Meal Planning

Eating nutritious food is vital to an athlete's success on the field, court, pool, etc...The trick to meal planning is recognizing bad eating habits and changing them to good eating habits. Once you get used to eating well, you will likely prefer to eat good, healthy foods instead of bad, unhealthy foods.

The benefits from a healthy diet will be evident, and should include:
  • Improved athletic performances (for training AND game-time, meet-time, match-time, etc.)
  • Increased energy throughout the day
  • Better sleep
  • Improved/ more stable mood
  • Safer and more effective methods for desired weight loss OR weight gain 
... and a wide range of overall health benefits, including:
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduced risk of diabetes
  • Reduced risk of certain cancers 
... and more!

The basic idea for creating a healthy diet is balancing protein, carbs, and fat throughout the day. The body uses each of these three components for energy, depending on how long and how intensely you train, and also to build all of the cells and tissues and organs your body needs to make you strong and healthy. 

Basic Macronutrient Intake Model
  • Protein 30% - 35% 
  • Fat 20% - 25% 
  • Carbs 50% - 65% 
Protein: can be found in meats, most dairy, beans, nuts, etc.
Fat: can also be found in meats, most dairy, nuts, oils, desserts, and even some vegetable (these are usually described as "good fats").
Carbs: can be found in most anything you eat, including meat, dairy, nuts, fruits, vegetables..and anything with sugar in it (i.e. sift drinks, juices, candy, etc.).

Based on the macronutrient ratio above, some athletes may want to modify these proportions based on how many calories they burn each day (mainly from exercise) and/or efforts to gain or lose weight. 

For instance, if a football player needs to take in more calories to build muscle and make sure he has enough energy for two-a-day workouts, he may want to add more protein to his diet to build muscle, and also eat more carbs and (healthy) fats so he has enough energy for his muscles to use during exercise without having to burn the protein in his body he needs to increase his muscle mass.

All three "macronutrient" categories are needed for your body to work properly.  This is why most "fad" diets do not work. Eating healthy means eating a wide variety of natural foods to give your body the range of nutrients it needs for success.  

    • Healthy Foods and Food Combinations

      The general idea when creating a healthy meal plan is to eat as many natural (i.e. unprocessed) foods as possible.  This means eating a fresh apple instead of (processed) applesauce from a can, or eating a fresh fillet of fish instead of (processed) canned tuna. In general, processing foods means that nutritious elements (like vitamins and minerals) are taken out, and unhealthy elements are added in (like sugar and fat).  Indeed, some foods are more processed than others; so in general, the less processed... the better. Try to balance each meal with an appropriate ratio of protein, carbs, and fat (see above for ratio guidelines).  Supplement snacks like (unprocessed) nuts, fruit, and granola, to create a balanced diet providing a wide variety of healthy components, like fiber, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, calcium and iron... etc. The general rule is to eat 4-5 smaller meals a day (including snacks) rather than 2-3 large meals a day.  The science behind this recommendation can get rather complex, but basically the body breaks down and stores food "better" when smaller portions of food are consumed as opposed to overwhelming the body with a lot of calories all at one time. 


      2-3 eggs (scrambled, over-easy, etc.); 2-3 pcs turkey bacon; 1 cup fresh fruit; 1-2 pcs whole grain toast; 1 glass OJ

      Morning Snack:

      1-1.5 cups nuts (almonds, pistachios, cashews, etc.), unprocessed


      Grilled chicken breast; 1-2 cups roasted sweet potatoes (cooked in extra virgin olive oil); 0.5-1 cup cooked spinach and/or broccoli; 1 glass milk or chocolate milk

      Afternoon snack:

      1 small-large protein shake made of fresh (or flash frozen) berries, oranges, apples, bananas, raw protein isolate (ex. = whey protein mix), milk, and ice


      1 turkey burger (6-8 oz. turkey patty, grilled; top with lots of fresh produce, like lettuce, tomato, onion, cucumber, spinach, etc.; light condiment spreads, mustard, etc.; bun made of wheat or multigrain bread or wrap it in lettuce or a non-bleached tortilla); 0.5-1 baked potato (light butter or non-fat sour cream) or 1 cup brown rice; 3-6 oz. fresh vegetable(s) of choice; 1 glass milk or water


      + 4-6 liters of water consumed throughout the day

    • Foods to Buy on a Budget

      A common misconception about healthy food is it's too expensive.  True, you can spend a lot on healthy foods, but you don't have to. 

      Tricks for buying healthy foods on a budget include:

      • Buy individual-sized servings of meat and side dishes so you don't waste food
      • Examples include: Reds® all organic, no preservative frozen burritos and quesadillas (approx. $3.00 per meal); fruits (apples, oranges, etc.); nuts (pistachios, peanuts, etc.)
      • Don't buy a bunch of junk food along with healthy foods.  This is especially important so you aren't tempted to eat junk instead of the healthy food in your fridge.
      • Find out when your local store puts their food on sale.  Often times FRIDAYS are a common day for food at stores to go on sale (just check expiration dates so you don't buy food that will expire before you eat it!)
    • Quick and Easy Cooking Ideas

      Most young people don't like to cook every day.  We get it.  You're busy.  But the more you cook your meals yourself, the more you control what you're putting into your body.  That's a good thing.  So learn to cook a little more often, and you may just want to cook more and more of your own meals and snacks.  Just do it-- it works.

      EZ meals to cook include:

      • Stir-fry (even without a wok-- just use a big fry pan)
      • Deli sandwiches
      • Rice-based meals (i.e. rice and whatever else in the fridge that's healthy)
      • Omelets with lots of veggies packed inside (tip: make it "open-faced" in the pan, then fold it over once it's on your plate!)
    • Food Genres

      Do you like certain "ethnic foods"?  Are you a "picky eater"?  No problem!  Here are some healthy meals from food genres that will give you the variety (or consistency) you crave:

      • Classic American-- deli sandwiches; turkey burgers; chicken sandwiches; cobb salads; jambalaya; gumbo; California rolls; chilies; stews; etc.
      • Latin-- fajitas; enchiladas; tacos; ceviche; tilapia (fish); arroz con pescado; caldo de pollo; pasole con pollo; bean burritos with chicken; etc.
      • Italian-- spaghetti; pizza (thin crust); roasted chicken or fish and vegetables; bruschetta; caprese salad; spiedini (meat, roasted veggies, lemon olive oil); etc.
      • Mediterranean-- vegetable pilaf; hummus; marinated olives; roasted eggplant; sautéed spinach w/ pine nuts and raisins; arugula salad; Turkish style pizza; stuffed figs or dates; etc.  
      • African--  chicken XimXim (stew) with ground peanuts; grilled salmon with mango salsa; couscous; stuffed peppers; squash, chickpea, & red lentil stew; sweet potato bisque; etc. 
      • Asian-- grilled tofu salad; chicken teriyaki w/ rice; miso soup; (lean) beef with broccoli; chicken chow mein; Asian salads; curry with vegetables; Thai chicken satay w/ peanut sauce; etc. 


      KEEP IN MIND:  Any of these dishes may be turned into unhealthy dishes by adding butter, oil, dressings... etc.  Part of eating healthy is to consistently use good judgment when cooking (and even eating out).  So keep oils and butters to a minimum, eat white meat (i.e. turkey, fish, chicken) instead of red meat (i.e. beef and pork), and use common sense to reduce unhealthy components and add healthy components to each meal


ATTENTION : All content relating to nutrition herein should be considered general, non-clinical information and guidance.  Always consult with your doctor or a professional nutritionist when seeking ANY personalized dietetic advice that may significantly affect your immediate and/or long-term health.