If you are stuck in a food rut and aren’t sure how to pull yourself out, you have probably considered starting a meal plan. Or maybe you’ve tried and failed repeatedly to stick to your plan. In theory, a meal plan is a great idea because it ensures the foods you are eating have the most nutritional bang for your buck and if you are one of those people who follows a recipe to the tee, it might even work for you. But for the majority us, meal plans tend to be too regimented to maintain for any length of time.

Why do Meal Plans fail?

One reason why meal plans fail is because we are busy! We have families and friends and jobs and all kinds of events that pop up in our lives. And let’s face it, it’s really hard to say no to that piece of cake at your best friend’s birthday dinner. When you are on a super strict meal plan, it kind of feels like you are in a food prison longing for the day you can escape your lettuce and chicken breast cell.

Another pitfall is, if you follow the plan too closely for too long, it can actually have the opposite weight loss effect than what you were hoping. Meal plans are meant to be temporary to help you obtain a short-term goal, but if you are too strict for too long, your eating habits can be distorted leading to hormonal, metabolic or mental imbalances.

Food should be thought of on a spectrum rather than “good” food and “bad” food. Food isn’t bad, it just may not be working for you and your healthier lifestyle anymore. Swapping your daily mocha frappe latte topped with extra whip for a cup of coffee with just cream and sugar a couple of times a week is a great start that can lead making more healthy choices. When you are more mindful in your decisions, you have the power to choose what works for you.

How to Plan Meals that work for you

If you want to eat healthier, think about the foods you are already eating and try making them a little bit better. Order your salad dressing on the side or get a lettuce bun with your burger instead of bread. The last thing you want to do is turn yourself off from healthy eating all together by overhauling all your foods at once. Making small changes and improvements to what you already eat and enjoy is a great step that will lead to making healthier, more educated and lasting changes.

Start small. Add a little more protein, fruits and veggies to your diet, eat less processed foods or swap one of your sodas for good ol’ H2O. As time goes on, it will be easier to make healthy food decisions and these little changes will lead to big results.