Let’s Plan Our Journey

Planning is key to being successful at anything. This page will allow you to plan or prepare for the journey ahead. This journey requires a meeting with family members, an understanding of the needs of each family member, and scheduling. As we move forward, we will tackle things you may have never thought may be an issue. And hopefully we will make the journey a bit easier.

Goal 1: Talk to yourself, your family, or your significant other

Discuss your new plans with your family. Whether it is your significant other and/or kids, it is important to determine what they are willing to commit to. Whether it is helping with groceries, prep, or just being willing to eat a serving of veggies each day. It is difficult to do this alone when you have others in the home who may influence you or rely on you for their own meals. Many times when family members have different lifestyles, the processed and unhealthy foods will quickly creep back into the life of those who are trying to eat healthy; purely because of convenience. At this time, take a day or even a week, to discuss the goals of this journey with your loved ones. For some, this may be a no brainer, but for others it may be difficult and even terrifying to change their lifestyle. Things you may need to discuss include:

  1. This is not a punishment. Discuss the meaning of health and lifestyle with your family.
  2. The idea that this is a lifestyle change NOT a diet. Meaning the goal is to implement these changes throughout your life.
    1. This change will alter the food in the home for the better of everyone. Discuss the reasoning behind your choice to eat healthy. Consider mentioning that this change is meant to prevent long term health problems! This journey will be about health not waist lines but if you shed some pounds know that this is normal!
  3. This does not permanently remove unhealthy processed food from their lives.
    1. But it does limit it. Give them examples, such as “Imagine spending the day eating cereal, chips, pizza, cookies, spaghetti, and ice cream…” Eating these salty and sweet foods daily reduces enjoyment over time! Not only does your body (like a machine) become rusty while eating this type of diet, it also becomes tired. It is time to switch up the tempo and spend your days giving your body something (nutrients) to work with. For example, switch out those meals for a smoothie, peanut butter & apples, whole wheat sandwich, carrots and ranch, and whole wheat spaghetti for dinner, and if you’re good, throw in a small bowl of ice cream!
  4. Finally, let’s do this together
    1. As a family: Let’s teach our son the fun of cooking with us at 3 years old; or that mommy and daddy love their fruits and veggies.
    2. As a couple: Let’s make our bodies strong and healthy before we create our own little ones.
    3. As an independent single person: I want to do this for me, so I am the best I can be while I create my life moving forward.

Humans need companionship, even with themselves when starting a new journey. Look yourself in the mirror, and commit to YOU. You are capable, and you will be better and healthy. If you’re independent and doing this on your own, reach out to friends when you struggle, or consider asking a friend or family member to do this with you. As you move through this site, and become more educated in nutrition, you will start to commit, and build a routine… and no matter whether you are single or have a large family, it will become easier to do this with others and even easier to do ON YOUR OWN; commit to you.

Goal 2: Determine who needs to be fed?

Plan for Typical Servings for Each Age group

There have been studies that show children including teens dictate what food is brought into the home. Knowing this, you should be prepared for the challenge, which will be to convince your children that nutritious food is imperative to their future health. In this section you will be given general information on serving sizes and calories based on age. I recommend you grab a pen and paper, write down the names and ages of each individual in your home, and note the recommended calorie intake and servings they need from each food group! Then after reading and guiding yourself through this section, I recommend you consult your own medical and/or nutrition providers to confirm you are on the right track. Feel free to take a look at The Struggling Vegetarian nutrition and coaching program if you would like an individualized plan or even consider the family package.

Toddlers and preschool aged children (1 – 5 years)

This age range can be difficult to feed as this group wants to be independent in many aspects, including food choices.

Calories are important for growth and energy! Generally these are guidelines for calorie intake: ( A useful tip for those ranging from 1-3 yrs would be 40 Cal. Per inch of height.)

2-3 yo1000 calories
4-5 yo1200-1400 calories*
*Based on sedentary diet and will be adjusted, addition of 400-600 Cal. for active kiddos older than 4 years old.

Some general serving rules for feeding children in this age group healthy calories, include:

The Tablespoon Rule. A good rule of thumb is to feed your child 1 tbsp per year of age for each food group at breakfast, lunch and dinner. AND 1 tbsp of a snack in between meals.

For example, Lunch for a 1 year old:

  • 1 tbsp spinach
  • 1 tbsp strawberries
  • 1 tbsp of beans.
  • 1 tbsp of Quinoa

They may not eat the whole meal, but variety and eating until satisfied is the goal during this fragile time. Do not force your child to eat. Sit them down for lunch for 30 minutes – 1 hour and then move to the next task for the day until snack time. You are building their schedule.

Daily serving sizes are generally as follows:

1000 Cal.Fruits 1 c
Veggies 1 c
Grains 3 oz
Proteins 2 oz
Milk* 2 c
1200 Cal.Fruits 1 c
Veggies 1.5 c
Grains 4 oz
Proteins 3 oz
Milk* 2.5 c
1400 Cal.Fruits 1.5 c
Veggies 1.5 c
Grains 5 oz
Proteins 4 oz
Milk* 2.5 c
* Dairy or Non Dairy Milk if VIT D and Calcium are added

Remember this age group is picky, so it is your job to give them a variety of healthy options to choose from at each meal so they meat their servings for the day. If you start early on, your child will not have any habits to break and will have a great start at living a healthy lifestyle.

Final General Tips:

  • If your child avoids one food, try incorporating it into the meal another day. Try your hardest to continue offering foods they do not like. If the child does not want the food after offering 3 days in a row, try again a few days later. Make a list to of these foods you plan to reintroduce.
  • Avoid very sweet dessert at this time. Try to incorporate healthy sweets into dinner so sugar is not anticipated and rewarded at the end of a meal.
  • PSA!!! Try your hardest to AVOID making separate meals when a child does not want the family meal, this leads to bad habits. Educate the child on the meal and offer incentives for a few bites. If you make them their own separate meal this will cause a new habit to form.. and you can imagine the toll a habit like this may take on parents.

School Age Children (Ages 6 – 12)

School age children can be quite picky. Many parents tend to say, “They know what they like.” At this age, the kids have taken the foods they grew up with and embraced them. If little Sally loved pizza as a toddler, she may gravitate to pizza every day in school.

These are the “picky eater” stages and take a lot of work to change. But with guidance they can begin to try new and healthier options. The great thing about this age group is they want to be just like the adults around them, so if mom and dad are excited to be healthy they will eventually follow the lead – even if it’s a struggle at first.

General calories for this group includes:

6-8 yo*1200-1400 Cal.
9-13 yo*1600-2000 Cal. M
1400-1600 Cal. F
14-18 yo*2000-2400 Cal. M
1800 Cal. F
*Based on sedentary diet and will be adjusted based on activity and metabolism. Consider addition of 400-600 Cal. for active kids.

Daily serving sizes start to grow when compared to those in the preschool age group:

1200 Cal.Fruits 1 c
Veggies 1.5 c
Grains 4 oz
Proteins 3 oz
Milk* 2.5 c
1400 Cal.Fruits 1.5 c
Veggies 1.5 c
Grains 5 oz
Proteins 4 oz
Milk* 2.5 c
1600 Cal.Fruits 1.5 c
Veggies 2 c
Grains 5 oz
Porteins 5 oz
Milk* 3 c
1800 Cal.Fruits 1.5 c
Veggies 2.5 c
Grains 6 oz
Proteins 5 oz
Milk* 3 c
2000 Cal.Fruits 2.5 c
Veggies 2.5 c
Grains 6 oz
Proteins 5.5 oz
Milk* 3 c
* Dairy or Non Dairy Milk if VIT D and Calcium are added

You probably notice there are tons of recommendations for this age group. Do not get intimidated, just utilize this information to entice you to feed the most nutritious food to your whole family for proper growth and healing. As you eat healthy, your child will eat healthy, and slowly meet each of the servings above.

For more detailed information on calorie intakes based on specific ages, and activity feel free to take a look at the figures at the end of this section. These are found in the USDA Dietary Guidelines and are a great reference for those who want more specific calories as they move forward.

Adults and Teens (13 and older)

For sedentary adults and teens the general rule for servings is similar.

In ONE DAY a good rule is the 2-2-2-4-4 Rule. This means in ONE DAY you should eat 2 servings of fats, 2 servings of protein, 2 servings, of whole wheat/grain carbs, 4 servings of fruits and 4 servings of vegetables. Milk is not necessarily a necessity at any age passed 1 yo. Turns out vitamin D is low even if we drink the recommended servings of milk; and it adds unecessary sugar (calories) and cholesterol to the diet. We will talk about plant based alternatives later on.

Now it is important to remember these numbers do change with activity. For athletes or consistent gym goers, you may need to do the 3-3-3-5-5 rule. This is wear a one-on-one nutrition consult is important.

Generally calories recommended for a healthy adult include:

19-30 yo*2,400-2600 M
1800-2000 F
31-50 yo*2200-2400 M
1800 F
>50 yo*2000-2200 M
1600 F
*Based on sedentary diet. Activity
and metabolism require adjustments. Consider an addition of 400-600 Cal. for active adults and teens.

For general serving sizes reference the table to the left in the teens column, if your age group requires over 2000 calories take a look at the table below:

2200 Cal.Fruits 2 c
Veggies 3 c
Grains 7 oz
Proteins 6 oz
Milk* 3 c
2400 Cal.Fruits 2 c
Veggies 3 c
Grains 8 oz
Proteins 6.5 oz
Milk* 3 c
2600 Cal.Fruits 2 c
Veggies 3.5 c
Grains 9 oz
Proteins 6.5 oz
Milk* 3 c
* Dairy or Non Dairy Milk if VIT D and Calcium are added

You may have noticed these recommendations are a little different than my 2-2-2-4-4 Rule and this is because research has shown more fruits and vegetables are great for overall health and reduction of chronic diseases.

As you finish up this section, reflect on the information you have read and smile! Understand the more you know, the closer you are to making healthy changes in your home.

For more detailed information on calorie intakes based on specific ages, and activity feel free to take a look at the figures at the end of this section. These are found in the USDA Dietary Guidelines and are a great reference for those who want more specific calories as they move forward.

Adapted From US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020. 8th ed. Washington, DC US government printing office 2015. https://health.gov/our-work/food-nutrition/2015-2020-dietary-guidelines/guidelines/. Accessed May 25, 2020.

Now that you have educated yourself on the calories and serving sizes recommended by the USDA, you will need to determine when you can eat! For example, if you work a 9-5 job and your kids go to school 8-3pm, you should consider a Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner Plan with 2 snacks, but if you live alone and work 10-12 hour shifts, you may do well on a plan that allows you to sneak in a small meal every 2 hours. So how often do you think you need to eat?

Goal 3: Determine how often you can eat?

Eating healthy requires structure.

Consider any “diet” you have ever followed: weight watchers, Paleo, Keto, the low carb diet, the high protein diet, or even the juice diet; They all required you to be structured. Those diets give you structured calories, recipes, and they mention many do’s and don’ts. The one thing they forget to mention is how important “scheduled” and balanced meals are. Scheduling your meals and consuming balanced carbs and protein will lead to reduced hunger and a better chance that you will commit.

With that being said, SCHEDULE IS GOLD! Don’t forget that! The goal of this section will be to plan out your eating schedule! This is where you will make or break your success moving forward (no pressure). But seriously, take your time and really think about this and take this section seriously. Once you have set your schedule you will need to adjust it a few times, but once you find the perfect match, this journey will be a cake walk!! (Mmm Cake..) Focus people!

Planning your meals

Do you work a 9-5pm job? Or from 7am-7pm? Or maybe 11am-8pm? No matter what your hours are you need to find the times you are able to eat.

For example, someone who works a 9-5pm may benefit from the 3:2 meal plan, whereas a hospitalist with a constantly changing schedule may benefit from the 1:5 meal plan. We all have 5-10 minutes of downtime at work, so when is your down time? These small breaks are when you will fit your snacks/small meals in. Now, with your new knowledge on nutrition facts, calorie intakes, and servings of each food group, you should be able to plan out your intake based on the schedule you choose below!

Here are good ratios of meal plans all people should live by. You know YOU, if you know you’re hungry all day then the small snacks/meals throughout the day may be what you need. If you know you need a large meal to feel full, the 3 meals with snacks may be your go to schedule. (And remember snacks are necessary to keep you satisfied, try not to skip these).

Below you will find a few examples of scheduled meal plans:

3 meals : 2 snacks

2 meals : 4 snacks

1 meal : 5 snacks

Only 6-8 small meals/snacks a day

As you develop your plans, ratios are a great way to adjust your own schedule on days off and days of work. For example on your days off you may do a 3:2 schedule and the days you work you may do a 1:5 meal plan. Another hack to consider is to SET AN ALARM FOR EACH MEAL/SNACK. Eating is a job as well! Stay committed and set alarms to assure you eat when you’re supposed to. This will prevent overeating at later times.

Here is an example schedule with a 3 meals to 2 snack ratio:

  •  7-8AM – Eat breakfast (300-500 calories)
  • 10AM – Eat a snack (~200 calories)
  • 12PM – Lunch (300-500 calories)
  • 3PM – Snack (~200 calories)
  • 6PM – Dinner (300-500 calories)

Total calories at the end of the day: 1300-1900 (this is a good number for those who are not exercising daily; refer back to calorie intake recommendations)

Here is an example schedule with a 1 meal to 5 snack ratio:

  •  7-8AM – Snack (300 calories)
  • 10AM – Snack (200 calories)
  • 12PM – Snack (300calories)
  • 2PM – Snack (200 calories)
  • 4PM – Snack (300 calories)
  • 6PM – Dinner (400 calories)

Total calories at the end of the day: 1700 (this is a good number for those who are not exercising daily)

Plan with a 6-8 small snack ratio 

  • 8AM – Snack (300 calories)
  • 10AM – Snack (300calories)
  • 12PM – Snack (300calories)
  • 2PM – Snack ( 300 calories)
  • 4PM – Snack (300 calories)
  • 6PM – Snack (300 calories) 

Total calories at the end of the day: 1800 (this is a good number for those who are not exercising daily)

**All calorie intakes will be based on exercise – if you burn 300 calories at the gym – replace those calories – your range would then be 1600-1900

Goal 4: Understand the USDA’s My Plate Graphic

ChooseMyPlate.gov was created by the USDA to give Americans a guide when creating meals. The plate is great in that it assures half the plate is reserved for fruits and vegetables.

What to remember when referencing MyPlate:

  • Dairy is not a requirement. Although it is on the MyPlate graphic, dairy is not necessarily required in the daily diet after 1 year of age. Being that Milk does not contain nearly enough calcium or vitamin D in 1 cup to maintain healthy levels, it is not a bad idea to consider alternatives to avoid unecessary sugar and cholesterol by drinking excess. Unless you’re in the sun often, a supplement may be necessary to maintain vitamin D levels being that meat is the only other alternative to milk where you can consume vitamin D; and as we discussed before too many animal meats can increase cholesterol levels as well.
  • It is not a bad idea to reserve half the plate for fruits and veggies but this will limit your intake of each to about 3 servings of each daily which may not be enough for optimal nutrition if you’re only eating 3 meals per day. So consider serving half of the plate with vegetables, and reserve fruit for a daily smoothie, snack, and/or dessert. For example, a fruit smoothie for breakfast may have about 3 servings of fruit, two fruits reserved as snacks, and one fruit as a dessert and you are at about 6 servings in the day; yay antioxidants!

Now that you have delved into beginner nutrition concepts and have planned out your meal plan, and the meal plan your family will follow. You can now move forward with the actions necessary to live a healthier lifestyle. The content is robust, but organized so that you can easily determine costs, and consider the meals you will eat in the future. If you follow these concepts the best that you can, you will see rewards. Again, it is recommended you follow up with your nutritionist or dietitian for individualized guidance.

Take a fun quiz before continuing! Plan Section Quiz

*All of the information here is from the author’s ongoing nutrition education, and continued education via nutrition textbooks, eatright.org, and pubmed research articles that are not biased and have good accuracy. This information is not meant to diagnose or treat any condition. This information is to be read and utilized at your own will, and the author is not responsible for any outcomes that come from utilizing this information. This information may be discussed with and adjusted by your dietitian, nutritionist, or medical provider for a more personalized plan. If you have any questions feel free to contact us via the Contact Page. For sources Click Here.

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