What kind of business creates meal plans?

I know this seems like an insanely easy question, but what type of business can I go to in order to get my meals planned out for me? Like, you know how you can go to a personal trainer and they create a personalized workout plan for you, and you just follow that plan all week or all month and then the next month they change the plan a little bit? What if I wanted something just like that, except for food? Someone to tell me what to eat and when to eat it (including breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks), for some period of time like a week or a month, based on my own level of physical activity and nutrition needs.

Sounds like a nutritionist or a dietitian, right? Well apparently that’s not correct. I’ve been to two nutritionists and one dietitian and while they all gave me a very nice overview of how to eat properly, none of them offer the service that I’m looking for (i.e. specific and detailed meal planning). I’m just not interested in a “teach me how to fish” thing right now. Just give me the fish and later on I’ll learn to do it on my own.

Furthermore, other dietitians and nutritionists that I’ve spoken with on the phone say they DO do meal planning on that level, but really only when it’s “medically necessary” and I have to be referred to them by a doctor. I’m not obese and I don’t have diabetes or serious food allergies or other special food needs, so apparently that means I don’t qualify for their services. I’m just a regular guy who is really bad about eating and would like a plan.

It seems to me like this shouldn’t be that hard to find, but it’s turning out to be impossible. Any ideas?

Can’t you find a set of meal plans on the web?

I thought the same thing! Maybe I’m just inept, but I searched for a long time and didn’t find anything like what I’m looking for. Most were of the type that said, “Four servings of carbs and two servings of protein and…” Any meal plan I found that gave specific foods seemed geared more towards families (with options that seemed more convenient or kid-friendly than healthy). I also do want it to be sort of tailored to me just a little bit. I could probably make a generic plan work, but the goal is fitness and eating healthy, and I haven’t found anything like that.

Just as an example, when I search for “30 day meal plan” the first page of results is stuff like this:

A 30-day meal plan from women’s health that’s sort of what I’m looking for, but it’s only 1500 calories per day. I’m looking for somewhere around 2000.

A “Ripped in 30 Meal Plan” by Jillian Michaels that’s also sort of what I"m looking for, but only 1400 calories per day.

A “Clean Detox” meal plan by Dr. Ox, but it doesn’t list calorie counts at all, doesn’t include snacks, etc.

A 30-day meal plan from Fitness Magazine that only includes dinners for 30 days.

The point is, some of them are CLOSE to want I want, but none of them are quite right.

Can you get better results by tweaking your search? I tried 2000 calorie meal plan and got results including these:

7 day 2000 calorie meal plan

2 week low GI meal plan (1800-2000 calorie range)

Ediets.com has this as a service I believe. You do need to give them some input I believe.

Scale up the portions?

I think there is no "service’ like this because the service/retail market for it would be pretty rare for non-medically required meal planning. Most people simply calculate the maintenance calories they need per day and slot in foods that they enjoy that are healthy and readily available in their area. It’s not that complicated. The calorie info for almost all fresh and prepared foods is readily available online.

Assuming you are not a tri-athlete and are older than 35 your daily maintenance calories per lb of body weight will usually run around 10-11 per lb of body weight.

So you just want the plan, not the actual meals pre-prepared for you? I 'd be really surprised if a personal trainer or similar wasn’t willing to do this for you - why not put the request on Craigslist or similar and see what responses you get?

How much are you prepared to pay for this service?

That 7-day plan looks like what I’m looking for, but I don’t really want to eat the same thing every single week. That’s why I was hoping to find someone who I could go back to regularly. I can’t be the only one who struggles with knowing what to eat, can I? It’s not that hard to put together a workout plan either, but lots of people choose to pay a personal trainer to do that for them.

I didn’t think to ask a personal trainer for a meal plan, but that might be a good idea. I was prepared to pay $50-150 per month, depending on how personalized the plan was.

Nope, you’re not. I’ve known several people in your shoes who don’t want to have to do all the calculating and planning themselves, then just want some directions to follow.

Now, most such people I’ve known wound up with either Jenny Craig or Seattle Sutton, which are services that make the meals for you in addition to deciding what you’re going to eat. That may or may not be beneficial to you. They tend to be focused on weight loss, but weight maintenance and/or healthy eating for the long time also slot into their mind set. Seattle Sutton explicitly has a “maintenance” program. Both of those companies have a decent range of foods so no, you won’t be eating the same thing all the time.

Of course, there is a dollar cost to these programs, but some folks find it worth it to have someone else deal with meal planning, nutrition, portion control, and cooking. I have no way to know if this is what you’re looking for but you might want to check it out.

I’ve looked at those kinds of systems and that might be what I end up going with. Just seems kind of a shame. I’m a good cook and I have easy access to several farmers markets, so it would feel strange to me if all I was eating was something processed that I pulled out of the freezer and warmed up in the microwave.

There are tons of meal planning services. Check out emeals, the Fresh 20, or Relish. I’m sure there are more out there.

The trick is that they aren’t specifically aimed at weight loss. They are aimed at busy people who don’t want think too hard about shopping lists and recipes. But all of them will give nutritional info and most accommodate special diets. Plus, they will spit out a shopping list for you.

There are do services like Plated that will send you kits for cooking complete fresh meals. They are quite expensive, but use good ingredients.

I think one or a thousand books have been published on the topic as well. I realize that’s pretty Olde Skoole against sites and apps that will do all the rest of the work for you, too, but if you just want the meal plans in a convenient form, your local bookstore or library probably has 25 in your niche.

I would consult a professional chef. Hire a private chef, not to cook, but just to plan out your meals, and you procure (or approximate) them however.

I know that the magazines Clean Eating and Rachael Ray have meal plans–maybe you could tweak them.