50-30-20 Meal Plans

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A couple is preparing a meal. (Image: 4774344sean/iStock/Getty Images)

Splitting your daily food intake up into percentages of calories from carbs, fat and protein can help you plan and stick to a diet based on your goals. A 50/30/20 diet plan, where 50 percent of calories come from carbs, 30 percent come from protein and 20 percent come from fat is considered a balanced, healthy diet and falls in the ranges recommended in the U.S. government's Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010. However, if you rearrange those numbers, where 50 percent of calories come from protein, you get a diet plan that may help you shed fat or put on muscle.

Dietary Guidelines for Americans

The Institute of Medicine establishes ranges for the percentage of calories that should come from carbs, protein and fat, called acceptable macronutrient distribution ranges. For adults 19 years of age and older, the AMDR for carbs is 45 to 65 percent of calories, the AMDR for protein is 10 to 30 percent of calories and the AMDR for fat is 20 to 35 percent of calories. Therefore, if you followed a 50/30/20 diet with half your calories from carbs, 30 percent from protein and the rest from fat, you would be within the ranges considered effective for getting proper nutrition and reducing chronic disease risk.

Low-Carb Plans for Weight Loss

Some weight-loss plans recommend dieters increase their protein and fat intake and reduce their carb intake. If you're following one of these plans, you might rearrange the percentages so that 50 percent of your calories come from protein, 30 percent from carbs and 20 percent from fat. This is still within the AMDR for fat, but it is lower than that for carbs and higher than that for protein. Some plans might even reduce carbs to 20 percent of calories, which is considered low to very low in carbs.

High-Protein for Muscle Gain

People looking to put on muscle need more protein to support muscle gain as the body uses protein to make new muscle. You might choose to follow a very high-protein diet, such as a 50/30/20 diet where half of calories come from protein. However, this is a very high, and possibly unnecessary, amount of protein. Depending on your weight and how many calories you're consuming each day, that could be considerably more than the amount considered effective and safe by the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

Tips for Meal Planning

No matter which 50/30/20 diet plan you're following, you'll reap the most health benefits by choosing the most nutritious foods. Focus your diet around whole foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein sources, low-fat dairy, and nuts and seeds. If you're following a low-carb diet, be sure to get enough plant foods by eating plenty of low-carb, nonstarchy vegetables such as leafy greens. For a high-protein diet, choose lean protein sources like fish, white-meat chicken and beans to avoid getting too much unhealthy saturated fat.

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