The importance of following a meal plan is something that I mention throughout this blog. There are different types of meal plans, all with the same general goals: 1) to stabilize your eating patterns and 2) provide you with adequate nutrition. The most common type of meal plan for someone with an eating disorder is one that deals with exchanges of food. This type of meal plan is based off of the diabetic exchange system and focuses on X number of servings within each of the food groups (servings of grains, proteins, fruit, vegetables, fats, and dairy). Meal plans usually include breakfast, lunch, dinner and between two to three snacks per day.
Below is a general list of serving sizes within each food group for an exchange based meal plan. *There are often slight variations with this type of exchange system. The list below is to provide you with a general understanding of what this type of meal plan entails.
MEAL PLAN EXCHANGES
GRAINS (1 EXCHANGE) -1 slice bread -1 small dinner roll -1 6” tortilla -½ bagel -½ English muffin -½ hamburger bun -½ - ¾ cup cold cereal -½ cup hot cereal -½ cup cooked rice -½ cup cooked pasta -1 small baked potato -6 crackers -1 pancake -½ 6” pita
FRUITS (1 EXCHANGE) -1 piece fresh fruit -½ cup canned fruit -3/4-1 cup fruit chunks -¼ cup dried fruit -½ cup fruit juice
VEGETABLES (1 EXCHANGE) -½ cup cooked vegetables -1 cup raw vegetables -½ cup vegetable juice
MILK (1 EXCHANGE) -1 cup skim milk -1 cup 2% milk (1 milk, 1 fat) -1 cup chocolate milk (1 milk, 1 grain) -6 oz. Dannon Fruit on the Bottom yogurt (1 milk, 1 fruit) -6 oz. Yoplait Original yogurt (1 milk, 1 fruit)
PROTEIN SERVINGS -Beef, chicken, turkey, fish, cheese, tofu, eggs, peanut butter (I count the fat within protein sources towards fat exchanges in the meal plan). -1 cup beans, peas, and lentils (I count the carbohydrate content in legumes towards grain exchanges in the meal plan).
Below is an example of an exchange based meal plan for someone with an eating disorder. It is important to remember that everyone's nutritional needs are different and are based on gender, age, height, weight, and activity level. * I am providing the below meal plan as an example only. To determine a meal plan for your own individualized nutritional needs, please visit a registered dietitian that specializes in eating disorder treatment.
EXAMPLE OF A MEAL PLAN
-Breakfast: 2 grains, 1 ounce protein, 1 fruit, 2 fats, 1 milk. (Meal example:1 cup oatmeal, 1/2 cup raspberries, 1 cup skim milk, 1 hard-boiled egg, 1 Tablespoon almonds).
*Some dietitians prefer to require X number of servings within specified food groups at snacks (the above snack would be classified as 1 grain, 1 fat). I, however, prefer to allow more flexibility at snacks. I require a certain number of exchanges at snacks, each exchange being about 65 calories. This way, my clients can have anything they want for snack (as it is just a matter of portion size).
-Lunch: 2 grains, 2-4 oz protein, 1 fruit, 1 vegetable, 3-4 fats, 1 milk. (Meal example: turkey sandwich on 2 pieces whole wheat bread with 1 piece of cheese and 1 Tablespoon light mayo, 1 cup raw veggies with 1 Tablespoon dill dip, apple, 1 cup skim milk).