How to Stick to a Meal Plan

30/08/2015 20:25 BST | Updated 30/08/2016 10:59 BST

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Diet is key when trying change your body, whether you want to gain muscle or lose weight. In fact diet is 70-80% important compared to exercise at just 20-30%. You can't out-exercise a bad diet and so I like to meal plan to keep me on track with healthy eating. However with temptations around every corner, it can be hard to stay on track with our meal plans sometimes so I thought I'd share my top tips on how to stick to a meal plan.

Know Your 'Why'

Remind yourself of your reasons for wanting to start meal planning in the first place. Do you want to save money on your groceries? Lose weight? Cut out the crap in your diet? Experiment more in the kitchen? Improve your relationship with food? Whatever your reason, having a goal and remembering it is a great way to keep you on track. When you're tempted to not eat your healthy snack and buy a chocolate bar instead, look at the bigger picture and remember your 'why'.

Eat Foods You Love

If you make a meal plan that cuts out all the foods you love it will only be a matter of time before you fall off track. When I got stricter with my meals, I ate clean 6.5 days a week and I would allow myself one cheat meal a week. This helped me to stick to my meal plan as it meant I could still go out with friends or I could still have a date night with the boyfriend and most importantly, I could still eat chocolate! Because well, a life without chocolate just doesn't bare thinking about for me. I planned my cheat meals just as I planned the rest of my meals, then I would eat healthy and clean all week, avoiding temptation knowing that I had my cheat meal to look forward to. Whether you allow yourself a small treat once a day, or a bigger treat once a week - do what works for you. The key is not to be too restrictive with your meal plan.

Eat Enough Calories

I've seen and heard so many people, particularly women, say they are going to drastically cut your calories in a bid to lose weight. Whether it's three lbs or three stone they are trying to lose. If you do not eat enough calories your body will go into starvation mode, you will be hungry, your willpower will wain and you will be tempted by anything and everything. Avoid this misery by eating enough calories of healthy, nourishing, good-for-you foods. If you aren't sure of how many calories are in foods, or how many calories you're actually eating, I highly recommend using MyFitnessPal for at least a week to get a better idea. Bottom line, plan for enough calories. Do not starve yourself.

It's All in the Prep

I can't tell you how many times I've been tempted to get a takeaway purely because I haven't wanted to cook after work. Since having a meal plan I don't get that temptation as I have healthy meals prepared. I spend some time on a Sunday prepping my meals for the week ahead; I'll grill a batch of chicken, chop and roast vegetables, cook some brown rice or sweet potato, portion out some fruit for snacks and smoothies and more. When you have healthy meals and snacks ready to grab from the fridge, you'll be less likely to give into temptations or go for the 'easy' option.

Go With the Flow

Fancy lean beef chilli tonight even though you'd planned to have it tomorrow? Have the chilli! Save tonight's planned dinner for tomorrow or another night. If you've planned healthy meals for each day then there's no harm in switching the order around as you go through the week. Unless you're training for a bodybuilding/bikini competition where you'll need to be super strict with every meal and your macros, do not be afraid to switch things up a little. If you really don't fancy grilled chicken tonight then eat the chilli instead and feel happy in knowing you didn't grab a takeaway instead.

Be Mindful of Your Eating

Eat when you're hungry and stop when you're full. Believe me this is easier said than done sometimes, but just because your meal plan says you're to have an afternoon snack it doesn't mean you have to have one if you're not hungry. If you want to have lunch at one instead of 12, it's OK. Pay attention to your body and your hunger. When you do eat, give your food your full attention. If you eat whilst you're distracted it can be easy to forget you've even eaten then you'll be tempted to eat extra meals.

Be Accountable

Tell people you're eating healthier and following a meal plan. Tell a friend, share it on your social media, start a blog, post your plan and meals to Instagram. Let people know and ask for their support. It can be a lot easier to stick to your meal plan if you know you have others to answer to. Putting that pressure on yourself will make that sneaky chocolate bar seem a lot less tempting.

These are my tips on how to avoid temptation and stick to your meal plan. If you haven't made a meal plan yet, download my FREE meal and workout planner and then read my post over on my blog about How to Meal Plan for Beginners.