Meal Planning | Simple Science Fitness

Meal Planning

Why Cook?

Cooking is mandatory for a healthy lifestyle. Low quality fast food and pre-cooked packages have replaced the time, effort, and skill required for cooking. Even though going to a restaurant requires time and effort, the trade-off for grocery shopping, preparation, and cooking is that your diet, wallet, and health will buy you additional years of enjoyable living.

Pound for pound, buying food in bulk from places such as Costco and Trader Joe's is significantly cheaper than fast food in the long run. Not only is cooking a useful and gratifying skill, you can also make leftovers to save time. Refer to the recipes list for various cooking ideas.

Food tastes so much better after exertion. Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile

Your Kitchen

By creating your own meals, most of your fresh foods and leftovers will be stocked in the fridge and freezer, with less stored in the pantry. The kitchen items you would use the most are:

To save time, a rice cooker, slow cooker, and blender are useful kitchen appliances. A food scale is an excellent tool for measuring out portion sizes and calories.

On a Budget

Buying and cooking whole foods could be cheaper than McDonald's. Here are some tips:

  • Shop: No Frills, Costco, Trader Joe's, ethnic markets. Cost per gram is lower when food is purchased at higher volume.
  • Garden: Planting herbs, spices, vegetables, berries, and fruits can return amazing yields.
  • Spices: Refill reusable spice containers with spices from bulk (i.e. Bulk Barn).
  • Animals: Large, whole packages of cuts that are inexpensive in your region. Choices include organ meat, game meat, beef, pork, poultry, or fish. Cut into portions and freeze in bags or containers. Initially expensive, but covers over many meals.
  • Vegetables: Frozen vegetables, in-season vegetables.
  • Fruit: Frozen berries, in-season fruit.
  • Carbohydrates: Potatoes, long-grain rice.
  • Protein: Eggs, whey protein.
  • Fats: Eggs, extra virgin olive oil, butter, ghee, coconut oil.

Combining Foods

The Power of Spices

Most sauces and dressings are high in energy dense sugar and seed oils. To substitute, the palatability of meals can be improved with low-calorie antioxidant-rich spices and herbs, salt, lemon/lime juice, and vinegar. For instance, adding a little bit of paprika and salt to cooked broccoli significantly transforms how it tastes. When used in small amounts, good fats such as coconut oil, butter, and extra virgin olive oil also improve palatability.

Western dishes commonly consist of salt, pepper, paprika, cinnamon, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, basil, sage, rosemary, and parsley.

For Eastern dishes, go with turmeric, curry, ginger, coriander, cardamom, cloves, anise, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

For a spicy dish, add cayenne pepper, paprika, chili powder, and red pepper flakes.

Improving Palatability and Health

Food combinations can make a difference for better or for worse. A potato contains a long list of beneficial micronutrients, yet it is bland to eat by itself. It is high in carbohydrates and satiating. In contrast, butter is not satiating on its own, and it is energy dense. However, adding butter to a potato improves the palatability along with additional health benefits: butter contains various additional micronutrients, helps with the bioavailability of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, and the fat lowers the potato's high glycemic index. Adding a bit of sea salt and vinegar further improves both the palatability and health benefits.

Iron and Calcium Don't Mix

Try not to consume foods that are high in iron and calcium in the same meal. If you have red meat or spinach with a glass of milk, you will miss out on iron absorption. The calcium in milk inhibits the absorption of iron and zinc.

The Dose Makes the Poison

Sticking to one food group means consuming too much of one thing and not enough of another. Variety allows a wide range of essential micronutrients the body requires without approaching levels of toxicity.

When to Eat

When you eat or whether or not you have breakfast is not as important as what you eat and how much you eat in a day. The body is efficient with partitioning and storing energy and nutrients, so it is fine to eat three meals or six meals a day as long as you meet the day's total caloric requirement. However, nutrition timing is more important around a workout.

Bacon and egg frittata

Portion Sizes

Measuring portion sizes are not necessarily required in a diet high in animal and plant sources since they are satiating. However, if performance or weight goals are not being met, measuring portions with a food scale and tracking calories in proper macronutrient ratios are recommended.

The Egg Standard

The SSF Egg Standard is a method of portion control, especially if you are trying to lose weight. Eggs are one of the most nutritious food sources on the planet and makes a good benchmark. There are 80 calories in one large egg. If you had dinner with "room for dessert," find out how many calories are in the dessert you are considering. For example, a slice of cheesecake is about 260 calories. The Egg Standard determines the cheesecake is the caloric equivalent of just over three eggs. If the thought of eating three eggs is too filling, then you do not actually have room for cheesecake. Apply the Egg Standard to any kind of meal or drink to help regulate your food choices and to help determine what choices may be healthy or unhealthy.

Here is a table of some examples to refer to:

Food/Drink Calories Large Eggs
12 potato chips 160 2
1/2 cup ice cream 145 ~2
1 chocolate bar 320 4
1 large mixed coffee drink 360 4.5
1 pint of beer 200 2.5
1 croissant 230 ~3

Counting Calories

Unless you have specific physical and performance goals, counting calories are not required if protein intake is high enough. For the purposes of losing or gaining weight, tracking calories is recommended, especially for beginners. Many over- or underestimate the number of calories they consume daily. Counting calories is a valuable way to understand the energy density of various types of foods.

Recommended calorie trackers

Cheat Meals

Cheat meals and occasional indulgences are encouraged. It reduces the chances of long term failure and serves positive psychological benefits since it is a break from structure and satisfies cravings. On the other hand, undesirable mental and physical side-effects may follow the short-term pleasure.

As long as you are mindful of your caloric intake and of any potential addictive behaviours, have anything you want for a cheat meal.

Copyright © 2017 Simple Science Fitness/Joachim Lapiak.