Guide to Meal Planning for Couples Part 1 of 2
You live together and hopefully you eat together. But oftentimes only 1 of you is doing the meal planning and meal prepping. I'm going to teach you in this article how to meal plan and meal prep as a couple so you can reach your goals and enhance your love life. This is a 2 part series.
But first, let's talk about why meal planning and meal prepping as a couple is important.
Love Languages. Have you ever heard of them? There are 5: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. The author of The Five Love Languages , Gary Chapman, describe the 5 Love languages as ways to communicate affection towards someones. All 5 are important, but most people identify with 1 or 2 more than the other.
The important take away from the book is to speak the love language of your partner, not just your own, unless you and your partner have the same love language.
I didn't know what my love languages were until I took a free quiz online (which I link later in this article). In it I found I responded best to Act of Service and Quality Time. Luckily, my partner also scored high on those as well.
Meal Planning and Meal Prepping as an Act of Service
As a dietitian, meal planning is my job, literally. I meal plan for dozens of people and because I am writing their nutrition programs, I am providing an act of service. I bring this into my home when I do the same for my partner.
Start with an Assessment of Nutrition Needs
Anytime you meal plan, you must first start with an assessment to find the nutrition needs. If you're struggling with start with an assessment, hire someone who's qualified in nutrition assessments.
In my nutrition assessments, I dig deep into someone's history: medical, diet, social, weight, fitness etc. I also review any labs, anthropometrics, allergies, intolerances, likes, dislikes, what a person ate in the last 24-72 hours, and of course their fitness & health goals.
From the gathered info, use Mifflin St. Jeor to find out a persons energy needs, aka the number of calories they need in a day to just lie there. Multiple that value by a physical activity value and then divide those calories among the 3 calorie-providing macronutrients: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
The Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) suggest our caloric needs should fall within these ranges:
45-65% calories from Carbohydrates
10-35% calories from Protein
20-35% calories from Fats
Yes, those are really wide ranges so I suggest working with a professional to determine what your needs should be. Next you'll use that basic numerical information to find recipes that fit those macronutrients.
I use a website called MacroKitchen.com and when I enter in the criteria, I am given a database of recipes to choose from.
When I'm doing this with my partner, I am finding out what meals we will likely both be eating for dinners that week or I'm finding what he wants for lunch. I'm absorbing the decision making for my clients. In my home, only one of us needs to find the recipes, and usually it's the one who has the most interest (hi, it me).
What about couples who eat different foods?
I don't eat red meat but my partner does so whenever I find a recipe that includes beef or pork I swap it our for oysters or salmon. Finding swaps that are easy to adjust in meals is a bit trickier, but I've been doing it for so long I know what foods can be exchanged for others. The Diabetic Exchange List is a good resource to look up food swaps.
Now that you've found your recipes, enter them in a spreadsheet. Google sheets is a free and wonderful resource you can share with your partner. It's another tool I use in my nutrition coaching practice to give my clients their nutrition programs.
Enter the meals into an app
Now you're in the real act of planning your meals out. Using an app, start with entering the information into a recipe generator this way you'll be able to add your recipes into an app easily during the week (assuming you are tracking your food intake).
This step is important because it's almost 100% guaranteed your macronutrient needs per meal will be different. My partner needs about twice the amount as me, that made it easier for me to manipulate portions.
I recommend Nutritionix app, as it has a regulated database, is free and user-friendly. I build the recipes and then enter the recipe into the tracker as single foods. If you're eating a different amount of carbs, fats, and proteins from your partner, you'll have to adjust some of the items to make sure they fit your macronutrient needs. Yes there is a lot of math involved. From here, you'll venture on to building the grocery list.
Make the grocery list
Have both windows open: the recipe and the google sheet. Write down the ingredients line by line. I recommend including even the spices because those are what give foods flavors. They don't yield the greatest amount of calories, but still I recommend including them.
If you want to up level your grocery list:
The next part is likely the hardest part because it involves a lot of conversions and math, but this is what I spend time doing for couples meal planning clients as part of the coaching package.
In the spread sheet, title 6 columns with the following:
Servings in 1 meal for Partner 1
Servings needed in all 7 days
Servings needed in 1 meal for Partner 2
Servings needed in all 7 days
Servings needed to buy for both partners
Meal Planning and Meal Prepping Grocery List Building for Couples
By the end of your list building you should have something similar to this. I will explain in greater details how to do this in Part 2!