Meal Planning Macros: Set Yourself Up For Success

Meal planning based on your macros is a great way to start off your meal planning journey because it takes all of the guesswork out of what you should and shouldn’t eat.

This blog post will discuss the basics of meal-planning macros and how to get started.

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. Please consult with a physician before making any dietary changes.

What is macro-based meal planning?

It is a meal planning method that considers macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fats).

When you meal plan based on your macros, you are essentially creating a meal plan tailored specifically for your body and your goals.

This can be a great way to make sure that you are getting all of the nutrients to reach your fitness goals.

It’s a more precise way of meal planning than simply counting calories. By laying down specific parameters or boundaries for planning your meals according to your macro goals.

The idea behind macro-based meal planning is that you have a set number of macros per day. 

In order to reach this daily macro goal, each meal should contain a certain percentage of protein, carbohydrates, and fat.

By meeting your daily macro goal you’ll by default stay within your daily calorie budget.

Therefore, macro-based meal planning is a great way to control calories if you are trying to lose weight.

If you are trying to gain muscle or maintain your current level of muscle, tracking and macro meal planning can ensure that you are getting enough protein.

Why should you meal plan?

Beyond macro meal planning, meal planning, in general, is important for a few different reasons.

Time saver

Macro Meal planning can save you time.

Honestly saving time is the number one reason I meal prep.

Everyone is busy taking care of kids, working, going to school, or all of the above.

The last thing you want to do after a long day is come home and cook a healthy meal from scratch.

If you have a plan and some meals already prepped, it takes the guesswork and stress out of what you’re going to make for dinner.

Macro Meal planning can save you time.

Save money

One of the great things about meal planning is that it can save you money.

When you plan your meals ahead of time, you are less likely to make impulse purchases at the grocery store or order takeout when you’re feeling too lazy to cook.

Plus, if you make a big batch of something and have leftovers, you’ll have lunch or dinner sorted for another day!

Eat healthier

When you plan your meals, you can make sure that they are balanced and nutritious.

You can plan for eating more vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein.

You can also control the portion sizes, which can be helpful if you’re trying to lose weight or maintain your current weight.

Reduce food waste

Macro Meal planning can help you reduce food waste.

Let me ask you a question, how many times have you thrown out food because you didn’t eat it in time or it went bad?

If you’re like me, the answer is probably a lot.

Meal planning can help to reduce food waste because you’ll be cooking and eating what you’ve planned for. 

This means that there will be less food going to waste!

Make cooking at home easier

Macro meal planning can ensure you always know what to eat.

Cooking at home can be a lot cheaper and healthier than eating out.

But it’s not always easy to cook a meal from scratch every night.

Meal planning can make cooking at home easier by providing you with recipes, ingredients, and ideas for meals that you can prepare ahead of time.

Dietitian tip: precut your veggies. It’s one less thing you have to do at night.

Reduce stress

Reduce stress with meal planning have a plan of what we have healthy balance options control portion size and less expensive.

Meal planning can help to reduce stress because it takes away the guesswork of what you’re going to eat.

If you have a plan and know what you’re going to make for each meal, it can take away some of the daily decision-making that can be stressful.

Plus, if you have meals already prepped, it’s one less thing you have to worry about.

Meal planning macros for beginners

Ok, we are going to take this from the top and go through the whole process of identifying what macros are and how to find them.

Then we will cover, how to develop an eating schedule that works for you. Also referred to as macro distribution or macronutrient timing.

Finally, I will show you how to fulfill your macro goals with different recipes and foods and lastly how we are going to grocery shop.

What are Macros?

Macronutrients, or macros for short, are the nutrients that our body needs in order to function. There are three main macros: protein, carbohydrates, and fats.

Each macro provides us with energy in the form of calories but each serves a different purpose in the body.

Protein supports muscle growth and repair and helps maintain a healthy weight, specifically a healthy amount of muscle mass. 

Lean sources of protein include, vegetarian sources, tofu edamame and seitan. Dairy includes, 1% milk Cottage cheese, greek yogurt. Fish, Cod, tilapia, tuna.

There are two types of carbohydrates simple and complex.

Simple carbohydrates include sugars found in candy, soft drinks, fruit juices, and honey. 

These sugars are quickly digested and absorbed into the bloodstream, providing a quick source of energy.

Complex carbohydrates include starches found in grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits. 

These carbohydrates are digested more slowly, providing sustained energy throughout the day.

Complex carbohydrates typically provide you with more fiber and other important nutrients such as vitamins and minerals while simple carbs do not.

Simple carbohydrates include pastries honey soda fruit juice typically low in fiber and micro nutrients while complex carbohydrates include whole wheat bread beans potatoes and oatmeal which include fiber and micro nutrients.

Fiber is beneficial for gut health and contributes to you feeling full which may aid in controlling your weight.

It also lowers the risk of heart disease, type II diabetes, and some forms of cancer.

Some people avoid carbohydrates because they think all carbs are bad for them. This is not true. Carbohydrates are essential for a healthy diet.

Just be sure to choose complex carbs over simple carbs, and to get your fiber from whole food sources.

Dietary fats are essential for hormone production and cell function. They are also necessary for the absorption of certain vitamins and minerals.

Vitamin A, D, E, and K are all fat-soluble vitamins, meaning they can only be absorbed when consumed with fat.

Saturated fats include bread me some forms of dairy coconut oil butter unsaturated fats include oily fish vegetable oils nuts and seeds

Fats come in three types: trans, saturated, and unsaturated.

Unsaturated fats, which include both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, are considered to be healthy fats.

Trans fats are found in some processed foods, such as margarine, shortening, and some types of cooking oil.

Unsaturated fats, which include both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, are considered to be healthy fats.

The American Heart Association recommends that no more than 30% of our daily calorie intake come from fat and that only a small amount (5-10%) of those fats should be saturated.

Now that we know what macros are and why they’re important, let’s talk about how to find out what your specific macro goals should be.

How to find your macros?

The grams of protein, fat, and carbs (macros) will be different for everyone and will depend on your fitness goals, lifestyle, and any medical conditions you may have.

Your macro ratio is the percentage of each macronutrient you should be eating based on calories.

For example, if you want to eat 2500 calories per day, your macro ratio could be 30% protein, 40% carbs, and 30% fat.

Distributing your macro nutrients 30/40/30 for 2500 calories

Depending on your goals or lifestyle, you can adjust your macros ratio accordingly.

Now that you know your macros, it’s time to put them into practice! Start by planning out your meals and snacks for the week.

How to develop an eating schedule that works for you?

The first step in meal planning is to develop an eating schedule that works for you.

This means figuring out how many meals and snacks you want to eat each day to reach your macro goals.

While there is some research to support eating more frequently to help with hunger control, at the end of the day what matters most is the total amount of calories and composition of those calories.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer. You may need to experiment a bit to see what works best for you.

A good place to start is by planning three meals and two snacks per day. This will help ensure that you are getting enough food throughout the day and help to keep you from getting too hungry.

Example Macro meal planner

Let’s use this eating schedule to show you how to distribute your macros.

Distribute your macros

You have committed to an eating schedule and now it’s time to take your daily total protein fats and carbohydrate and spread them across three meals and two snacks.

When you are first starting out, it can be helpful to “distribute” your macros throughout the day.

This means that you will want to have a general idea of how many carbs, fat, and protein you want at each meal.

For example, if you are a 200-pound male that wants to eat 2500 calories per day with 30% of your calories coming from protein 40% coming from carbs, and 30 % coming from fat:

Step one: Daily totals

Your macros for 2500 calories with a 30/40/30 split would look like this:

2500 calories

30% of 2500 = 750 calories divided by 4 calories per gram of protein = 187.5 grams

40% of 2500 = 1000 calories divided by 4 calories per gram of carb = 250 grams

30% of 2500 = 750 calories divided by 9 calories per gram of fat = 83 grams

Now you have your daily total grams of protein, fats, and carbs for 2500 calories. Plus we also know how many meals and snacks we are going to have throughout the day.

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. Please consult with a physician before making any dietary changes.

Step two: Snack totals

The next step is to distribute your macros into 3 meals and 2 snacks.

I like to start with my snacks and get those out of the way first.

Let’s say I want to have 2 snacks that will have 250 calories each with 20 g of protein, 30 g of carbs, and 6 g of fat.

Make sure you multiply that by 2 for the two snacks. So in this example, two snacks would be 500 calories 40 g protein, 60 g of carbs, and 12 g fat.

Now let’s subtract that from your daily total calories and macros.

2500 calories – 250 calories (snack #1) – 250 calories (snack #2) = 2000 calories

187 grams protein – 20 g (snack #1)  – 20 g (snack #2) = 147 grams of protein

250 grams carbs – 30 g (snack #1) – 30 g (snack #2) = 190 grams of carbs

83 grams of fat – 6 g (snack #1) – 6 g (snack #1) = 71 grams

This leaves us with the remaining calories, grams of, protein, carbs, and fats, that we divide into three meals

Step three – Meal totals

Now you have the remaining calories and macros that you can just divide by three for each meal (Breakfast, lunch, and dinner).

  • 2000 calories / 3 = 667 calories for breakfast lunch and dinner
  • 147 grams of protein / 3 = 49 grams for breakfast lunch and dinner
  • 190 grams of carbs / 3 = 63 grams for breakfast lunch and dinner
  • 71 grams / 3 = 23 grams for breakfast lunch and dinner


  • 667 calories
  • 49 gram protein
  • 63 gram carb
  • 23 gram fat

Snack One:

  • 250 calories
  • 20 gram protein
  • 30 gram carbs
  • 6 grams fat


  • 667 calories
  • 49 gram protein
  • 63 gram carb
  • 23 gram fat

Snack Two:

  • 250 calories
  • 20 gram protein
  • 30 gram carbs
  • 6 grams fat


  • 667 calories
  • 49 gram protein
  • 63 gram carb
  • 23 gram fat

Again these are just examples, and your specific needs may be different. The important thing is to make sure that you are getting enough food throughout the day and that the foods you are eating fit your macro and micronutrient needs.

To find your own macros and plan out your days, get your copy of the make your own macro meal planner.

PDF macro meal planner

Finding recipes that fit your macro needs

There are a few different ways you can do this. The first is to look for recipes that fit your macros.

A quick Google search for macro-friendly recipes will turn up many recipes.

Another one of my favorite places to look for macro-friendly recipes is on Instagram and Pinterest.

More often than not, these recipes will have the macros listed, which makes meal planning a breeze.

However, if a recipe does not have the nutrition info either posted on the website or it’s even your great-grandmother’s age-old recipe.

You can also enter in the ingredients for a recipe and the app will calculate the macros for you.

This can be a bit more time-consuming, but it’s a great way to get an idea of how to make your favorite recipes fit your macros.

Building recipes using food and their macros.

Knowing what macros are and which foods fall into the protein fats and carbs categories. You can start to build your own recipes that fit your macro goals.

This is oftentimes how I approach meal planning.

I like to start with a brainstorming session by listing out for my breakfast lunch dinner and snacks.

Then I create a subcategory under each meal, labeled protein, fat, carbs.

Download the digital meal planning macros sheet.

Macro planning for breakfast lunch and dinner PFD download

Under each mealtime and identify what will be your protein, fats, and carbs.

Make a list of two to five options for each macro under each mealtime. 

From there you can start to build meals and snacks that have the macros you need.

Remember that this is only a jump-start to help you get started; the finer points of sticking to your macros will be covered during meal preparation.

Once you have your protein fat and carbohydrate sources mapped out, you can then add in other foods like vegetables for extra nutrients and fiber. 

By doing this you are not only building a meal that fits your macros but also ensuring that you are getting a variety of nutrient-rich foods.

Theme Nights

The last thing I want you to do, when macro meal planning, is to have egg whites oatmeal and chicken breast brown rice, and broccoli.

I also it’s hard to come up withIt can be hard to come up with new and exciting meals week after week.

One way to make meal planning easier and more fun are to have theme nights.

Some examples of themes could be:

– Meatless Monday

– Taco Tuesday

– Stir Fry Wednesday

– Slow Cooker Thursday

– BBQ Friday

Pick a few nights each week and make them themed.

Not only does this make meal planning easier but it also helps to add variety to your diet.

Finding staples

Another way to make meal planning easier is to have a few go-to recipes, meals, or individual foods (high in either protein fats or carbs) that you always have in the fridge freezer, or pantry.

I refer to these as “staples.” 

Staples are foods or recipes that you can always fall back on when you don’t have anything else planned.

They are usually quick and easy to make, but more importantly, they fit your macros.

Some examples of staples could be:

  • hard boiled eggs
  • Grilled chicken breast
  • Roasted sweet potatoes
  • Protein powder
  • Rice cakes
  • Peanut butter

I also typically recommend my clients have some frozen pre-prepared food that they enjoy.

Some examples are:

  • Frozen fish
  • Frozen grilled chicken breast
  • Frozen turkey burger patties
  • Frozen shrimp
  • Frozen veggies – Like steam fresh vegging

The last thing that I like to do is have a batch prep day. 

This is a day where you make a bunch of meals or food items all at once to have on hand.

Normally this is a meal prep not for just one week but for several weeks.

I will make a big batch of chili or grilled chicken and throw what I am going to use for the week in the fridge and whatever is left over I’ll toss in the freezer. 

Giving me something to fall back on when I am in a pinch.

Having staples adds a layer of “insurance” that you can rely on when you don’t have anything else planned.

Grocery shopping

By now you have a good idea about what your macros are, how to distribute them throughout your day and what foods fit into which category.

Now it’s time to go grocery shopping!

To make things easier, I’ve created a printable grocery list that you can take with you when you go shopping.

You can find the link to the printable grocery list here.

Digital meal planner grocery shopping list pdf

Before we run out the door to go grocery shopping take inventory of what you currently have.

Grocery inventory list

During this time I also like to recommend that you look at your herbs seasoning, spices, and any dressings or sauces that you might want to have on hand for your meal prep.

Now compare your inventory list to your grocery shopping list and cross off anything you already have. 

When grocery shopping: 

Buy in bulk

After a few weeks of meal prepping you’ll probably find a few ingredients and recipes that you really enjoy.

Buying the ingredients in bulk will save you money as long as you like them and continue to eat them.

Stick to your grocery list

While tracking macros is a flexible approach to dieting. I know that the grocery store can be a very tempting place. There are all sorts of foods that might not along with your goals.

Plus it is probably already going to be a price upfront cost.

That’s why it’s important to stick to your grocery list.

If you don’t need it, don’t buy it.

Hit that freezer section

Frozen fruit and vegetables have the same nutrients vitamins minerals and macros as fresh.

But it also stays good for a lot longer.

Buy enough ingredients for your prep

When grocery shopping it’s important to make sure that you are buying enough food to last you for the entire week.

Having to go back-and-forth to the grocery store won’t save you much on time.


Knowing what macros are and how to figure out your requirements is a critical first step to building a macro meal plan.

By knowing what you daily need are you can develop an eating schedule that works best for you.

With a little bit of effort, you can find recipes that fit your macros and build your own meal plan using food and their macro composition.

If you’re not sure where to start, don’t worry. I can help you develop a meal plan that works best for your body and your lifestyle.

All you need is a little guidance and some support as you get started on this new journey.

Schedule an appointment with me today, and let’s get started! I promise it will be worth it.

What are your tips for Meal Planning Macros? Let me know in the comments.

Noah Quezada is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist located in Denver, Colorado. Over the course of more than a decade, he has gained extensive experience in helping clients manage their weight through in-person sessions. Noah is also the 2023 President of the Colorado Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

2 thoughts on “Meal Planning Macros: Set Yourself Up For Success”

  1. I was so pleased to find your site. You’ve given me so much information for which I’ve actually been looking and it’s helped me enormously. Would that I lived in Colorado and be a client!

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