore (and you know your family likes them).
Some plans are built on the idea of NEVER repeating a recipe… but does anyone really want to eat this way?
There’s another cost, too: rigidity.
People don’t stick with meal plans because they’re not flexible. Sometimes you’re in the mood for pasta, but sometimes, you just want a big salad.
Or, one day you’ve got time to make the dinner you’re supposed to; the next, your kids have soccer practice on two different fields and the only dinner anyone is eating is something they can bring in the car. (Bet your plan doesn’t have that one.)
The point is no plan that someone ELSE made to fit YOUR life can last.
In fact, no plan that YOU make to fit your life will last. Because crises happen, appointments move, and tastes change.
The only meal plan that will last is the one that’s adaptable, even down to the hour.
And that’s not any plan. Rather, it’s what happens when you’ve mastered it, when you don’t need a plan at all.
But here’s the thing: all of these are actually just symptoms of the same underlying problem.
The common thread here, if you haven’t noticed, is that most meal plans aren’t about changing habits. They’re about telling you the best thing you could eat, under ideal circumstances, in a vaccuum.
But creating new habits is a whole different science, and unfortunately, most mealplans ignore that part. The good ones build in some variety, leave some wiggle room, and even give you a cheat day or a cheat meal here and there.
But they don’t teach you how to not need a plan, and that’s the problem.
After telling you all the drawbacks of following a rigid meal plan, you would probably ask – what’s the solution then?
Well, I will tell you my solution, and it works perfectly to sustain me on my super busy schedule and active lifestyle (involving fitness, ballet, teaching salsa, and more).
I have discovered a set of meals (which is constantly growing) that meet ALL of the criteria I mentioned above – they are delicious, nutritionally perfected (so I don’t need to worry about that at all), satiating, and varied enough so that I don’t get bored.
I have this set of meals in my head, and I prepare, ANY of them, according to what I feel like eating, and according to how much time I have for cooking at any given day during the week.
When I have the chance, I research and test new recipes and meals that meet the above mentioned criteria, but I don’t stress over it – I do it with the pure purpose of enjoyment, and so that I can share and create new E-books for you, my valued readers!
This is how I put together The Complete Vegan Recipe Solution, which features 145 meals you can pick from and never worry if they will fit into a healthy vegan menu, because they do!
They are all made with your HEALTH in mind. And super delicious, too!
I would love you to try them out and see for yourself how much easier it is to just have super tasty, healthy recipes at your fingertips rather than follow a strict meal plan!
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