Creating a custom meal plan depends on a variety of factors. The reference calorie intake established by the Institute of Medicine is 2,000 calories a day but should differ based on starting weight and goal. To lose weight, many individuals reduce daily intake by 500 or more calories. If you are trying to reduce your weight, 1,400 calories a day can be a realistic dietary intake. Using this sample intake can help you develop an effective dietary menu that supplies sufficient amounts of vitamins and minerals.
Determine your macronutrient ratios. The "2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans" recommends that adults consume 45 to 65 percent of calories from carbohydrates, 20 to 35 percent from fat and 10 to 35 percent from protein. If you are on a calorie-restricted diet, eat a percentage towards the lower end of the recommendation for carbohydrates and towards the higher end for protein. For this sample diet, the macronutrients will be 45 percent carbohydrate, 25 percent fat and 30 percent protein.
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Calculate amount of each macronutrient in calories. In a 1,400-calorie diet with a 45/25/30 macronutrient split, 630 calories come from carbohydrates, 350 calories come from fat and 420 calories come from protein.
Convert the amount of each macronutrient in calories to grams. Carbohydrates and protein both yield 4 calories per gram. Fat yields 9 calories per gram. In this sample diet, using these conversions you would consume 158g of carbohydrates, 105g of protein and 39g of fat each day.
Decide how many meals per day you plan to eat. Ideally aim to eat four to six small meals a day. This sample diet includes four meals. Divide the total amount of macronutrients in grams by number of meals eaten each day to determine the approximate macronutrient amounts per meal.
Use an online nutrition database to make four meals that fit into your plan. For a 1,400-calorie plan with a 45/25/30 split, a sample breakfast is 1 cup of oatmeal, 1 cup of blueberries, 1 cup of skim milk and 2 tbsp. of ground flaxseed (405 calories, 54g carbs, 12g fat and 17g protein). A sample lunch is a turkey sandwich, medium apple and 2 oz. of mixed nuts (486 calories, 56g carbs, 21g fat and 24g protein). A sample dinner is 4 oz. of chicken breast, 2 cups chopped broccoli and 1 cup of brown rice (415 calories, 49g carbs, 6g fat and 48g protein). The evening snack meal is 1/2 cup of 1 percent milk fat cottage cheese (81 calories, 3g carbs, 1g fat and 14g protein).
Focus on natural foods, such as fruits, vegetables, dairy and lean meats. These foods are nutrient dense and typically more filling that processed foods.
If you are on a diet to lose weight, have some kind of exercise program in place to support weight loss. The "2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans" recommends that adults exercise a minimum of 2-1/2 hours a week.
Always consult your physician before starting any diet plan.