Customizing Your Meal Plan

Although MyPyramid, the Vegetarian Food Guide Pyramid, and the food plate model each present limitations to vegetarian athletes, they can guide you in customizing your meal plan and learning to eat intuitively. This section discusses how you can use either MyPyramid or the Vegetarian Food Guide Pyramid to put together a custom meal plan. Then we will discuss how the food plate model can be adapted for a more intuitive eating approach.

Your first step for customizing a meal plan is to estimate your energy needs using one of the methods discussed in and to round your estimate to the nearest 200 calories. It is also helpful to estimate your carbohydrate and protein needs as discussed . The next step is to consult to obtain the recommended number of servings you need to consume from each of the major groups if using MyPyramid (top of table) or the Vegetarian Food Guide Pyramid

If your energy needs are greater than 3,000 calories per day you can use the 3,000-calorie recommendations as a starting point because, as we will discuss later, these servings are an estimate of the minimum number of servings needed in each group for a healthy diet. Thus,you will simply follow a 3,000-calorie diet but eat larger portions at each meal.You can also consult  if you need ideas for which food groups could be added to extend calories.In deciding which pyramid to consult, I recommend using MyPyramid if you regularly consume two to three servings of milk, yogurt, or cheese daily and the vegetarian version if you are vegan or consume few milk products. 

Just as an aside, one advantage to using MyPyramid is that it has an interactive online version that allows you to print out custom worksheets and use MyPyramid Tracker to perform an in-depth assessment of your diet quality.In fact, if you decide to use MyPyramid as your framework, using the downloadable worksheets for a few weeks may be all you need to get you on the track of intuitive eating.Once you have an idea of your estimated daily servings from each category,the next step is to begin customizing your plan on paper. 

An example of a 3,000-calorie diet based on MyPyramid is shown a 3,000-calorie diet based on the Vegetarian Food Guide Pyramid. The easiest way to start customizing your plan is to start with each group, such as the grain group,and divide the suggested number of servings into meals and snacks, remembering to include nutrition you’ll take in during exercise, if appropriate. Keep in mind that there will also be room for added fats and discretionary calories depending on your energy needs. In the sample plan in 3 of the 10 grain equivalents were placed in the breakfast meal, 3 in the lunch meal, and 4 in the dinner meal.

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