Many athletes prioritize their health as much as possible. We want to sleep well, train well, and fuel the body well so that we can maximize how our body performs, adapts, and recovers on workouts and between workouts.
We spend a lot of effort and attention on our overall diet, trying to eat a well-balanced array of food groups, such as a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, eggs, seeds, nuts, legumes, and low-fat dairy.
We also do our best to put high-quality, natural foods into our bodies, avoiding processed food, artificial flavorings, artificial colors, excess sugar, and hydrogenated oils as much as possible.
But what exactly is a balanced, healthy diet? What does a healthy weekly meal plan look like?
In this article, we will discuss what a balanced diet looks like and have created a sample healthy weekly meal plan to give you some ideas and inspiration for doing your own healthy meal planning for the week.
We will cover:
- How Do You Structure a Healthy Weekly Meal Plan?
- 7-Day Sample Healthy Meal Plan
Let’s dive in!
How Do You Structure a Healthy Weekly Meal Plan?
How you structure your healthy, balanced meal plan is up to you. Some people prefer to eat only three meals a day, whereas others find that they feel best with three meals and two to three smaller snacks in between to keep blood sugar levels stable and hunger at bay.
A healthy weekly meal plan should include enough variety so that you don’t get bored with the foods you eat and so that you are eating a diverse array of foods from each of the major food groups to support well-rounded nutrition.
At the same time, too much variety can make shopping and meal prep more time-consuming, particularly if you are only doing healthy meal planning for the week for yourself and one or two others rather than a large family.
Having to come up with 21 unique healthy weekly recipes—one for each of the main meals—is laborious in and of itself, and then buying the ingredients and making each individual meal will be very time-consuming.
This is certainly a viable approach to healthy meal planning for the week, but unless you love cooking, most people prefer to batch cook once or twice per week and make recipes that they can enjoy for several days or doctor up in one way or another to add a little variety without having to make everything from scratch.
For example, you might make a healthy weekly meal plan that has a grain-based salad every day for lunch.
This means that you can cook a large pot of a nutritious whole grain, such as quinoa, at the beginning of the week and then portion it into five lunch containers during meal prep.
Mix in greens like kale, baby spinach, arugula, and romaine lettuce.
Then, you can customize the proteins and veggies for each of the five days to change the flavor and nutritional profiles.
You could prepare the proteins and veggies in advance during your meal prep, get everything together in the container, and then stack each lunch in your refrigerator until that day.
For example, on Monday, you might add hard-boiled eggs, garbanzo beans, tomatoes, a little bit of feta cheese, and sunflower seeds. You could dress the salad simply with lemon juice and a little bit of olive oil.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, you could have chicken breast in the salad, but on Tuesday, you could make more of a Mexican-inspired green salad, and on Wednesday, it could have more of a neutral flavor profile.
You could add tomatoes, black beans, corn, onions, green peppers, jalapeño peppers, a sprinkle of cheddar cheese, and a little bit of salsa or chipotle dressing for Tuesday.
Wednesday, you could add cranberries, feta cheese, and any veggies that you like.
On Thursday, you could add tofu, green beans, baby corn, and mushrooms with sesame seeds and teriyaki dressing.
Friday could be tuna, grapes, and celery.
The point is that you can keep some items the same throughout the week to make meal prep easier and add variety in the other ingredients to prevent palate fatigue and boost your overall nutrition.
Lastly, planning a daily balanced menu doesn’t have to be involved or super complex. Just make sure that every meal and snack is well-balanced with some protein, fiber, complex carbohydrates, and a little bit of fat.
You want to aim for a minimum of 20 to 30 grams of protein per meal, depending on your body size and composition goals, and 15 to 20 grams of protein per snack. Strive to eat 25 to 30 grams of fiber over the course of the day, aiming for a minimum of 7 grams of fiber per meal and 3-5 grams per snack.
Snacks should be between 100-300 calories, and meals should be between 400-700 calories, depending on your daily calorie goals.
Consider the following examples for balanced daily meal planning:
- 1,800 calories per day: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, approximately 500 calories each; two snacks that are 150 calories each.
- 2,000 calories per day: Breakfast 400 calories, lunch and dinner approximately 500 calories each, and three snacks that are 200 calories each.
- 2,500 calories per day: Breakfast 500 calories, lunch and dinner approximately 700 calories each, and three snacks that are 200 calories each.
7-Day Sample Healthy Meal Plan
The following one-week health meal plan is an example of balanced meals for someone striving to eat approximately 1,800-2,500 calories a day.
We purposely did not add specific portion sizes but used ranges, where appropriate, so that it could be adjusted to your own caloric needs.
It is meant to be a guide for ideas rather than a meal plan to follow to a T. Your own nutritional and caloric needs, food preferences, and dietary restrictions will affect the best foods to eat for a healthy weekly meal plan.
- Breakfast: Omelet with vegetables (onions, mushrooms, peppers, broccoli, etc.) cooked in coconut oil or ghee and a grapefruit.
- Snack: Peanut butter on apple slices and baby carrots.
- Lunch: Tuna salad with a side salad of tomatoes, spinach, and cucumbers.
- Snack: ½ cup edamame and a small peach.
- Dinner: Turkey breast or thighs with Brussels sprouts and cauliflower rice.
- Snack: ½ cup cottage cheese with blueberries.
- Breakfast: Overnight oats made with almond milk, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp protein powder, blueberries, cinnamon, and unsweetened coconut flakes.
- Snack: Greek yogurt with berries.
- Lunch: Large salad with spinach, arugula, cucumbers, tomatoes, sprouts, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, snap peas, broccoli florets, craisins, and ½ cup bulgur.
- Snack: Tuna fish or hummus with carrots, celery, pepper strips, and cucumbers.
- Dinner: Roasted turkey breast or grilled tofu over wilted greens. Broccoli on the side.
- Snack: String cheese.
- Breakfast: 2 whole eggs, scrambled, poached, hard-boiled, or soft-boiled (not fried), sautéed spinach, 1 slice whole-grain toast, or one whole-grain English muffin.
- Snack: Medium apple with low-fat string cheese.
- Lunch: Turkey wrap with lettuce, sprouts, and veggies.
- Snack: 1 cup of snap peas.
- Dinner: Roasted turkey leg with a sweet potato and a large Greek salad.
- Snack: ½ cup of cottage cheese with ⅓ cup of raspberries and 1 tablespoon of dark chocolate chips.
- Breakfast: Protein smoothie with banana, spinach, blueberries, pineapple, hemp seeds, Greek yogurt (or coconut yogurt if you are vegan), and protein powder.
- Snack: 2 tablespoons of hummus on carrot sticks, celery, cucumbers, and pepper strips.
- Lunch: Large salad with shredded chicken, ½ cup quinoa, egg, walnuts, and tons of veggies with a tahini or olive oil dressing.
- Snack: ⅓ cup trail mix with mixed nuts, dried cranberries, and dried pineapple.
- Dinner: Stewed lentils with zucchini and summer squash medley and cauliflower rice.
- Snack: Avocado chocolate pudding made with ½ avocado, 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder, ½ teaspoon of vanilla, and ¼ cup of unsweetened almond milk.
- Breakfast: ⅓ cup of low-sugar muesli over ¾ cup of plain Greek yogurt, berries, slivered almonds, flax seeds, and chia seeds.
- Snack: Blueberries and pistachios.
- Lunch: Hummus with whole-grain crackers, carrots, pepper strips, celery, and cucumbers; red grapes.
- Snack: Pumpkin seeds and walnuts.
- Dinner: Fajitas with chicken or tofu, black beans, brown rice, peppers, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, corn, salsa, and vegan or regular cheese. Spinach salad on the side.
- Snack: Apple with 1 tablespoon of almond butter.
- Breakfast: Chia seed pudding made with almond milk, coconut flakes, banana, and walnuts.
- Snack: Hard-boiled egg and cheddar cheese slices.
- Lunch: Grilled chicken or tempeh, roasted Brussels sprouts, kale, walnuts, and sesame seeds.
- Snack: 1 slice of whole grain bread with ¼ avocado.
- Dinner: Roasted salmon or tofu steaks with spaghetti squash, roasted parsnips, carrots, and asparagus.
- Snack: Peanut butter on apple slices with cinnamon.
- Breakfast: Low-fat, plain Greek yogurt with almonds, flaxseeds, and berries.
- Snack: Peanut butter on celery sticks.
- Lunch: Turkey burger wrapped in butter lettuce leaves and whole wheat tortilla with veggies, hard-boiled egg.
- Snack: ¾ cup edamame.
- Dinner: Salmon with slivered almonds and broccoli, and a baked potato.
- Snack: Chia seed pudding made with almond milk, coconut flakes, and cocoa nibs.
This sample healthy weekly meal plan will hopefully give you a few ideas for meals and snacks, and you can swap out meals according to your preferences and caloric needs.
Keep in mind that working with a registered dietitian (RD) is the best way to get an individualized meal plan tailored precisely to your needs.
If you have a diet plan that is protein-heavy, use our guide to foods high in protein to add them to your individualized healthy weekly meal plan.