10 Step Guide To Diet Planning – No More Restrictive Meal Plans!

11 min read


People Think They Need A Rigid Meal Plan…

People are expecting AdapNation to release a meal plan. You know, eat this for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner over the course of a week or an entire month. Eat these things. Don eat this. You are allowed one day a week when you can eat chocolate. Blah, blah blah…

Ugh! Not for me. Where’s the fun, flexibility, personalisation and reality?!

And whilst it is pretty easy for us to knock up a prescriptive meal plan, I just don’t buy it. Sure, it can be one less thing to think about by blindly following someone else version of what you should eat, when, and how much. But, how does that help you in the long run?

You’re not going to be on a meal plan for the rest of your life. Plus, I don’t know about you, but the very prescriptive and rigid nature of meal plans bores the pants off me. It’s a surefire way to turn me off.

One size fits all?! Don’t put me in a box – I want as few rules as possible…

Not least because at best, only 30% of the prescribed meals take my fancy. Oh, and they usually sound a bit too bland or too ‘healthy’ – where the word healthy is exchanged for boring and too sensible.

Lastly, we’re all so different. We have different tastes, preferences, habits, portion size needs, and dislikes. Some may prefer lots of green veg on any given plate, whilst others like Chicken but are not fond of Fish. How can a generic meal plan cater for the uniqueness of us all?

I’d Be Fighting A Losing Battle…

I’d be fighting a losing battle to try and create a meal plan. I’d come across dogmatic and prescriptive. A diet zealot perhaps. It would be implicit that this meal plan is a BETTER meal plan than others at achieving your bodyweight goals.

Unfortunately there is far too much of this when it comes to diets. And usually without evidence

I’d inevitably get it wrong on so many levels, and in doing so alienate and lose the trust of many many people whom are not keen with me dictating a rigid meal plan.

For sure we’d would lose people just like myself, who love food and enjoy having a flexible diverse diet.

Sure, there will be those who just want THE answer. The magic formula. Who would rather do away with the extra decisions and ownership. Who would be most happy just executing a rigid plan.

Just give me the secret (easy) formula already! I don’t want to think and make decisions.

But let’s be clear – there is NO SILVER BULLET. There is no ‘best diet ever’. It’s never the diet that helps people lose weight in and of itself. It’s the fact that said diet has put them in a caloric deficit, and for those who have good diet compliance, they lose weight. And they were compliant because they either have strong discipline and/or generally find that the specific lifestyle and format of the diet matches they personality and food preferences.

Enablement Tastes SO MUCH Better!

So if we don’t do meal plans, how can AdapNation help you take control of your body goals in a clear and confident way, where the results are guaranteed?

It’s all about following just a few Principles, understanding some Facts, and working with maximum Flexibility. That is enablement. That is FREEDOM. And that is sustainable.

Let’s not be one of those 95% of people that fall for another fad / crash diet, only to put the weight back (and some) after a while of returning to ‘normal’.

Within 1YR of weight loss 50-70% of people will have regained it all. Within 2 years the regain rate is around 85% and within 3 years 95% of people will have regained all the weight the lost. And some…

Weight loss (or weight gain) is really pretty straight forward. Take away the emotion, the smoke and mirrors and understand the simple reality in which your body stores or burns fat, and we’re off to the races!

For A Deep Dive, You’ll Want To Read…

We’ve got a few really great resources to get you clued up on all the relevant and accessible facts as it relates to food for weight management, hunger management and optimal wellness.

Instead of rehashing this content, feel free to check out the below five Articles (and or Podcasts) to build your strong foundation of knowledge that will help you make more informed lifelong decisions.

AdapNation Losing Weight For Good Part 1
3-Part Article Series: Losing Body Fat For Good – All You Need To Know

Prefer To Listen? #13: Losing Body Fat For Good AdapNation Podcast.

IIFYM+ Thrive - Feature - Instagram - P1 (FB Narrow)
3-Part Article Series: IIFYM+ Thrive – Achieving a Great Body AND Optimal Wellness!


Lets Eat - Eating Out
Article: Flexible dieting approach to Dining Out and managing your bodyweight.


Flavour & Aroma - Natures Guide To Nutrition
Article: Flavour & Aroma – Nature’s Marvellous Nutrition Label. Embrace Flavours!


Being a road warrior feature
Article: Road Warriors – Healthy Tips For Staying ‘On Plan’

Prefer to Listen? #18: Being a Road Warrior – Managing Your Health & Body Goals AdapNation Podcast

The Top 4 Principles For Weight Management

With the above reading under our belts, let’s get down to the super practical aspect of meal planning. To be honest, it’s more than meal planning – it’s about managing to a calorie budget.

Remember these TOP 4 PRINCIPLES:

Principle #1: Work Within A Daily and/or Weekly Calorie Budget

Principle #2: Hit Your Daily Protein Target

Principle #3: To thrive, Consider the IIFYM+ Thrive Principles

Principle #4: Fuel Workouts with Carbs & Creatine

THAT’S IT! No need to be more specific on Dietary Fat or Carb targets etc.


Calories are king, so keep to your defined calorie budget based on your weight loss or weight gain goals. Check out the Losing Body Fat For Good Article on how to determine your specific weight-loss Calorie Budget.

Calories are king
Calories are King. Scratch that, Calories are Blackjack for Weight Loss

Hit your Protein Target to support muscle growth/retention and optimal health as proteins and amino acids are your bodies primary building blocks for repair, regeneration and new tissue growth. Plus, Protein-rich foods fill you up faster and keep hunger away for longer.

If that’s all you done, you’d manage your weight goals with relative ease and precision, after acclimatising emotionally and mentally to the approach.

If you want to not only lose weight (and/or gain muscle), but you also want to thrive; to have more energy, feel alive and look after your health and wellbeing through food and lifestyle choices. Then, extend your nutrition principles to those laid at in the IIFYM+ Thrive eating approach.

AdapNation - IIFYM+ Thrive - 10 Daily Principles
Article: IIFYM+ Thrive Eating Approach that we follow at AdapNation

And lastly, if you’re working out and looking to maximise the benefits in terms of calorie burn, performance and strength and muscle gains, then consider timing your carb intake to support your workouts, either a carb meal at dinner to support a morning workout or a pre-workout meal/snack an hour or so beforehand to raise your available blood glucose (our bodies preferred energy source).

Also consider Creatine, as this helps with muscle performance. You can read more here – Creatine – Not Just For ‘Meatheads’….

Article: Creatine- the reason why we should all care about our creatine status.

So, How to Meal Plan. Scrap that – CALORIE PLAN!

Remember, we don’t do meal plans! 😉 Joking aside, YOU will need to have a plan, in general terms, on how you will work within your Calorie Budget and hitting your Protein Target. And your plan will be based on your needs, preferences and tastes.

Before you get stuck in on the planning and eating, I’d suggest you take a look and listen to the below.

Getting A Sense For Tasty Food Options & Approaches

First – AdapNation Food Diary

Here you’ll find 100’s Tasty Meal ideas that are healthy, wholesome, and leverage for the most part simple processes and readily accessible ingredients. The super majority of the meals are cooked start-to-finish in 30mins.

Food Diary screenshot
AdapNation Food Diary: 100’s of Meal Ideas, with Calories, Macros and Ingredients.

The beauty of the AdapNation Food Diary is it’s completely transparent in terms of Calories, Portion Size and Macros. You also get an informative description of the food taste / experience, the ingredients and really importantly – a list of the health benefits.

There’s great variety, something for everyone, and we add 2-3 new Meal Ideas every week! Oh, and it’s real food that we actually eat. Yep, I’m so lucky! 😊 Yet, not fat or dissatisfied with my body (far from it). Every meal is picked and used for the purpose of our body goals and max enjoyment. And you can do the same.

So, take a look around, and see if there are any meals that take your fancy. Get familiar with the calorie ranges, protein amounts, and the ingredients that are in use.

Second – Healthy Cooking Tips from Michelle Katasi

How-To Blog - Healthy Cooking Tips & Ideas
Article: Healthy Cooking Made Quick & Easy, With Everyday Foods

Prefer to Listen? #23: Michelle’s Healthy Tasty Cooking Tips & Tricks AdapNation Podcast.

Michelle does a great job of explaining how she approaches cooking from scratch. She talks through the simple cooking processes she uses, the must-have kitchen gear, and the staple ingredients that we ensure are always stocked to help create all the meals in the AdapNation Food Diary.

Managing To You Calorie Budget & Protein Target

Ok, so now your appetite is whetted, here’s how you could bring it all together, in a way that you can use for the REST OF YOUR LIFE.

Gone are the abstaining crash diets and ALWAYS feeling guilty for eating what you want/need. Instead, go grab the keys and love life, fuel your body, eat guilt-free and manage your weight with complete knowledge of how you body stores and burns fat.


STEP #1: Add your Daily Calorie Budget and Protein Target in a Calorie Counting App, and be prepared to track and count calorie throughout the day. I suggest checking out MyNetDiary or MyFitnessPal (or similar).

Calorie Counting App: THis, for example, is MyNetDiary

STEP #2: Decide which meal of the day is the most important for you, to feel happy and content with food. For me personally it’s Dinner. This is your Priority Meal. Get some ideas from AdapNation Food Diary in terms of the calorie hit your food preferences would have. Then, set aside that amount of calories for that meal. Take it away from your calorie budget upfront.

STEP #3: If an evening Dessert treat needs to feature most days to complete the day, think about lower calorie options and portions sizes, and then account for it. Say 100-200 calories.Take these calories away from your calorie budget

STEP #4: See what you calories you have left for the rest of the day. Based on Calorie Budget minus the approx calories from your Priority Meal and Dessert (if a must have), you now have a remaining calorie budget for the rest of the day. For most people, that means you have these many calories to last you throughout the day, until dinner time.

Remaining Daily Calories = Calorie Budget – Approx Priority Meal Calories – Small Dessert

STEP #5: Roughly plan your Protein Consumption ahead of time. This is useful as many people unknowingly under-eat on Protein (especially women). Add in your morning Protein source, what meat/Protein source(s) you have available for dinner, an idea of go-to lunch Protein options near your office or at home and see if that hits your Protein Target. If not, consider upping the portion size of your Protein sources, or adding 1-2x Protein shakes, a Protein Yoghurt and/or a Protein Bar.

Whole Food Protein Sources: Meats, Poultry, Fish, Eggs, Beans, Nuts etc.

Doing this upfront shows how many calories you have available for Carbs and Fats, of which you pretty much have complete freedom on.

STEP #6: Consider skipping Breakfast, or having a Protein/Liquid meal with low Carb to manage overall calorie consumption, morning hunger levels and cognitive sharpness. *

Steve's “Awesome" Morning Fuel - When Vegan Protein, Healthy Oils & Espresso Collide!
A BREAKFAST IDEA: Steve’s “Awesome” Morning Fuel – Vegan Protein, Espresso and Healthy Fats

STEP #7: Consider a lighter Lunch of Protein, a little Healthy Fats, perhaps a little veg and as few Carbs as you need to feel satisfied. The size of the meal will be determined by how many calories you need to preserve for dinner time.

Anchovy Nicoise
A LUNCH IDEA: Anchovy Nicoise.

STEP #8: Don’t forget the Small Stuff – Make Sure to factor in your beverages such as Latte’s, Cappuccino’s, Sugary Drinks etc, as well as any added sugar. Track your snacks too, and just understand that the more you snack, the more you take away from your Priority Meal. It’s fine to snack and drink calories, as long as you end the day on or slightly under your Calorie Budget. It’s also an easy place to save on calories….

Almond Milk Latte
SNACKS & BEVERAGES: Don’t forget to log these. It can add up.

STEP #9: Assuming Dinner is your Priority Meal, you’ll now have your ‘reserved’ calories to spend as you wish. Again, aim for a high Protein, veggie-rich meal, and have as much healthy fats and/or carbs that fit within your reserved budget. For inspiration, check out the AdapNation Food Diary BUTLER. It allows you to pick the ingredients you have/like as well as meal complexity, cuisine and other preferences to offer up the AdapNation meals that fit your needs and tastes. It’s pretty cool!

Chicken & Halloumi Skewers, with SP Wedges & Beetroot Hummus p2
A DINNER IDEA: Chicken & Halloumi Skewers, with SP Wedges & Beetroot Hummus

STEP #10: Dessert Time – Assuming you’ve been proactive in reserving a small dessert calorie allowance, feel free to have a piece of chocolate, some fruit, yoghurt or whatever you like guilt-free! Or not – its your call.

DESERT IDEA: Chocolate craving! Go grab yourself a couple squares of 70%+ Dark Chocolate. Mmmm!


To help follow and practice this approach, check out the AdapNation Calorie Planner tool. It offers a really handy way to plan your calorie and protein consumption throughout the day.

AdapNation Calorie Planner
The AdapNation Calorie Planner – implement the steps above with ease

For some meal inspiration and calories/macro guidance check out the AdapNation Food Diary, or simply use the AdapNation Food Diary BUTLER, to refine meals based on your preferences:

What is AdapNation Food Diary Butler Feature
Article: What is AdapNation Food Diary Butler?

*Fasting / Intermittent Fasting (IF) – For health, cognitive and hunger management benefits, you may see value in Intermittent Fasting. The most common approach is to miss Breakfast and first eat at around 1pm or so. It’s a surprisingly effective and easy way to manage calories, mood and hunger. You can hear more about fasting below:

Fasting Podcast
Podcast: A detailed exploration of Fasting – the science, benefits and approaches

Here’s An Example:

  • 5’4″ Female, 40 years old
  • 140lbs, with approx 30% body fat
  • Thinks she’d like to lose a stone (14lbs)
  • Wishes to lose weight and firm up
  • Will commit to 3-4 Weight Training Sessions a week
  • Priority Meal is Dinner
  • Not bothered about Dessert, but will have something if doable
  • Sometimes can get a little peckish between Lunch and Dinner
  • TDEE is 2062kcal per day – based on above metrics and activity levels, weight should remain fairly static at this calorie amount
  • Weight-Loss Calorie Budget – 1,650kcal per day – We set an initial 20% Calorie Deficit to start. 11,550kcal total per week
  • Protein Target – 140g per day – We aim for 1g of Protein per pound of bodyweight (see Losing Body Fat For Good Article, Part 2 for more guidance)
  • BREAKFAST: Protein Shake with 20g Protein (~130kcal) & Small White Americano (~30kcal)
  • LUNCH: Something perhaps with Chicken or Eggs. A wrap, A salad etc. (~400kcal)
  • MID-AFTERNOON BEVERAGE + SNACK: A Flapjack Protein Bar, or some Hummus & Crackers with a Small Almond Milk Latte (~180kcal + 60kcal)
  • DINNER: A meal with Chicken, Salmon or Beef. Some Veg and say Sweet Potato (~700kcal)
  • DESSERT: A Protein Yoghurt, packing 20g of Protein (~140kcal)

Total: 1640kcal

Estimate Weekly Fat-loss: ¾ – 1lbs per week (excludes initial water loss weight)


The beauty with this example is that this person can expect to lose a steady weekly fat loss, without sacrificing their muscle. It’s never good to lose muscle whilst dieting, which is very common when people blindly crash diet.

You can see that there is a lot of flexibility, as they can choose anything from the AdapNation Food Diary, or anything at all really. The key is keeping to the Calorie Budget and Protein Target. Of course, if you want to have optimal wellness, you may add a couple more principles from the IIFYM+ Thrive eating approach.

AdapNation - IIFYM+ THrive - Our Approach Pyramid
Article: IIFYM+ Thrive Eating Approach

Hey, and if they don’t need the mid-afternoon snack, then this person has another 180kcals to go towards Dinner or Dessert. Or, they can chalk up an extra little deficit for the day, that will help with their overall weekly calorie deficit, and therefore accelerate their fat loss.

For more info on getting in the best female shape of your life, you should check out the BREAK-THE-MOULD Body Plan.

AdapNation BREAK-THE-MOULD Body Plan p1
Article: Building Your Best Body with the BREAK-THE-MOULD holistic body plan

Sustainable, Enjoyable & Easy Weight Management  – For The Long Term

It’s this approach that we use at AdapNation to manage our weight up and down, with control, relative precision and ultimate flexibility. Moreover, we’re super confident in the process, and love that we are enabled and have so much choice and freedom. And, NO GUILT!

Say Goodbye To Fads & Uncontrolled Crash Diets!

No need to do ‘Low-Fat’, ‘Vegan’, ‘Keto’ or ‘Low Carb’. By all means, if one of these restrictive diets works for you in terms of long term adherence, compliance and enjoyment, then go for it. They are not ‘bad’, they are just all restrictive in their own ways, and have dogma and diet zealots galore.

I AM MY DIET: The downside of diet dogma and identifying as your diet

Instead, eat what makes you happy and feel complete. Eat to thrive. And eat with confidence that you can manage your body fat and muscle mass by simply controlling for Calories and Protein, and doing some form of Resistance/Weight Training to develop lean mass.

Gone are the diet points systems, the magic meal-replacement shakes, the rules and restrictions, and the myths like not eating carbs at night or never missing breakfast. No more juice diets, demonising dietary fats or having no carbs for fear of ballooning up.

Most importantly, no more STARVING YOURSELF THIN! 🤗 Yes, severely restrictive crash diets can help you lose weight, but these diets need to be used very selectively and for short bursts.

Crash diets used randomly or relied upon as your only choice to lose weight comes with a number of health and weight sustainability issues (BREAK-THE MOULD Article calls out the risks and issues).

AdapNation BREAK-THE-MOULD Body Plan p5
The Ladies BREAK-THE-MOULD Body Plan – Learn about RED-S and other issues arising from chronically calories restrictive diets

But the real issue with crash diets, is the ‘diet’ is over once you hit your goal, or when you’ve had enough and give up. What happens next?

You go back to normal, as you’ve not been given the tools to healthily manage your weight in an enjoyable way thereafter. That leads to putting the weight back, plus some, and just cycling through dieting periods of your life, constantly frustrated that fat keeps coming back to haunt us all.

You deserve better than that. It’s time to take control. You’ve got this. x


Enjoyed the read?

Comment below, and check out our longer-form Articles, our shorter Micro Blog sections, grab Healthy Meal Ideas from AdapNation Food Diary, and Free Gym Workout Plans at #HyperWorkouts.

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