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A Clean-Eating, Muscle-Building Meal Plan

MuscleTech June 27, 2014 Exercise , Food and Drink , Muscletech , Sports , Sports and Fitness Email Print Twitter Pinterest Facebook

This post was most recently updated on December 2nd, 2016

When you’re trying to build a better body, your actions outside the gym matter just as much as the all the clanging, heaving and pumping that goes on in the weight room. What you do in the kitchen, in particular, plays a huge part in your progress.

Whether you’re new to the game or fell off a healthy track, this starter meal plan is a clean approach to eating that will help support your muscle-building efforts. Rather than measuring and counting, keep it simple and focus on making the right food choices and eating five to six meals a day.

Breakfast (Meal One)
1 grapefruit
Plain oatmeal sweetened with cinnamon and stevia
Egg-white omelet with chicken and veggies

Snack (Meal Two)
Simple smoothie: 1 cup almond milk (or skim milk) + 1 scoop protein powder
Handful of almonds

Lunch (Meal Three)
1 piece fresh fruit
1-2 grilled chicken breasts
2 handful-sized servings of brown rice
1 serving green veggies of choice (green beans, broccoli, asparagus, etc.)

Snack (Meal Four)
1 cup Greek yogurt
Handful of berries

Dinner (Meal Five)
Large salad with mixed veggies
1 baked regular or sweet potato
Baked salmon filet or 1 grilled steak
1 serving pineapple

Late-Night/Before Bed Meal (Meal Six)
Simple smoothie: 1 cup almond milk (or skim milk) + 1 scoop protein powder
Salmon filet or 1 grilled steak
1-2 plain rice cakes with natural peanut butter

Ready to get started? Save yourself the trouble of scavenging at the supermarket and get all the healthy dry-goods staples above with one click!

MuscleTech

MuscleTech is a leading sports nutrition brand providing high-quality supplements to people looking to build their best possible body.

MuscleTech is a leading sports nutrition brand providing high-quality supplements to people looking to build their best possible body.

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Meal Plan For Every Guy

If you’re going to bulk up, lose fat, or stay healthy, you’ll also need a goal-specific meal plan to get results. We’ve created templates to help you do all three, along with guidelines to help you track the calories, carbs, protein, and fat you should be shooting for each day.

Stock your fridge and pantry with the foods outlined in our grocery lists to whip up delicious, nutritious meals all year. To get you started, we’ve also included sample recipes, plus plenty of options to swap in for added variety. This is your one-stop shop for what and how to eat in the new year.

The composition of your meals will be determined by your goals and the timing of your weight training. The meals in our New Year’s plan are divided into two categories: those with starchy carbs and those without.

Grocery List

You’ll need to eat more starchy carbs and fewer fats before and after workouts to promote energy and muscle growth. If you’re training to pack on size, you’ll eat like this more frequently. And when you’re hours removed from a workout, you’ll limit starches and increase fats, which will keep you on track to meet your fat-loss goals. For meals containing starchy carbohydrates, your meal options include:

Note: Where “Post-Workout Nutrition” is used, it can refer to a shake containing fast-digesting carbohydrates or a meal that contains them.

5 PILLARS OF NUTRITION

  1. Eat Six Times A Day: Fuel your body with multiple small meals and snacks each day to keep your blood-sugar levels under control and your metabolism steady and to stimulate the production of new muscle.
  2. Limit Processed Foods: Whether it comes in a box, a carton, or a bag, if it’s got a label or brand name, it’s likely highly processed and not worth eating. Remove these high-calorie, nutrient-poor foods from your life and you’ll be much more likely to stick to your New Year’s resolutions.
  3. Stay Hydrated: Drink water and calorie-free beverages to keep your performance in the gym at its peak. Avoid sugar-laden drinks that will fatten your waistline and sabotage your body’s antioxidant defense systems.
  4. Strategic Carbs: Carbs come in two forms—starchy, faster-acting options such as rice, bread, and pasta, which raise blood sugar quickly; and non-starchy carbs such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, which are higher in fiber and raise blood sugar gradually. Non-starchy carbs are rarely a problem. Enjoy them! The timing of when you eat starchy carbs, on the other hand, is key to getting and maintaining a lean and muscular body. Eat them either first thing in the morning or directly after your workouts and your body is more likely to use them to help refuel your energy reserves.
  5. Lean Protein: Give your body a protein infusion every couple of hours to maximize muscle growth while stimulating the release of fat-burning hormones. The best sources include lean beef, chicken, fish, lower-fat dairy foods, and soy. While whole foods should always be your first choice, a quality protein powder can be used in conjunction with your diet to make sure you meet your protein macros each day. Consider adding a whey protein or two between meals, and use slow-digesting casein protein to fuel your gains at night while you sleep.

Before we dive into the actual plans, it’s important to note that healthy eating produces the best results when it’s synced up with a workout plan. Bodybuilding.com BodyFit Elite is jammed with great, full-body regimens designed to help you reach your goal, whether that’s size or cuts.

The Beginner Meal Plan

Target: 2,500 calories, 218 g carbs, 218 g protein, 83 g fat

If you want to stay healthy and have more energy, this is the plan for you. It’s relatively low in carbs and very high in protein, and it emphasizes antioxidant-rich foods to improve the health of your blood vessels while also warding off inflammation—two factors that accelerate the rate at which every cell in your body ages.

Template

  • Meal 1: Contains starchy carbs
  • Meal 2: Few carbs, if any
  • Meal 3: Few carbs, if any
  • Meal 4: (Post-Workout Nutrition) Contains starchy carbs
  • Meal 5: Contains starchy carbs

Sample Options

Meal 1Greek Yogurt 1 1/2 cupsRaspberries 1/2 cupGranola (Vanilla Almond Crunch Bear Naked Granola.) 1/3 cupEggs (Omega-3 Eggs) 3 Meal 2: Double Chocolate Cherry SmoothieProtein Powder (Chocolate) 2 scoopsCoconut Milk 1/4 cupCherries 3/4 cupFlaxseeds 1 tbsp Cocoa Powder 1 tbsp Ice 3-4 cubes Water 2-3 cups Meal 3: Bibb Lettuce Burger Lettuce 2 leaves Ground Beef (95% lean) 8 oz. Tomato 2 slices Red Onion 2 slices Ketchup 1 tbsp Mayonnaise (Canola mayonnaise) 1 tbsp Green Beans 3 cups Meal 4: Post-Workout Nutrition Protein Bar (Recovery shake.) 1 serving Meal 5: Shrimp With Spinach Salad & Brown Rice Shrimp 6 oz. Brown Rice 1/4 cup Spinach 4 cups Feta Cheese 1/4 cup Bell Pepper (Red) 1/2 Olive Oil (Extra virgin) 2 tbsp

  • Raspberry Alternate Options: 5 sliced strawberries, 1/2 cup blueberries, 2/3 cup blackberries, or 1 tbsp raisins
  • Granola Alternate Options: 1/3 cup Ezekiel Cinnamon Raisin cereal, 1/3 cup rolled oats, 3/4 cup Fiber One cereal, or 2/3 cup Kashi Organic Cinnamon Harvest

Meal 1 Greek Yogurt 1 1/2 cups Raspberries 1/2 cup Granola (Vanilla Almond Crunch Bear Naked Granola.) 1/3 cup Eggs (Omega-3 Eggs) 3 Meal 2: Double Chocolate Cherry Smoothie Protein Powder (Chocolate) 2 scoops Coconut Milk 1/4 cup Cherries 3/4 cup Flaxseeds 1 tbsp Cocoa Powder 1 tbsp Ice 3-4 cubes Water 2-3 cups Meal 3: Bibb Lettuce Burger Lettuce 2 leaves Ground Beef (95% lean) 8 oz. Tomato 2 slices Red Onion 2 slices Ketchup 1 tbsp Mayonnaise (Canola mayonnaise) 1 tbsp Green Beans 3 cups Meal 4: Post-Workout Nutrition Protein Bar (Recovery shake.) 1 serving Meal 5: Shrimp With Spinach Salad & Brown Rice Shrimp 6 oz. Brown Rice 1/4 cup Spinach 4 cups Feta Cheese 1/4 cup Bell Pepper (Red) 1/2 Olive Oil (Extra virgin) 2 tbsp

  • Coconut Milk Alternate Options: 2 tbsp chopped walnuts
  • Cherries Alternate Options: 1 cup blackberries

Meal 1 Greek Yogurt 1 1/2 cups Raspberries 1/2 cup Granola (Vanilla Almond Crunch Bear Naked Granola.) 1/3 cup Eggs (Omega-3 Eggs) 3 Meal 2: Double Chocolate Cherry Smoothie Protein Powder (Chocolate) 2 scoops Coconut Milk 1/4 cup Cherries 3/4 cup Flaxseeds 1 tbsp Cocoa Powder 1 tbsp Ice 3-4 cubes Water 2-3 cups Meal 3: Bibb Lettuce Burger Lettuce 2 leaves Ground Beef (95% lean) 8 oz. Tomato 2 slices Red Onion 2 slices Ketchup 1 tbsp Mayonnaise (Canola mayonnaise) 1 tbsp Green Beans 3 cups Meal 4: Post-Workout Nutrition Protein Bar (Recovery shake.) 1 serving Meal 5: Shrimp With Spinach Salad & Brown Rice Shrimp 6 oz. Brown Rice 1/4 cup Spinach 4 cups Feta Cheese 1/4 cup Bell Pepper (Red) 1/2 Olive Oil (Extra virgin) 2 tbsp Meal 1 Greek Yogurt 1 1/2 cups Raspberries 1/2 cup Granola (Vanilla Almond Crunch Bear Naked Granola.) 1/3 cup Eggs (Omega-3 Eggs) 3 Meal 2: Double Chocolate Cherry Smoothie Protein Powder (Chocolate) 2 scoops Coconut Milk 1/4 cup Cherries 3/4 cup Flaxseeds 1 tbsp Cocoa Powder 1 tbsp Ice 3-4 cubes Water 2-3 cups Meal 3: Bibb Lettuce Burger Lettuce 2 leaves Ground Beef (95% lean) 8 oz. Tomato 2 slices Red Onion 2 slices Ketchup 1 tbsp Mayonnaise (Canola mayonnaise) 1 tbsp Green Beans 3 cups Meal 4: Post-Workout Nutrition Protein Bar (Recovery shake.) 1 serving Meal 5: Shrimp With Spinach Salad & Brown Rice Shrimp 6 oz. Brown Rice 1/4 cup Spinach 4 cups Feta Cheese 1/4 cup Bell Pepper (Red) 1/2 Olive Oil (Extra virgin) 2 tbsp Meal 1 Greek Yogurt 1 1/2 cups Raspberries 1/2 cup Granola (Vanilla Almond Crunch Bear Naked Granola.) 1/3 cup Eggs (Omega-3 Eggs) 3 Meal 2: Double Chocolate Cherry Smoothie Protein Powder (Chocolate) 2 scoops Coconut Milk 1/4 cup Cherries 3/4 cup Flaxseeds 1 tbsp Cocoa Powder 1 tbsp Ice 3-4 cubes Water 2-3 cups Meal 3: Bibb Lettuce Burger Lettuce 2 leaves Ground Beef (95% lean) 8 oz. Tomato 2 slices Red Onion 2 slices Ketchup 1 tbsp Mayonnaise (Canola mayonnaise) 1 tbsp Green Beans 3 cups Meal 4: Post-Workout Nutrition Protein Bar (Recovery shake.) 1 serving Meal 5: Shrimp With Spinach Salad & Brown Rice Shrimp 6 oz. Brown Rice 1/4 cup Spinach 4 cups Feta Cheese 1/4 cup Bell Pepper (Red) 1/2 Olive Oil (Extra virgin) 2 tbsp

The Skinny Guy Muscle-Gain Plan

Target: approx. 3,000 calories, 300 g carbs, 225 g protein, 100 g fat

Forging new muscle requires a menu that is high in both carbs and calories. But remember, going on a muscle-building diet is not an excuse for eating everything in sight. Instead, you’ll eat just enough high-quality, nutrient-dense carbs when your body needs them most—around your workouts. Note that the plan here is for a guy who trains in the afternoon. If your sessions are in the morning, simply rearrange it so you’re eating the starchy meals before and right after your workout and then avoid starchy carbs later in the day.

  • Meal 1: Contains starchy carbs
  • Meal 2: Few carbs, if any
  • Meal 3: Few carbs, if any
  • Meal 4: (Post-Workout Nutrition) Contains starchy carbs
  • Meal 5: Contains starchy carbs
  • Meal 6: Contains starchy carbs

Meal 1: Cheesy Scrambled Eggs with Scallions Eggs (Omega-3 eggs) 3 Egg Whites 4 Cheese (Cheddar) 1/4 cup Scallions 2 Ezekiel Bread 2 slices Apple 1 Meal 2: Blueberry Almond Smoothie Protein Powder (Vanilla) 2 scoops Blueberries 1 cup Almonds 1 oz. Almond Milk (Vanilla) 1 cup Water 1 cup Ice 3-4 cubes Meal 3: Steak with Tomato Bean Salad Steak (Grilled flank steak) 6 oz. Tomato 1 Cucumber (Diced) 1/2 Chickpeas 1 cup Olive Oil 1 tbsp Meal 4: Post-Workout Nutrition Protein Powder (Recovery shake. Should contain 50 grams carbs and 25 grams protein.) 1 serving Meal 5: Chicken with Quinoa Salad Chicken 6 oz. Quinoa 1/3 cup Walnuts 2 tbsp Craisins 2 tbsp Meal 6: Yams and Parmesan White Fish Tilapia 6 oz. Parmesan Cheese 2 tbsp Yams 2 medium Butter 1 tbsp Broccoli 1 cup

  • Egg Whites Alternate Options: 2 slices turkey bacon, 2 small chicken sausages, 2 slices Canadian bacon, or 1/4 cup canned salmon
  • Scallions Alternate Options: 2 tbsp salsa, 1/4 cup diced onions, or 2 tbsp diced sun-dried tomatoes

Meal 1: Cheesy Scrambled Eggs with Scallions Eggs (Omega-3 eggs) 3 Egg Whites 4 Cheese (Cheddar) 1/4 cup Scallions 2 Ezekiel Bread 2 slices Apple 1 Meal 2: Blueberry Almond Smoothie Protein Powder (Vanilla) 2 scoops Blueberries 1 cup Almonds 1 oz. Almond Milk (Vanilla) 1 cup Water 1 cup Ice 3-4 cubes Meal 3: Steak with Tomato Bean Salad Steak (Grilled flank steak) 6 oz. Tomato 1 Cucumber (Diced) 1/2 Chickpeas 1 cup Olive Oil 1 tbsp Meal 4: Post-Workout Nutrition Protein Powder (Recovery shake. Should contain 50 grams carbs and 25 grams protein.) 1 serving Meal 5: Chicken with Quinoa Salad Chicken 6 oz. Quinoa 1/3 cup Walnuts 2 tbsp Craisins 2 tbsp Meal 6: Yams and Parmesan White Fish Tilapia 6 oz. Parmesan Cheese 2 tbsp Yams 2 medium Butter 1 tbsp Broccoli 1 cup

  • Blueberries Alternate Option: 3/4 cup frozen mango chunks

Meal 1: Cheesy Scrambled Eggs with Scallions Eggs (Omega-3 eggs) 3 Egg Whites 4 Cheese (Cheddar) 1/4 cup Scallions 2 Ezekiel Bread 2 slices Apple 1 Meal 2: Blueberry Almond Smoothie Protein Powder (Vanilla) 2 scoops Blueberries 1 cup Almonds 1 oz. Almond Milk (Vanilla) 1 cup Water 1 cup Ice 3-4 cubes Meal 3: Steak with Tomato Bean Salad Steak (Grilled flank steak) 6 oz. Tomato 1 Cucumber (Diced) 1/2 Chickpeas 1 cup Olive Oil 1 tbsp Meal 4: Post-Workout Nutrition Protein Powder (Recovery shake. Should contain 50 grams carbs and 25 grams protein.) 1 serving Meal 5: Chicken with Quinoa Salad Chicken 6 oz. Quinoa 1/3 cup Walnuts 2 tbsp Craisins 2 tbsp Meal 6: Yams and Parmesan White Fish Tilapia 6 oz. Parmesan Cheese 2 tbsp Yams 2 medium Butter 1 tbsp Broccoli 1 cup Meal 1: Cheesy Scrambled Eggs with Scallions Eggs (Omega-3 eggs) 3 Egg Whites 4 Cheese (Cheddar) 1/4 cup Scallions 2 Ezekiel Bread 2 slices Apple 1 Meal 2: Blueberry Almond Smoothie Protein Powder (Vanilla) 2 scoops Blueberries 1 cup Almonds 1 oz. Almond Milk (Vanilla) 1 cup Water 1 cup Ice 3-4 cubes Meal 3: Steak with Tomato Bean Salad Steak (Grilled flank steak) 6 oz. Tomato 1 Cucumber (Diced) 1/2 Chickpeas 1 cup Olive Oil 1 tbsp Meal 4: Post-Workout Nutrition Protein Powder (Recovery shake. Should contain 50 grams carbs and 25 grams protein.) 1 serving Meal 5: Chicken with Quinoa Salad Chicken 6 oz. Quinoa 1/3 cup Walnuts 2 tbsp Craisins 2 tbsp Meal 6: Yams and Parmesan White Fish Tilapia 6 oz. Parmesan Cheese 2 tbsp Yams 2 medium Butter 1 tbsp Broccoli 1 cup Meal 1: Cheesy Scrambled Eggs with Scallions Eggs (Omega-3 eggs) 3 Egg Whites 4 Cheese (Cheddar) 1/4 cup Scallions 2 Ezekiel Bread 2 slices Apple 1 Meal 2: Blueberry Almond Smoothie Protein Powder (Vanilla) 2 scoops Blueberries 1 cup Almonds 1 oz. Almond Milk (Vanilla) 1 cup Water 1 cup Ice 3-4 cubes Meal 3: Steak with Tomato Bean Salad Steak (Grilled flank steak) 6 oz. Tomato 1 Cucumber (Diced) 1/2 Chickpeas 1 cup Olive Oil 1 tbsp Meal 4: Post-Workout Nutrition Protein Powder (Recovery shake. Should contain 50 grams carbs and 25 grams protein.) 1 serving Meal 5: Chicken with Quinoa Salad Chicken 6 oz. Quinoa 1/3 cup Walnuts 2 tbsp Craisins 2 tbsp Meal 6: Yams and Parmesan White Fish Tilapia 6 oz. Parmesan Cheese 2 tbsp Yams 2 medium Butter 1 tbsp Broccoli 1 cup

  • Chicken Breast Alternate Options: 6 oz pork tenderloin, 5 oz Buffalo rib eye, or 5 oz top round beef
  • Quinoa Alternate Options: 1/3 cup couscous, 1/4 cup brown rice, or 1/4 cup wild rice

Meal 1: Cheesy Scrambled Eggs with Scallions Eggs (Omega-3 eggs) 3 Egg Whites 4 Cheese (Cheddar) 1/4 cup Scallions 2 Ezekiel Bread 2 slices Apple 1 Meal 2: Blueberry Almond Smoothie Protein Powder (Vanilla) 2 scoops Blueberries 1 cup Almonds 1 oz. Almond Milk (Vanilla) 1 cup Water 1 cup Ice 3-4 cubes Meal 3: Steak with Tomato Bean Salad Steak (Grilled flank steak) 6 oz. Tomato 1 Cucumber (Diced) 1/2 Chickpeas 1 cup Olive Oil 1 tbsp Meal 4: Post-Workout Nutrition Protein Powder (Recovery shake. Should contain 50 grams carbs and 25 grams protein.) 1 serving Meal 5: Chicken with Quinoa Salad Chicken 6 oz. Quinoa 1/3 cup Walnuts 2 tbsp Craisins 2 tbsp Meal 6: Yams and Parmesan White Fish Tilapia 6 oz. Parmesan Cheese 2 tbsp Yams 2 medium Butter 1 tbsp Broccoli 1 cup

  • Tilapia Alternate Options: 5 oz tuna steak, 7 oz cod, or 6 oz shrimp
  • Yams Alternate Options: 1/3 cup Amaranth, 1/3 cup wheat berries, or 1/3 cup pearl barley

The Get-Lean Meal Plan

Target: 2000 calories, 150 g carbs, 150 g protein, 88 g fat

To accelerate your weight loss, limit starchy carbs to the period directly after weight training. This plan places a heavy emphasis on leafy greens and veggies for the remainder of the day—a practical way to cut both calories and carbs. You’ll be eating more fat, as well, to switch your body from using carbs to fats as its main source of energy (an insider trick for torching fat but not muscle).

  • Meal 1: Few carbs, if any
  • Meal 2: Few carbs, if any
  • Meal 3: Few carbs, if any
  • Meal 4: (Post-Workout Nutrition) Contains starchy carbs
  • Meal 5: Contains starchy carbs

Meal 1: Spinach Omelet Eggs 3 Cheese (Pepper jack) 1 slice Spinach (Baby spinach) 1 cup Peach 1 Meal 2: Chocolate Nut Shake Protein Powder (Chocolate) 1 scoop Chocolate Milk (Chocolate) 2 cups Peanut Butter (Chocolate) 2 tbsp Chia Seeds (Chocolate) 1 tbsp Ice (Chocolate) 2-3 cubes Meal 2 Alternative: Strawberry Cream Smoothie Protein Powder (Vanilla) 1 scoop Flaxseeds 1 tbsp Strawberries 6 Yogurt 3/4 cup Meal 3: Grilled Steak With Avocado-Tomato Salad Steak (Top round) 4 oz. Avocado 1/2 Tomato 1 Meal 4: Post-Workout Nutrition Protein Powder (Recovery shake. Should contain 50 grams carbs and 25 grams protein.) 1 serving Meal 5: Flax Pasta With Hearty Sauce Chicken (Cubed boneless chicken breast.) 3 oz. Pasta (Whole-wheat flax penne pasta.) 1 oz. Mushrooms (Sliced) 1 cup Broccoli (Florets) 2 cups Marinara Sauce 1/2 cup Olive Oil (Extra virgin) 1 tbsp Meal 1: Spinach Omelet Eggs 3 Cheese (Pepper jack) 1 slice Spinach (Baby spinach) 1 cup Peach 1 Meal 2: Chocolate Nut Shake Protein Powder (Chocolate) 1 scoop Chocolate Milk (Chocolate) 2 cups Peanut Butter (Chocolate) 2 tbsp Chia Seeds (Chocolate) 1 tbsp Ice (Chocolate) 2-3 cubes Meal 2 Alternative: Strawberry Cream Smoothie Protein Powder (Vanilla) 1 scoop Flaxseeds 1 tbsp Strawberries 6 Yogurt 3/4 cup Meal 3: Grilled Steak With Avocado-Tomato Salad Steak (Top round) 4 oz. Avocado 1/2 Tomato 1 Meal 4: Post-Workout Nutrition Protein Powder (Recovery shake. Should contain 50 grams carbs and 25 grams protein.) 1 serving Meal 5: Flax Pasta With Hearty Sauce Chicken (Cubed boneless chicken breast.) 3 oz. Pasta (Whole-wheat flax penne pasta.) 1 oz. Mushrooms (Sliced) 1 cup Broccoli (Florets) 2 cups Marinara Sauce 1/2 cup Olive Oil (Extra virgin) 1 tbsp Meal 1: Spinach Omelet Eggs 3 Cheese (Pepper jack) 1 slice Spinach (Baby spinach) 1 cup Peach 1 Meal 2: Chocolate Nut Shake Protein Powder (Chocolate) 1 scoop Chocolate Milk (Chocolate) 2 cups Peanut Butter (Chocolate) 2 tbsp Chia Seeds (Chocolate) 1 tbsp Ice (Chocolate) 2-3 cubes Meal 2 Alternative: Strawberry Cream Smoothie Protein Powder (Vanilla) 1 scoop Flaxseeds 1 tbsp Strawberries 6 Yogurt 3/4 cup Meal 3: Grilled Steak With Avocado-Tomato Salad Steak (Top round) 4 oz. Avocado 1/2 Tomato 1 Meal 4: Post-Workout Nutrition Protein Powder (Recovery shake. Should contain 50 grams carbs and 25 grams protein.) 1 serving Meal 5: Flax Pasta With Hearty Sauce Chicken (Cubed boneless chicken breast.) 3 oz. Pasta (Whole-wheat flax penne pasta.) 1 oz. Mushrooms (Sliced) 1 cup Broccoli (Florets) 2 cups Marinara Sauce 1/2 cup Olive Oil (Extra virgin) 1 tbsp Meal 1: Spinach Omelet Eggs 3 Cheese (Pepper jack) 1 slice Spinach (Baby spinach) 1 cup Peach 1 Meal 2: Chocolate Nut Shake Protein Powder (Chocolate) 1 scoop Chocolate Milk (Chocolate) 2 cups Peanut Butter (Chocolate) 2 tbsp Chia Seeds (Chocolate) 1 tbsp Ice (Chocolate) 2-3 cubes Meal 2 Alternative: Strawberry Cream Smoothie Protein Powder (Vanilla) 1 scoop Flaxseeds 1 tbsp Strawberries 6 Yogurt 3/4 cup Meal 3: Grilled Steak With Avocado-Tomato Salad Steak (Top round) 4 oz. Avocado 1/2 Tomato 1 Meal 4: Post-Workout Nutrition Protein Powder (Recovery shake. Should contain 50 grams carbs and 25 grams protein.) 1 serving Meal 5: Flax Pasta With Hearty Sauce Chicken (Cubed boneless chicken breast.) 3 oz. Pasta (Whole-wheat flax penne pasta.) 1 oz. Mushrooms (Sliced) 1 cup Broccoli (Florets) 2 cups Marinara Sauce 1/2 cup Olive Oil (Extra virgin) 1 tbsp

  • Alternate Salad Option 1: Broccoli slaw mix 3 cup and coleslaw dressing 2 tbsp
  • Alternate Salad Option 2: Toasted edamame 1/2 cup, diced dried tomatoes 2 tbsp, and extra virgin olive oil 2 tbsp

Meal 1: Spinach Omelet Eggs 3 Cheese (Pepper jack) 1 slice Spinach (Baby spinach) 1 cup Peach 1 Meal 2: Chocolate Nut Shake Protein Powder (Chocolate) 1 scoop Chocolate Milk (Chocolate) 2 cups Peanut Butter (Chocolate) 2 tbsp Chia Seeds (Chocolate) 1 tbsp Ice (Chocolate) 2-3 cubes Meal 2 Alternative: Strawberry Cream Smoothie Protein Powder (Vanilla) 1 scoop Flaxseeds 1 tbsp Strawberries 6 Yogurt 3/4 cup Meal 3: Grilled Steak With Avocado-Tomato Salad Steak (Top round) 4 oz. Avocado 1/2 Tomato 1 Meal 4: Post-Workout Nutrition Protein Powder (Recovery shake. Should contain 50 grams carbs and 25 grams protein.) 1 serving Meal 5: Flax Pasta With Hearty Sauce Chicken (Cubed boneless chicken breast.) 3 oz. Pasta (Whole-wheat flax penne pasta.) 1 oz. Mushrooms (Sliced) 1 cup Broccoli (Florets) 2 cups Marinara Sauce 1/2 cup Olive Oil (Extra virgin) 1 tbsp Meal 1: Spinach Omelet Eggs 3 Cheese (Pepper jack) 1 slice Spinach (Baby spinach) 1 cup Peach 1 Meal 2: Chocolate Nut Shake Protein Powder (Chocolate) 1 scoop Chocolate Milk (Chocolate) 2 cups Peanut Butter (Chocolate) 2 tbsp Chia Seeds (Chocolate) 1 tbsp Ice (Chocolate) 2-3 cubes Meal 2 Alternative: Strawberry Cream Smoothie Protein Powder (Vanilla) 1 scoop Flaxseeds 1 tbsp Strawberries 6 Yogurt 3/4 cup Meal 3: Grilled Steak With Avocado-Tomato Salad Steak (Top round) 4 oz. Avocado 1/2 Tomato 1 Meal 4: Post-Workout Nutrition Protein Powder (Recovery shake. Should contain 50 grams carbs and 25 grams protein.) 1 serving Meal 5: Flax Pasta With Hearty Sauce Chicken (Cubed boneless chicken breast.) 3 oz. Pasta (Whole-wheat flax penne pasta.) 1 oz. Mushrooms (Sliced) 1 cup Broccoli (Florets) 2 cups Marinara Sauce 1/2 cup Olive Oil (Extra virgin) 1 tbsp

  • Chicken Alternate Options: 3 oz 95% lean ground beef, 3 oz yellowfin tuna, 5 oz clams, or 3 oz clod roast
  • Mushrooms Alternate Options: 3 stalks asparagus, 1 cup chopped baby spinach, 3 baby zucchini, or 1 diced plum tomato
  • Broccoli Alternate Options: 2 cups cubed eggplant, 1 diced yellow pepper or summer squash, or 1 diced carrot + 1 diced stalk of celery

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4 Week Bulking Transformation Diet

Key Points on Bulking

  1. The bulk phase – the big feed. Bulk it out then lean up with a cut.
  2. To smash the bulk phase, you need to train like you mean it and feed like you need it.
  3. Bulking isn’t about eating as much, of whatever you want. It’s about feeding the muscle growth. Check out our top nutrition tips to support your bulking diet.
  4. Try the Maximuscle 4 week bulking diet plan.

Packing on lean muscle is tough for even the most seasoned athlete. Not only does your training have to be strict and well-structured around hypertrophy, your diet also needs to support your body as it grows.

To help themselves grow, most bodybuilders will perform a bulking and cutting cycle. The bulking stage focuses on packing on as much mass as possible. Time frames vary, but the plan below is for a four-week bulk – perfect for adding extra mass before a holiday.

However, to pack on size you need to be eating healthy food, and a lot of it. To help, use an online calorie calculator to work out what your calorie ‘maintenance’ is – which is the calorie intake you need to eat each day to maintain your weight. This will vary based on your height, weight, age and activity status. Typically, the guidelines state 2500 calories for men and 2000 calories for women. But in addition, you’ll need to add extra calories to ensure that you are feeding the growth. You should start with a surplus of +20%, (approximately 500 calories).

When you’re eating a surplus, your body will be able to use the extra energy (carbohydrate, protein and fat) to train harder and build muscle. An increase in calories goes hand-in-hand with an increase in muscle mass – but only if you eat the right food, i.e. packing in the protein. Speaking of training, , to help get you started.

We’ve put together some nutritional information and some examples of foods to eat on your 4-week bulking diet, to help aid your bulking transformation and build a bigger body:

Hydration

When you’re bulking, you’ll need to keep yourself well hydrated. 1.5 – 2 litres per day or 6-8 glasses of water. To increase your caloric intake, you could also drink milk for additional protein – a perfect evening drink before bed to keep that protein synthesis in the black. You could consider a product such as Micellar Casein, for a tasty slow releasing protein powder. Fruit juices can add extra sugar which can be useful post-workout, but limit this to once or twice per week.

Carbohydrate

Unlike a cut, where you need to cut down on carbohydrates, those on a bulk can and should enjoy plenty of carbs. Hence, the harder you can train, the more likely you are to build mass. Stick to wholegrains as opposed to processed refined carbs which quickly spike blood sugar and can be stored as fat.

However, post-training simple carbohydrates are useful. They quickly spike insulin levels – and insulin increases protein synthesis and decreases muscle breakdown.

Protein

Protein is the key nutrient when it comes to bulking transformations, as it’s the nutrient responsible for supporting lean muscle development. On a bulk, every meal should contain protein and you should aim for 2g per kg of bodyweight per day.

Fat

Time to debunk the fat myth! Fat is energy dense and should be a firm part of your diet. It goes without saying of course, to limit the saturated or trans fat but bulk out the healthy fats – if you don’t already, grab for the peanut butter, nuts, avocado, coconut oil, oily fish.

Supplements

On a bulk, it can be tough to eat the excess calories when you don’t have an appetite. Thankfully, there are certain supplements that make life far easier. Mass gainers such as Progain or Progain Extreme can be just the support you need, as they can add calories to your diet without the need to force down a meal.

Creatine is another great supplement and is suited to our 4-week bulk. Your first week is a loading phase and the following 3 are ‘maintenance.’ Creatine helps aid short bursts of high intensity exercise, which means you can lift a little harder, which in turn increases hypertrophy. Creatine monohydrate could be added to any drink, such as a fruit juice or protein shake.

Meal frequency

One of the fastest ways to increase mass is to increase the frequency of your meals. It’s easy to stomach and enjoy six to eight small meals per day than it is to pack all your calories into three. Eat more, more often, that’s the key to packing on the bulk!

The Maximuscle 4 Week Bulking Diet

Your bulking transformation depends on two things: eating at a calculated calorie surplus and eating healthy food. A ‘dirty bulk’ will add too much body fat and leave you feeling bloated.

Instead, aim to consume around 6 meals a day that pack in plenty of calories. We’ve provided plenty of options for each meal below, so mix and match to build yourself a diet that’ll help you quickly gain lean mass.

Add veggies such as tomatoes, celery and broccoli, to whichever meal you like.

Breakfast options – select one from the following list each day.

  • 6 egg omelette with spinach (approx. 564 kcal)
  • Large portion of granola, whole milk and sliced banana (approx. 750 kcal)
  • 1 or 2 bagels with peanut butter (approx. 380/760 kcal)
  • 2 Poached eggs, salmon and avocado (approx. 550 kcal)

Morning meal/snack options – combine these to increase calories if needed

  • Progain flapjack (approx. 324 kcal)
  • Progain extreme shake (600 kcal)
  • Handful of almonds (approx. 92 kcal per serving)
  • Apple with peanut butter (approx. 200 kcal)
  • Small portion of chicken breast, tomatoes, celery and brown rice (approx. 450 kcal)

Lunch Options

  • Double chicken breast, broccoli and rice (approx. 700 kcal)
  • Salmon, sweet potatoes and sesame seeds (approx. 700 kcal)
  • Chicken breast, salsa, brown rice and peppers (approx. 720 kcal)
  • Vegetarian bean chili burritos (approx. 900 kcal)
  • Tinned tuna, quinoa, avocado and broccoli (approx. 500 kcal)

Snack options (select 1 or 2 per day depending on calories)

  • Dark chocolate (a single ounce is 153 kcal. Eat as much as your surplus allows)
  • Mass gainer shake (approx. 600 kcal)
  • Cup of mixed nuts (approx. 640 kcal)
  • Beef Jerky (approx. 410 kcal)

Dinner options

  • Tuna steak with olive oil, two sweet potatoes and quinoa (approx. 800 kcal)
  • Sirloin steak, white rice and fried egg (approx. 950 kcal)
  • Burger with lean beef, fries, white bread roll, cup of green beans (approx. 1450 kcal)
  • Tuna, pasta and Bolognese sauce (approx. 600 kcal)
  • Chili con carne with rolls of bread (approx. 700 kcal)

Example Day

Mixing up the meals above gives you a meal plan that can easily last 4 weeks. On a bulk, you can afford to have a few cheat meals – so don’t be afraid to experiment. Remember to add fruit and veggies almost at will – selecting berries and other low GI fruit to help up your calorie intake and get your 5 a day.

Breakfast:

  • 6 egg omelette with spinach (approx. 564 kcal)

Morning snack:

  • Progain Extreme shake (600 kcal)

Lunch:

  • Chicken breast, salsa, brown rice and peppers (approx. 720 kcal)

Post-workout snack:

  • Protein shake with milk (approx. 200 kcal)

Dinner:

  • Tuna steak with olive oil, two sweet potatoes and quinoa (approx. 800 kcal)

Total approx. 2884 kcal

The beauty of bulking is that you can be flexible with your foods. Just make sure you fit in plenty of protein and keep the fatty junk food down. Your bulking transformation will net much better results if you eat lots of clean food, as opposed to big portions of junk.

For more hints and tips on bulking, check out our bulking hacks article.

Healthy Budget Friendly Meal Plans – Build a Menu Review

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Do you struggle with creating healthy budget friendly meal plans?

Mama, I have found the answer to your meal planning woes! I have tried a ton of different meal planning services over the years to find healthy budget friendly meal plans and I keep returning to this one.

Learning how to feed my family of 6 on a budget of $100 to $150 per week has been a long process, but I am able to achieve this weekly food budget consistently using this very affordable meal planning service.

Ready to find out which meal planning service wins my vote???

Pin this for later right now before you forget!

**This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

Here’s the deets in a nutshell…

Product: Build A Menu – Helping busy families save time & money with healthy budget friendly meals

Who is this product for: Busy families who need help planning meals and saving money on groceries. Great for large families on a budget!

Price: $4.99 per month

Guarantee: 30 day money back guarantee (you can cancel anytime)

Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

Try Build a Menu FREE for 2 Weeks (use code BAM4Free)

(no credit card required!)

Do you know how much your recipes cost before you go to the grocery store?

I have found this great resource with healthy budget friendly meal plans to choose from.

Karee Blunt and Lisa Holcomb have created a wonderful website called Build A Menu. You will not believe what their weekly meal planning software is able to do!

Build a Menu is a meal planning software online that helps you plan all of your meals for the upcoming week. You pick your local grocery store, pick your recipes, and then their Build A Menu system creates your shopping list along with a grand total of what it is going to cost you when you checkout! Menu planning doesn’t get much easier than that! It is so easy on the budget too!

I consistently am able to locate recipes that feed a big family AND feed my family on $400 per month! Other meal planning services I have tried in the past sent me weekly menu plans and the grocery lists, some even with costs, but there were always meals on the menu that my family just didn’t like.

Build a menu lets me pick and choose what I know my family will eat and I can see how much my grocery bill is going to be as I put the meal plan together.

It all started when Karee and Lisa were brainstorming together to try and find a way to make dinner time less stressful in their homes. They have 11 children between the two of them and homeschool them as well.

They were on a budget also and needed to find a way to feed their large families efficiently. They were looking for healthy budget friendly meals.

Karee has a business/marketing background and has helped clients save money and teach them budgeting skills. She put her budgeting knowledge together with the needs of both moms to de-stress and simplify the meal planning process and birthed Build A Menu in 2011.

I am so glad they did! It has gained me extra time back that used to be spent on menu planning and shopping!

3 Easy Steps to Healthy Budget Friendly Meal Plans

STEP 1: PICK A GROCERY STORE

Need to count your pennies? No more scouring sales flyers!

The Build a Menu program searches the local grocery stores in your area and will let you know what each recipe costs based on that week’s sales in your location. In Step 1 of the site, you enter in your zip code and pick which store you are going to shop at. It then searches that store’s sales ads and recommends several recipes for you to make for breakfast, lunch, dinner, side dishes, and dessert that week.

In my local area, the program gives me up to 7 stores to choose from. Some of the grocery stores represented on the Build A Menu website are Safeway, Fred Meyer, Walmart, HEB, Kroger, Aldi, Publix, and the “any store” choice.

If you don’t shop at one of the major grocery chains listed above, you can select the “any store” option. This option offers the same recipes and uses “average” pricing to compile your shopping list.

STEP 2: PICK YOUR RECIPES

Are you gluten free? A Trim Healthy Mama? Food Allergies? Dieting? Large Family?

There are numerous recipes in each category for Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Side dishes, and desserts. There are several different recipe sections to choose from for healthy budget friendly meals:

  • Dine on a Dime
  • Family Friendly
  • Low Carb
  • Low Fat/Sensible Portions (Points Based)
  • Gluten Free
  • Allergy Friendly (No Gluten, Dairy or Nuts)
  • Vegetarian
  • Clean Eating
  • Slow Cooker
  • Grill-A-Meal
  • Your Choice of Side Dishes
  • Trim Healthy Mama Friendly
  • Freezer Cooking Menus (check out this post)

In addition to their Dinner Menus, they offer the following:

  • Lunch Box, Family Friendly, THM and Gluten Free Lunches
  • Family Friendly, THM and Gluten Free Breakfasts
  • Cheat & Eat – Breakfast & Lunch (no recipe needed!)
  • Family Friendly, THM and Gluten Free Snacks
  • Cooking With Kids
  • Dessert of the Week (Family Friendly, THM & Gluten Free)

As you build your menu, the program keeps track of your menu selections and the grand total of your grocery bill as you go. You can modify the recipes selected if you see your grocery bill is going over your budgeted amount for the week.

You can also choose your serving size needed. The recipes are categorized on whether they will feed 1-2, 4-6, or 8-10 people. The cost is then adjusted to reflect this amount of servings in your total grocery bill.

The Build A Menu website has between thousands recipes that rotate each week, so you won’t see the same ones every week. You can save your weekly meal plans and pull them back up at anytime if you have a favorite though.

New Feature! The website now offers a way of adding your own favorite recipes to your meal plan. You enter in the ingredients and it will pull up the associated cost of that item. How cool is that? So you basically could add in your own recipes to this program and know approximately how much your total grocery bill at checkout will be.

STEP 3: PRINT YOUR GROCERY LIST AND RECIPES

This is the most exciting step of the menu planning. You simply click “Print” and your grocery list is ready and guess what….it is organized by sections of the grocery store! So you can get in and get out of the store fast! That’s my kind of shopping. Did I mention I despise grocery shopping?

This is a dream come true for me. When I have 4 children with me in the grocery store, I want to make it a quick trip! Having my list in hand that shows me what to pick up in the Dairy section, Produce section, and Frozen foods section means I can get out of that store much faster.

You also have the option to print a nice handy calendar. You can drag and drop your recipes into each date on the calendar and have breakfast, lunch, and dinner right in front of you.

All of the recipes you have chosen can be printed out at this step too. You could save it to a pdf file on your pc also if you don’t want to print them all out. Save a tree that way!

Plan a Menu, Help a Child

You know what is even better about Build A Menu? Every month a portion of the subscription price is paid out to an Orphan Care Ministry of your choice. When you sign up with Build a Menu, you get to choose which organization receives your donation. A few of the ministries you can support are Compassion, LifeSong for Orphans, Arms of Hope, and many more. What a great idea!

Recap (Pro’s and Con’s)

Pro’s

I get to pick and choose the recipes my family will like

Easy to Use

Detailed shopping list organized into sections of grocery store

Tailors to all diets (gluten free, dieting, allergies, etc)

Practical, healthy budget friendly meals

Easy to stay on budget

Eliminates the need to review sales ads at grocery stores

Low cost

Saves time and money

Con’s

Prices are pretty close, but not always exact

Total cost on list does not include staples on hand (i.e. spices)

Rating

I give Build A Menu 9 out of 10 stars. I personally love this program. It saves me time and money. It is a powerful tool to help me organize our meals. I know exactly what we are eating each day and approximately how much it is going to cost at the checkout. The healthy budget friendly meal plans that they provide helps me stay within budget week after week and the recipes are fantastic!

I no longer stress about “what’s for dinner” at 4:30 each day when I am exhausted after a day of homeschooling the kids! You should really give it a try. Click below right now to start a free 2 week trial.

Try Build a Menu FREE for 2 Weeks

(no credit card required!)

I would love to hear how you organize your menu planning! What method do you use? Leave a comment below.

Hey Mama! Don’t forget to click the graphic below and sign up for my newsletter to receive the latest posts from the Organized Home School. Once you sign up you get access to the FREE Organized Mom Vault which includes a ton of printables, ecourses, and much much more….

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Team Building in the Cafeteria

Anders Wenngren

Some companies go to extraordinary lengths to build bonds among workers. At disk-drive maker Seagate Technology, for example, former CEO Bill Watkins used to take groups of 200 employees on a 40-kilometer adventure race through the middle of New Zealand. Fortune’s Jeffrey O’Brien described Seagate’s “Eco week” as a pep rally that existed not as a reward but as an attempt at extreme team building. Watkins, O’Brien wrote, “thinks Eco week…helps build a more collaborative, team-oriented company.”

Most efforts at team building are considerably more mundane. Many corporations plan outings that include such things as ropes courses, trust falls, and game playing. Even those consume time, attention, and money. Worse yet, many participants find them to have no value; trust falls have become a frequently mocked, Dilbertesque symbol of managers’ wrongheaded attempts to create intimacy among employees.

Everyone understandably wants to build higher-performing, more cohesive teams, but there has to be a better way to do it. And now it seems there is. Researchers led by Kevin Kniffin, of Cornell University, say they’ve found a deceptively simple method: Encourage teams to eat together.

Some might regard preparing and eating food together—academics call it “commensality”—as too mundane to merit research or management interest. But Kniffin and his colleagues point out that eating is such a primal behavior that it can be extraordinarily meaningful, even if most of us do it three (or more) times a day.

In one study, the researchers asked people to imagine how jealous they or their best friend would be if a romantic partner engaged in a range of everyday activities with a former partner. The idea of a partner’s eating a midday meal with an ex elicited far more jealousy than the thought of the two engaging in e-mail or phone conversations or, tellingly, having face-to-face interactions that don’t involve eating.

That result shows that there’s a special kind of intimacy involved in sharing a meal. But what does it mean for team building?

In their latest paper, Kniffin and his colleagues focused on firefighters who prepare and eat meals together during their shifts. The communal firehouse dinner is a tradition that has spawned a near mythology (along with a raft of firehouse-themed cookbooks). The researchers wondered: Do firefighters who eat together do their jobs better than those who don’t?

“Eating is such a primal behavior that it can be extraordinarily meaningful.”

Kniffin visited 13 firehouses in a midsize American city and later surveyed the 395 officers of the firefighting force. Although the city provides kitchen and dining areas inside its firehouses, it does not supply any food, so the firefighters pool their funds, work out cooking schedules and menus, and prepare the food themselves. Participating is not required, but in many firehouses the social norm is to do so. In fact, some married firefighters eat at home and then eat a second meal at the firehouse. One vegetarian firefighter brings his own food to prepare at work so that he can eat meals alongside his teammates.

The firefighters reported that eating together is a central component of keeping their teams operating effectively. It makes a team feel like a family, they said, and creates a focus when members aren’t out on the job.

When subsequently surveying the fire department’s officers, Kniffin found support for the firefighters’ instincts. The officers identified significant positive correlations between eating together and team performance. Cooperative behavior, for example, was considerably greater—about twice as high—among team members who ate with one another than among those who didn’t. Kniffin and his colleagues argue that the cooperative behaviors underlying the firefighters’ meal practices—collecting money, planning, talking, cleaning, and, of course, eating—all enhance group performance on the job. They write: “Behavior that might seem superfluous or wasteful to outside observers ultimately carries significant importance for organizational performance.”

Companies would do well to think carefully about investing in and facilitating where, when, and how employees eat at work. Although many large employers provide on-site cafeterias (often serviced by outside catering companies), others, such as Google, famously go much further, offering free, high-quality, abundantly varied meals. By using free food to entice employees to stay on campus, such companies not only increase productivity (because workers aren’t spending time in transit); they also increase the odds that coworkers will eat with one another.

Even companies that don’t have a cafeteria or management support for daily subsidized food can take advantage of the research findings. Team leaders can spring for takeout food in a conference room or organize a walk to a nearby lunch place. Another way to leverage the findings: When planning your next offsite, ditch the trust falls and have team members cook an elaborate meal together instead.

But be careful not to overdo it, the researchers caution. Communal eating can have downsides. The first and most damaging is insularity. Team members who socialize only with one another risk becoming disconnected from the rest of the organization or from the outside world. Second, new members may feel overly pressured to conform; tightly bonded teams can be scary things to join. And third, teams may use cliquish meal practices (think of a high school cafeteria) to ostracize and “manage out” low performers—a phenomenon Kniffin observed among the firefighters.

In the end, however, for many teams the potential advantages of sharing meals exceed any disadvantages. Architects and office designers like to talk about the importance of spaces that promote serendipitous encounters (or “collisions”) among employees, which enhance collaboration. (One frequently cited example is Steve Jobs’s desire that the only bathrooms at Pixar’s new headquarters be located in the central atrium, so that workers from different parts of the building couldn’t help but mingle.) Although serendipity plays a role in collaboration, devoting space, time, and resources to communal eating may be more effective.

About the Research: “Eating Together at the Firehouse: How Workplace Commensality Relates to the Performance of Firefighters,” by Kevin M. Kniffin, Brian Wansink, Carol M. Devine, and Jeffery Sobal A version of this article appeared in the December 2015 issue (pp.24–25) of Harvard Business Review.

Whether you’re a beginner in the kitchen or too time-challenged to plan and shop for meals, a meal-kit subscription service can help you create several home-cooked feasts a week. Keep a few ingredients and tools on hand, and the service sends just the amount of food you need, so nothing is wasted. Purple Carrot differs from all of the other services we’ve tested in that it is strictly vegan. It promises to help you “explore new flavors, try new ingredients, and experience the benefits of plant-based eating.” We’ve been Purple Carrot subscribers for more than a year and can tell you that it keeps its promise.

Getting Started

Sign up is quick. Starting in July 2018, Purple Carrot began offering four plans: Chef’s Choice, Quick & Easy, High Protein, and TB12 Performance Meals (built around football player Tom Brady’s 12 principles of health and wellness). All plans ship out three recipes per week, with two servings each. Chef’s Choice (gourmet dishes), Quick & Easy (done in 30 minutes or less), and High Protein (self-explanatory) cost $72 per week ($12 per serving), while TB12 meals are $78 per week ($13 per serving). All plans include shipping costs. The per-serving costs are on the pricey side, considering competitors like Blue Apron offer their most basic plans for as low as $10.

Purple Carrot ships to all 48 contiguous states, but you have to email the company () to find out if they ship to your area of the state.

While Purple Carrot has offered the TB12 Performance Meals for a while, the other three plans are brand new as of July 2018. For most of our testing, we used the previous Perfect Pair Plan for two people, which featured three recipes per week, with no customization options or ability to choose recipes. After, we switched to the Chef’s Choice plan.

While previously, Purple Carrot offered only three recipes per week for each of its plans, it has expanded to six weekly menu options. The plan you choose determines the default recipes you’ll receive, but you can always choose from any of the six options available. High-protein and quick and easy meals are tagged accordingly.

Unlike most of the competition, you can’t pick a delivery day (for our area of NYC it’s Monday unless it’s a holiday, then it arrives on Tuesday). Considering this service is targeting a narrower customer base than more mainstream services, some limitations are understandable, though it would have been nice to get a heads up before we ordered. Blue Apron (59.94 2-Person Plan at Blue Apron) and HelloFresh deliver seven days a week, and most of the others have a choice of at least three days.

Our two orders included six recipes: Roasted Sweet Potato Tacos, Lemon Garlic Orzo, Vegetable Panang Curry, Pasta Ratatouille, Sweet Potato Fritters, and Portobello Fajitas. Purple Carrot asks you to supply vegetable oil, salt, pepper, and standard kitchen tools. It suggests alternative methods if you’re missing a food processor, rolling pin, or another less common tool.

The Purple Carrot Experience

Our boxes arrived as promised. They were packed well, with foil-covered insulation made of non-specified “post-consumer waste” surrounding all the packages of ingredients. This sounds gross, but the material looks a bit like dryer lint. Everything inside was very cool and fresh. Ingredients are, for the most part, grouped into plastic bags, one for each meal. Some ingredients, such as large bundles of greens, float free in the box, though, which can be a little confusing.

Every meal delivery kit service, by necessity, uses a lot of packing materials to keeps content fresh. Purple Carrot is rolling out packaging that is 100 percent curbside recyclable, including water-filled ice packs that are safe to pour down the drain. (Dealing with draining gel ice packs is a bit of a nightmare since the filling is heavy and prone to leaking out of garbage bags.)

In addition to the food, you get a booklet with all six recipes inside. Recipes are also online, in case you lose the card or, like us, get food all over it. You also get a summary of the calories, fat, carbs, and protein for each meal, as well as an estimate of how long it takes to prepare.

One bonus, at least with the old plan, is that since everyone got the same recipes, they could share ingredients such as a can of chickpeas, a head of garlic, a large onion, and so on. Other kits including HelloFresh (59.94 2-Person Plan at HelloFresh) and Martha & Marley Spoon sometimes leave a handful of leftover perishable ingredients, such as half a pepper or a teaspoon of vinegar or soy sauce.

Even with a fair amount of cooking experience, we needed more time to prepare some of the meals than Purple Carrot predicted. As with pretty much any recipe, things will go more smoothly when you read it completely before you start.

Purple Carrot’s food is tasty and satisfying—much more so than the meals we cooked with Home Chef , which is notably the blandest of the competing services we tried. We enjoyed the fajitas, which had a delicious filling, as well as the orzo and curry dishes. The sweet potato fritters were also tasty but didn’t hold together very well. What we like about Purple Carrot is that its meals don’t feel like they’re trying too hard to mimic meat-based dishes and that most recipes call for a few different kinds of vegetables.

You can pause and reactivate your subscription at any time. Just note that you need to do so a full week before a box is scheduled to arrive. We paused our account easily. It would be nice if all meal-kit services offered a simple pause button, in case you’re traveling or won’t have time to cook for several weeks or months.

Help and Extras

In a previous test, one of our boxes arrived with a missing ingredient. We contacted customer service via email and heard back within two hours. They sent an abashed apology and a $15 credit, which more than made up for the lack of a shallot. To reach the company, you can also call during business hours, but there’s no online chat, as Plated offers.

For other help and information, a thorough FAQ on Purple Carrot’s website answers most questions you could have about the service. The site also offers a nearly endless page of plant-based recipes with delicious photos. Even a non-vegan may start thinking that veganism might not be such a hard life to live. Unlike Blue Apron, Sun Basket (11.49 Per Serving at Sun Basket) , Plated, and Hello Fresh, Purple Carrot doesn’t offer a companion app, which we did find to be a useful addition for those other services because of their video tutorials and mobile account management.

Purple Carrot Is for Plant Lovers

You might be a vegan looking for some help and inspiration in the kitchen or a meat eater who wants to increase your plant-based food intake, or maybe you just want to try cooking something different. We like the unexpected flavor combinations and creative ways to make tasty and filling non-animal meals. Healthy eaters who like snacks might want to check out our review of Graze .

It’s true, though, that Purple Carrot is at least as expensive as other meal-kit services that deliver more expensive ingredients—like, for example, meat. However, the meal kits almost always include at least two or three different vegetables, and sometimes non-meat protein, like tempeh and tofu. As noted above, Purple Carrot serves a narrower slice of the meal-kit population, so some limitations compared with other services don’t come as a surprise. Blue Apron still stands as our Editors’ Choice in this category; it offers clear and helpful instructions, careful packaging, top-notch customer service, and delicious meals.

Our Best Meal Kit Picks

  • The Best Meal-Kit Delivery Services for 2020
  • More Meal Kit Reviews
  • More from Purple Carrot

Photo courtesy of Trifecta Nutrition

Ask most people what the biggest detriment to eating right is, and they’ll tell you that it’s time. Time to shop for food, time to cook, time to measure out the right portions, macros, calories, and so on… So it’s no surprise that meal prep services are in high demand these days. For those trying to eat a little healthier, there’s no shortage of options (for example these big-name subscription boxes, as well as these lesser-known ones).

But what if you’re working towards a specific fitness goal — whether it’s getting stronger, leaner, faster, or all of the above? Your choices narrow greatly. So we went on the hunt for meal prep and meal delivery services geared specifically towards athletes and their unique nutritional needs. Most of the companies below deliver nationwide, and all the meals we tested come fully cooked and ready to heat and eat. That means more time to crush your workouts and get enough zzz’s.

RELATED: 15 Genius Meal Prep Ideas from Top Trainers

5 Athlete-Approved Meal Delivery Services

Photo: iceagemeals.net

1. Ice Age Meals

Perfect for: Busy athletes who want a few meals in the freezer

Ice Age Meals cater to paleo– and Zone-friendly diets. They feature minimal ingredient lists (all dairy-free, gluten-free and non-GMO) and high-quality meats (like grass-fed organic beef). True to its name, each Ice Age Meal comes frozen solid, giving it a much longer shelf life than any other company in this list. That means you’ll always have a healthy back-up plan ready to roll. Bonus: When you do have time to cook, Ice Age Meals’ head “Culinary Ninja” posts recipes and cooking videos to help you step up your skills.

Meals come in bulk purchases of 14 ($165), 24 ($275) or 64 ($530), with 18 meals to choose from (all of which are either paleo or paleo with rice). Each microwaveable dish is around 500 calories and four blocks according to the Zone Diet, with a pretty even protein to carbohydrate ratio and around 10 grams of fat. (Exceptions include the paleo and rice options, which are higher in carbs.)

Dishes we loved: Don’t pass up the Pastel de Papa (a paleo shepherd’s pie with beef, tomatoes, onions, raisins and hard-boiled eggs — topped with mashed sweet potatoes). The flavorful braises and sauces are a win across the board. Plus, the hearty meat portions will also hit the spot after a tough workout.

RELATED: 13 Healthy Freezer Meals to Prep Now and Eat Later

Photo courtesy of Trifecta

2. Trifecta Nutrition

Best for: The athlete with a plan

If you need a meal plan that goes the distance (so you can, too), Trifecta Nutrition’s got your back. They offer meal plans in several categories: paleo, clean eating (minimally processed foods, whole grains, vegetables and lean protein), vegetarian and vegan. You’ll also have a classic meal option that boasts a perfect balance of lean protein, carbs and veggies (four ounces each). No matter your choice, everything is organic, gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free and non-GMO.

If the pre-set plans aren’t quite right, opt for bulk meals to mix and match. Feeling less restrictive? Go a la carte to suit your fancy. Meals arrive weekly, starting at just over $100 per week. (If you go with the bulk items option, you can spend a bit less). The servings come fully cooked and vacuum-sealed — we had our week of meals portioned out and prepared within minutes after delivery.

Dishes we loved: From the a la carte option, we tried the flat iron steak, salmon, sweet potatoes and asparagus. The salmon was flaky and light and the steak was savory and tender. Plus, each meal was dialed down to my specific meal plan (I personally use RP Strength), making this the perfect option for the nutritional control freak.

RELATED: The 5 Best Apps to Track Macros on the Go

Photo courtesy of Paleo Power Meals

3. Paleo Power Meals

Perfect for: Paleo eaters who want variety

Paleo Power Meals takes the term seriously, even down to the way it sources its meat. That means cage-free eggs, wild-caught fish, antibiotic-free chicken and grass-fed beef make up the base of the meals. On-the-go athletes will appreciate that each dish comes fresh and ready to eat in individual tupperware. Plus, PPM ships nationwide and to select CrossfFit gyms, so you can WOD-and-go.

Customers can choose from 11 different bulk menu items or mix and match the 38 breakfasts, lunches, dinners and sides. The meals range from $8 to $15 and minimum order is just $25, making this a great option for people who don’t want to spend a lot of money. The meals are usually around 400 calories, heavy on the protein, lighter on the carbohydrates and fat.

Dishes we loved: All things breakfast. We wouldn’t mind eating the sweet potato pancakes and bacon-and-egg muffins every morning (plus they’re great grab-and-go options). Other highlights include the Spaghetti Squash Bolognese — be prepared to lick the sauce off the lid on this one.

RELATED: 15 Paleo-Friendly Recipe Substitutions

Photo courtesy of Pete’s Paleo

4. Pete’s Paleo

Best for: The adventurous eater (and the bacon aficionado)

If variety is your favorite spice, Pete’s Paleo has you covered. The ever-rotating menu features fresh, flavorful meals with unexpected ingredients (oh hey, parsnip). The seasonal components are subject to change based on what their farmers are harvesting that week. Here’s how it works: Users place their order of five ($123), 10 ($189), 14 ($249), 20 ($324) or 10 vegetarian ($129) meals by Monday night, and farmers harvest and deliver the produce that day. Then, the chefs get cooking and Pete’s delivers your order by Friday. Everything is non-GMO, gluten-, dairy- and soy-free, grass-fed and pastured. Meals are a bit higher in calories than the others on this list, usually in the 500 to 600 calorie range, and heavy on the protein.

Dishes we loved: Out of the four meals we tried, there were two foods this writer had never tried before (parsnip, meet radicchio). We also sampled two of their other offerings: bone broth and paleo bacon. The broth was savory and satisfying (like chicken noodle soup without the chicken or the noodles), but the bacon was unreal: meaty, flavorful and juicy. It’s cured (instead of brined) so it doesn’t shrink in the pan. It even comes in an unsliced slab so you can make it as thick or thin as you want. Did we mention it’s basically the best bacon we’ve ever tasted? Yes, ever.

RELATED: 7 Quick and Easy Paleo Pancake Recipes

Photo courtesy of Underground Prep

5. Underground Prep

Best for: Fit-minded foodies

Underground Prep’s chef Justin Aquino is a Cordon Bleu-educated chef best known for his work at Mastro’s in Beverly Hills. Translation: Fit foodies are in luck. Think: Honey sriracha chicken with zucchini noodles and black sesame, and BBQ meatballs with grass-fed ground beef, sautéed red bell peppers and onions.

The meals are all gluten-, dairy-, sugar- and soy-free and non-GMO, featuring hormone-free meat and farm-fresh, seasonal produce. Each one is between 400 and 450 calories, with roughly 30 grams of protein, 25 to 30 grams of carbs and 7 to 12 grams of fat. Customers can sign up for a weekly menu delivery via text every Wednesday, and have until Thursday evening to respond with their orders. The average cost per meal is $9, with a minimum of 10 meals per home delivery. (There’s no minimum if you have them delivered to a local participating gym.) Underground Prep currently only services Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego, but they plan to expand to more cities nationwide by end of the year.

Dishes we loved: All of ’em, thanks to Chef Aquino’s ability to make comfort food fit your macros. And we don’t just mean swapping sweet potatoes in your mash. Imagine athlete-approved meatballs and animal fries made with lean meats and paleo versions of sweet, savory and spicy sauces.

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