Putting it all Together
Feb 18, 2013
Protein, Your Guide to Meal Planning Part 1
When putting together a nutritiously balanced meal plan, there are a few important factors to consider. The first key element is protein.
As many of us are aware, over the past 10 years there has been an explosion of focus on protein, mainly based upon the introduction of the low-carb craze. Still, many people do not include the proper amount of protein in their diet. Protein is so important for wellness and health. It is the building block of the cells in your body. A lack of consuming the proper amount of protein can cause growth failure, loss of muscle, lowered immunity, and weakening of the heart and respiratory system. Whether you are trying to burn fat, build muscle, or just live a life of wellness, you need to incorporate protein correctly and sufficiently throughout your diet.
There are two types of protein – complete and incomplete. Complete proteins are the highest quality proteins, and contain all the essential and non-essential amino acids. Most complete proteins come from animal sources such as eggs, meat, and milk. Incomplete proteins are proteins that lack one or more of the essential amino acids that the body cannot make from scartch or create by modifying another amino acid. This is an important point for vegetarians to note. In order for the body to get all of the essential amino acids and keep itself, as a system, in top shape, it is critical for non-meat eaters to get a wide range of incomplete protein rich foods in their diet. For example, combining two incomplete proteins like beans and rice offers all of the essential amino acids for meeting the minimum amino acid requirements for health. However, vegetarians beware, there is a difference between minimum requirements for maintaining health, and requirements for building muscle. In other words, vegetarians may have a bit of a difficult time, if one of their best life goals is to build muscle.
Following is a list of protein sources. One point to note regarding animal proteins is that certain types can contain large amounts of saturated fats. It is best to stick to lean varieties, such as poultry breast, lean cuts of red meat, egg whites (limit number of yolks to 1-2 per day), and nonfat or lowfat dairy products.
Complete (lean) sources of protein
Lean red meats (top round, lean sirloin, flank steak)
Eggs (and egg whites)
Nonfat or lowfat milk, cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt (plain)
Protein powders – whey, egg, or rice based
How much protein do I need?
For the average individual looking to eat for wellness, build muscle, or lose fat, it is recommended to aim for at least 30% of your total calorie intake as protein. For example, if you are taking in 2000 calories per day, then you would multiply 2000 by 30% to get 600 calories worth of protein for the day. Now, since 1 gram of protein equals 4 calories, that would mean that you should be shooting for at least 150 grams of protein per day (which translates to 30 grams per meal if you are eating 5 meals per day) in order to reach the 30% ratio. I recommend not going higher than 40%, that should be your limit.
The crucial element to remember with protein is this: You must consume a source of complete proteins with every meal. Why? Well, to ensure continuous repair of muscle tissue, to slow digestion and reduce insulin spikes, and to encourage satiety and reduce hunger paigns. Also, protein should be consumed at frequent intervals throughout the day because it cannot be stored for later like carbohydrates can.
Do I need to use protein powders in order to lose fat or build muscle?
The answer is no. The supplement industry is a big money maker, so there is a lot of marketing and sales push out there that can be confusing at times. You do not need to use protein powder to achieve your fitness goals. It is truly best to eat whole food sources of protein for the bulk of your nutrition. Protein supplements are merely for convenience. The human digestive system is designed to digest WHOLE foods, not liquid forms of protein. By overconsuming liquid protein supplements, you are short changing yourself on the thermic (calorie burning) effects of digesting real, whole foods.
What protein powder do you recommend?
There are many different brands to choose from. My own personal favorite is 100% Natural Whey Protein-Optimum Nutrition Natural Protein, 5.13lb Chocolate because well, I am a chocolate junkie. MyFAVORITE dessert, one that I have almost every night of the week, is a concoction of chocolate whey protein powder and Naturally More Peanut Butter, but I will save that recipe for later in the series, after we talk about fat. I know, I am a tease.
Let me know how you like this series. Don’t be shy folks, I want to know what you think. After all, I am writing for you!
Carbohydrates, Your Guide to Meal Planning Part 2
Now that you have a better understanding of the importance of protein, the next topic in this series is carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates, aka carbs, are the second essential element that must be incorporated into a healthy diet. By essential, I do mean ESSENTIAL. Carbohydrates provide most of the energy needed for our daily activities like walking, climbing stairs, and running as well as for normal body functions including heartbeat, breathing, and digestion. They also play an important role in proper development and growth, our immune system, and blood clotting. There is no need to be fearful of carbs, the trick is learning about the different types. Carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram, the same amount as protein if you remember from Part 1 of this series. There are two types of carbohydrates, simple carbs and complex carbs. Without getting too scientific on you, I am going to breifly describe the difference between the two.
Simple carbohydrates, or simple sugars, consist of a single sugar molecule (monosaccharide) or two single sugar molescules linked together (disaccharide). Examples of the most common simple carbs are glucose, fructose, sucrose, and lactose. Glucose (aka blood sugar to those who have diabetes or hypoglycemia) is the most common form of sugar. It is the primary type that is stored in the body for energy. Fructose is the type of sugar in fruit, honey, and the dreaded high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Sucrose is found in sugar cane or sugar beets and is refined to make granulated table sugar, which includes white, brown, and powdered sugar. Lactose is the form of sugar found in dairy products.
Simple carbs digest quickly, causing a rapid rise in blood sugar levels. The body then responds by releasing large quantities of insulin in order to corral the glucose from the bloodstream into the cells so that it can be used for energy. When you eat simple sugars, and this rapid rise occurs, your body tends to freak out and overreact, sending too much insulin into the bloodstream. This allows it to quickly get the glucose into the cells, which then causes a dramatic drop in blood sugar. Along with this rapid drop comes increased hunger, cravings, fatigue, and mood swings. You can see how this could lead to a cycle of neverending highs and lows if you proceed to eat more simple carbs throughout the day.
The majority of the simple carbs that your typical American consumes are from processed foods such as soda, cookies, chips, etc. These foods are what are known as “empty calories”, or foods that provide a large amount of calories but little to no nutritional value. STAY AWAY from processed foods, I can’t stress that enough.
Examples of Healthy Foods Containing Simple Carbohydrates
- Nonfat or lowfat milk
- Nonfat or lowfat yogurt
- Nonfat or lowfat cheese
Complex carbs, or polysaccharides, are composed of simple sugars formed into long chains called polymers. These chains take much longer to digest than simple carbohydrates, so they have a much more modest effect on blood sugar levels. Complex carbs are also packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and photochemicals. There are two types of complex carbohydrates: starch and fibrous.
- Starch represents the main type of digestible complex carb. The human body is able to completely digest the caloric energy in starchy carbs, which makes them more calorically dense than fibrous carbs. Some examples of starches are potatoes, oats, grains, bread, pasta, and beans.
- Fibrous carbohydrates are the indigestible part of the plant that cannot be broken down by the human body, and is therefore passed along to the large intestine without the caloric energy being absorbed. For this reason, fibrous carbs are considered to be low in calorie density. They are a very important part of a healthy diet as they keep us full longer and promote a healthy digestive tract by “scrubbing” the walls of our intestines as they move through. Fiber is found in some starchy carbs such as oats, grains, and beans, however vegetables are what is typically refered to as “fibrous carbohydrates”.
Complex carbohydrates contain high amounts of fiber, which slows down absorbsion and helps to stablize blood sugar and insulin levels. This means that complex carbs provide sustained energy without the peaks and valleys in blood sugar and energy levels produced by consuming simple carbs. Soluable fiber (dissolves in water), found in oats, barley, and beans, may aid in reducing LDL (bad) cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure. Insoluable fiber (does not dissolve in water) is found in most peels and skins of the foods we eat. A combination of both types of fiber is best for a healthy diet, and well, healthy intestines. They both play a key role in going #2 everyday, and yes you should be going every single day…more than once a day at that, but that is a whole article in itself. For these reasons, complex carbs should make up the majority of your carbohydrate calories.
Examples of Healthy Foods Containing Complex Carbohydrates
- Whole Barley
- Oat Bran
- Oatmeal (rolled oats are best)
- Wild Rice
- Brown Rice
- 100% Whole Wheat Bread
- Black Beans
- Kidney Beans
If you are insulin resistant (diabetic or hypoglycemic), its best to stay away from simple carbohydrates due to the reaction they cause with insulin levels. In order to keep your body happy and healthy, you should stick to fibrous and starchy carbs for your carbohydrate intake.
Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest dairy products. When the body lacks the enzymes to properly digest lactose, the result is gas, cramping, bloating, water retention, and sometimes even diarrhea when dairy products are consumed. If you eat dairy products and regularly have any of these symptoms, its best to remove dairy from the diet, and use lactose free versions, if desired.
So why did carbs get a such a bad rap?
In the 80s it was discovered that dietary fat was more calorically dense than carbohydrates (fat has 9 calories per gram versus carbohydrates weighing in at 4 calories per gram), and that when dietary fat was removed from a person’s diet, they consequentially ate less calories overall. People thought that all they had to do was remove the fat from their diet in order to lose weight. What they didn’t realize is that if they stuck with unrefined naturally low-fat foods, yes they would lose weight. But most people did not do that. What we quickly ended up with was shelves upon shelves of refined, calorie dense foods but yet “low-fat”. The choices were endless. So a diet that should have been naturally reduced in calories, was replaced with calorically dense “low-fat” counterparts, causing people to either not lose weight or even gain weight. Essentially the fat was removed, and sugar was added to make up for the loss of flavor.
How many carbs should I be eating per day?
This depends on your goals and total calorie intake, but in general, 30-50% of your daily intake of carbohydrates is a healthy range to shoot for. So, for example, if your daily calorie intake is 2000 calories, and say you are aiming for 40% carbs, then 2000 multiplied by 40% is 800 calories worth of carbohydrates. We don’t stop there though. You would then divide 800 calories by 4 (carbs are 4 calories per 1 gram) which would give you 200 grams of carbohydrates per day.
Note: If you would like to learn how to figure out your daily calorie allowance, either for fat loss or for maintenance, click here.
Now you are wondering, hey what about low carb diets? Well, to keep this short and sweet, it has been found by numerous studies that going below 30% carbohydrates in your diet can cause a sleu of problems, from loss of period for women, lowered testosterone in men, brain fog, and more. In my opinion, you can achieve the same results more safely and sanely, with a moderate incorporation of the right kind of carbs.
What types of carbs are the best to eat?
There is no one answer to this question because it depends on many things like what time of day it is, if you just worked out, if you are diabetic, etc. The general, overarching answer is… stick to whole foods whenever possible. Meaning stay away from the processed, packaged junk, and eat foods that are close to nature, i.e. fruits, veggies, whole grains, rice, for overall wellness. Its ok to have a “treat” once in a while, but keep the majority of your calorie intake to whole foods.
The best time of day to eat simple carbs is paired with protein (of course) in the morning, when your liver glycogen levels are low, or immediately following your workout (again paired with protein), when your body needs the simple sugar to shuttle the protein into your muscles quickly. In general, its best to eat the majority of your simple/starchy carbs in the morning and then switch to fibrous carbs (veggies) later in the day. This way, your body has a chance to burn off the simple/starchy carbs during the day, and you are not loading up right before bed. I will discuss this in further detail, later in the series, when we put it all together and talk about food pairing.
Special Note on Fat Loss
Fruit is loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. However if fat loss is your goal, limit fruit to 1-2 servings per day as it does contain fructouse, a simple sugar. Aim to get the rest of your carbohydrate intake for the day from fibrous veggies (spinach, broccoli) and starches (oatmeal, sweet potatoes, wild rice). Fruit juice consumption should also be reduced or eliminated while on a fat loss diet, because juice is much more calorie dense than whole fruit and has little to no fiber.
Next up in this series is Part 3 on fats. The GOOD, the bad, and the ugly!
Fats, Your Guide to Meal Planning Part 3
Now that we have covered protein, in Part 1, and carbohydrates, inPart 2, we are going to move on to fats. First things first – most people have a very misguided understanding of fats. Fats provide us with energy and are an essential component of cell membranes, blood clotting, absorbing vitamins, and insulating and acting as shock absorbers for bones and organs. The human brain is made up of 60% fats. We NEED fats to live. So my goal in Part 3 of this series is to set the record straight. I am going to say a lot of things that will most definitely make your jaw drop, you may even get weak in the knees, but trust that I am going to tell it to you straight. For the sake of keeping this posting short and sweet, I am not going to delve too deep into the how’s and why’s of exactly how the reputation of certain fats has gotten so misconstrued. However, if you are interested in learning more, I encourage you to do some digging on your own. For more information, you can start with my resource links at the bottom of this blog entry. Now…I’ve got your attention haven’t I? Let’s get started.
The first important item relating to fats, is that it is the type of fat that matters, not the amount. Here are the basics.
Saturated fats are mostly commonly found in animal products such as beef, poultry, dairy, eggs, and seafood, as well as, tropical oils like coconut, palm and palm kernel, and cocoa butter. Contrary to popular belief, saturated fats are not as bad for us as you may think. I bet you would be surprised to find out that there is actually little evidence to support the theory that a diet low in cholesterol and saturated fat can actually reduce the risk of heart disease. What researchers are now proving is that it is the 400% increase in use of vegetable oils like margarine, shortening, and refined (highly processed) oils and the 60% increase in sugar and processed foods consumption that is the silent cultprit.(1) Saturated fats actually protect against toxins and help to support a healthy immune system.
In three words. Your. Arch. Enemy. Trans fats are the bad fats. No way around this statement, it is a fact. They are the fats that form when vegetable oil hardens through a process called hydrogenation. This process is performed to keep the fat from going rancid (longer shelf life) and to change the fat from a liquid state to a solid. Partially hydrogenated oils (aka trans fats) block the usage of essential fatty acids, contributing to many issues like sexual dysfunction, immune system disfunction, and bone and tendon problems.(2) Trans fats are also directly linked to heart disease.
Hydrogenated Fats Are Found In:
- Commercially baked foods such as cakes, cookies, pies
- Popcorn – microwaved, movie theater, etc
- Most snack foods
- Fast food
Here is where things get even more slippery. For many years, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated oils were touted as the hero. They were the “good” fats. While this is generally true, research is now showing that we are consuming them in the wrong amounts and in the wrong ratios. Polyunsaturated fats are made up of 90% omega-6 linoleic acid. The remaining 10% is made up of omega-3 linolenic acid. What scientists are now finding is that Americans are not getting nearly enough omega-3 fats and way too many omega-6 fats.
Importance of the Omega Fatty Acids Ratio
Omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA, are essential to brain and nerve function. They improve the body’s cell response to insulin, neurotransmitters, and other messengers, and help repair damaged cells. Another misunderstanding with the general public is that we need to aim to consume all types of omega fatty acids (omega-3, 6, and 9). In actuality, we ingest far too many omega-6 fatty acids than we need to, throwing the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats way out of whack. The goal is go have a 1:1 ratio between the two. The average American diet is a a ratio of 15:1. That is average, it has been found to reach as high as 25 or even 50:1. This ratio is astronomically out of proportion. When we are able to achieve a more even ratio, we are can reap the benefits of omega-3 fats such as a reduced risk for heart disease, cancer, depression, diabetes, stroke, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, and other degenerative diseases.
Polyunsaturated fats are most commonly found in fish and plant oil, such as safflower, corn, sunflower, and cottonseed. Monounsaturated fats are found in canola, olive, and peanut oil, as well as in most nuts. The best source of monounsaturated fats to consume is extra virgin olive oil, which is rich in antioxidants. Canola oil, due to its high sulphur content, goes rancid easily which is why most baked goods made with canola oil get moldy quicky.
Examples of Foods Containing Healthy Fats
- Ground flax seeds
- Nuts, particularly walnuts
- Extra virgin coconut oil
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Nut butter such as natural peanut butter, almond butter, and cashew butter
- Eggs, particularly egg yolks
- Fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel
- Fish oil (EPA/DHA), cod liver oil
So What is the Right Amount of Fat to Eat?
The average modern diet typically contains up to 30% fat, primarly comprised of polyunsaturated fats. Scientific research is now showing that this amount of polyunsaturated fats is actually far too high. The evidence now suggests that we should consume only 4% of our daily intake of calories from polyunsaturated fats, in a ratio of 2% omega-6 to 2% omega-3.(2) This is the ideal amount, which our ancestors used to obtain in limited quantities through whole food sources. 30% of your daily calorie from fats is still a good percentage to shoot for, however aim for this intake to be made up of monounsaurated and saturated fats.
What About Cholesterol?
Yet another misconception. Cholesterol is actually not bad, we need it to give our cells structure and stability. New research suggests that it actually acts as an antioxidant, which explains why levels go up as we age. Cholesterol is not the culprit behind heart disease, but in reality could be the secret weapon against it. I know, this goes against everything that you have ever been taught, but stay with me. Cholesterol, like fats, can be damaged when exposed to heat. This heat causes the cholesterol to damage the cell walls inside our body and promote build up of plaque in the arteries. Heated cholesterol can be found in powdered egg and milk products as well as meats that have been fried or cooked at high temperatures. Can you see where I am going with this?
The cause of heart disease is not cholesterol, but many other modern dietary choices we make everyday, like excessive levels of hydroginated oils, the large amount of calories from refined carbohydrate like white flour and sugar, and not getting enough vitamins and minerals. On the contrary, saturated fats found in meats and tropical oils have been shown to actually provide us with protection against viruses and bacteria that are linked to the pathogenic plaque related to heart disease. We’ve got it all backwards! The best way to prevent heart disease is not to rely on low-cholestrol foods or cholesterol lowering drugs, but to consume animal foods that are high in vitamins B6 and B12, which help to combat against plaque build up in the arteries and clots, consume whole foods that contain vitamins and minerals in general, to stay away from refined carbs, to boost antimicrobial fats (from animals or tropical oils) in the diet, and to refrain from using polyunsaturated vegetable oils in cooking.
More Fat Facts You Didn’t Know…
- The most common cooking oils – olive oil, conola oil, safflower oil – actually become rancid and toxic to the body when heated, releasing free radicals that attack the cells. For this reason, you should try to use coconut oil whenever possible for cooking/heating, which is not affected by heat.
- A great source of a balanced ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is full fat butter. This is not a license to eat sticks of it, but in moderation, butter is a better choice than margarine for your health. We touched on this a few weeks back, in this Food Myths Busted post.
- Flax seed oil is also another great source of omega-3 fats.
- Until recently saturated fats were lumped in with trans fats in the US databases that researchers used to correlate disease, which is why saturated fats have gotten such a bad rap.
- Steric acid, the main component of beef fat, is converted to oleic acid in your liver (the same heart healthy, monounsaturated fat found in olive oil), and has been shown to actually reduce cholestrol levels.
- Margarine’s natural color, unappetizing grey, is removed by bleach.
Where To Start?
- Avoid trans fats. Start really reading the nutritional information on packaged foods. Know what is going into your body. Anthing that has the words “partially hydrogenated oils” on the ingredients list, put back on the shelf and walk away. Even if the product lists 0 fats, it could still be on the ingredients list because anything less than 1 gram of fat (i.e. 0.9 grams) is allowed to be listed as “zero fat”. You must read the ingredients list.
- Eat more fish! And instead of deep frying it, saute it in a tablespoon of coconut oil instead.
- If you don’t like fish, take fish oil supplements. I recommendthese.
- Cut out all fast food. When you are in a pinch and have no other option besides fast food, ask for a nutritional brochure or use this resource so that you can make informed choices.
- Switch to only using extra virgin coconut oil (can be found in most health food stores or online) as your primary cooking oil. Use extra virgin olive oil for salad dressings.
- Incorporate more whole food sources of fat into your diet. When I say whole food, I mean one ingredient items like meat, nuts, veggies – foods that come from Mother Nature and not the chips and snacks aisle of your favorite grocery store. Whole food sources should make up the bulk of your diet.
Special Note on Fat Loss
If fat loss is your best life goal, you have to be aware that even healthy fats such as certain types of meats, oils, nuts, seeds, avocado, etc are high in calories so you must pay close attention to how much you eat. Be sure to plan out your portion sizes so that you know you are getting an adequate amount of these foods into your diet, but are not blowing your weight loss goals out of the water by overshooting your calorie deficit range.
Up next is Part 4 of the Your Guide to Meal Planning Series, where we will begin to put it all together and I will walk you through this overwhleming load of information so that you can learn to easily incorporate this planning into your life.
- “The Truth About Saturated Fats – Part 1 of 3.” Mercola.com
- “The Truth About Saturated Fats – Part 2 of 3.” Mercola.com
- Tierney, John. “Diet and Fats: A Severe Case of Mistaken Consensus.” NY Times.
- “Research on Saturated Fats.” Coconut Oil.com
- Teicholz, Nina. “What if bad fat wasn’t so bad.” Men’s Health.
Putting it Together, Your Guide to Meal Planning Part 4
In this series on meal planning, we have now covered the basics, protein in Part 1, carbohydrates in Part 2, fats in Part 3. Its time to put it all together into a daily meal plan. In this part of the series, I will give you a meal plan example so that you understand how you can take this information and put together your own meal plan options that work with your tastes, schedule, and daily life.
I typically use Fitday for my meal planning because its quick, easy, FREE, and I have all of my “custom foods” (i.e. foods that they do not already have in the database) stored so I can zip right through my meals for the week or day. Once you get the hang of it, it won’t take you long to put together your meal plans because you will get familar with what fits and what doesn’t. For the purposes of this article, I am going to use an Excel type spreadsheet so that you can see how the calories and ratios add up for each meal and for the day.
Before we get started on the actual plans, here are some tips to remember when putting together a meal plan of your own.
Where can I find nutritional information if it is not in Fitday?
For general food nutritional information, visit Calorie King. This site is a great resource. You can search for pretty much any food and get the calories, fat, protein, etc for it.
Meal Plan Structure
Divide meals into 4-5 meals (roughly equal) throughout the day. It’s better to include larger meals earlier in the day, rather than later, if need be.
ALWAYS include a whole food protein source with every meal, such as meat, fish, cottage cheese, eggs, etc. Protein powder can also be used as a substitute, but you should rely mostly on whole food choices rather than “convenience foods” for the bulk of your calories. A constant stream of protein to the body is essential because it slows digestion and increases sataity, helping to eliminate insulin spikes (and binge triggers), and promotes constant repair and rebuild of muscle tissue.
Aim to spread your total protein intake evenly throughout the day. For example, if your total intake for the day is 130 grams, and you have 5 meals, then you would include approximately 26 grams of protein per meal. (I explain how to figure out your daily protein intake in Part 1 of the series.)
Choose starchy carbs paired with protein and some fats for meals earlier in the day, then switch to fibrous carbs with protein and more fats later in the day. Save simple carbs for your first meal of the day or immediately before/following your workout.
For your last meal of the day, its best to eat a combination of protein and fats. The fats will help to give your muscles a steady stream of protein through the night, aiding in the repairing of muscles as you sleep.
Pre/Post Exercise Nutrition
This is a whole other article in and of itself. There are many different opinions through the fitness industry regarding fasted aerobics, etc. For the purposes of my readers, i.e. those looking to achieve fat loss, general wellness, etc, not so much individuals looking for pre-competition type meal plans, I will keep this simple. The best case scenario is if you can take in a combination of protein and simple carbs (example would be protein powder and skim milk or juice) approxmately 15 minutes before your workout, you will perform better in that workout versus if you were fasted. Granted, some people have problems eating that close to a workout, so if that is you, as long as you have something in your stomach within 3 hours prior to your workout you should be ok. Fasted workouts not only zap your energy levels right out of the gate, but also leave the window open to muscle burning rather than fat burning – which is not what we want.
Post workout, the main goal is to restore glycogen levels and and repair muscles. Again, for general fat loss and wellness purposes, its best to get in a solid meal of protein/carbs, with a focus on simple/starchy carbs, less focus on fats/fiber, within 30-60 minutes of the workout in order to get the glycogen refilled and the protein to the muscles asap (the fat/fiber would slow this process down).
Drink plenty of water.
Many people get confused with how to best measure foods. Here are the basics.
- Use a scale, especially when dealing with high calorie foods. Measuring cups can be deceiving and its easy to overshoot your measurements, without realizing it. Check out this video for a visual explanation.
- Measure oatmeal and rice dry, instead of cooked, whenever possible.
- Weigh meats raw and boneless.
The following example meal plan is set up for a 30 year old female. She is 5’-6”, weighing 150 lbs. Her best life goal is to lose 20 lbs of fat. Using this step by step formula, she has figured out that in order to achieve fat loss of 1.5 pounds per week, she must take in 1537 calories per day (She is at an activity multiplier of 1.55, so she would take her maintenance calories of 2287 and deduct 750 calories to get 1537). Again, this plan is merely an example, to show you how to create one for yourself.
So that is meal planning in a nutshell. I hope this has cleared up any confusion you may have had and offers you the tools to set up a plan that works for you. As I mentioned before, any best life goal is going to take effort and hard work, but once you dive in, it just becomes part of your daily life. So jump in and start planning, and I guarantee that if you follow these steps that I have detailed above, you will see results.
These are the links for the meal plans: