FAQ


If you haven't already, please read my disclaimer. This site is a tool to help you mock up a meal plan, not a replacement for a dietitian or licensed medical advice. Does that mean you can’t use the generated meal plans as a real diet? Not at all. Everything is based on the USDA nutrition database, a very reputable source. I mostly just don’t want you to sue me.


Using the generator

Basics


Note To take a tour of the generator's features, click the "Generator walkthrough" link on the right hand side of any meal plan page.
Start by entering the number of calories you want to eat and click "Generate". If you're not sure how much you should be eating, click "Not sure?" under the calorie entry box to estimate your nutrition requirements. Keep in mind that everyone's needs are different and you will likely need to make adjustments to your intake based on your weight progress.

If you don't like the foods the generator gives you, you can change the foods by clicking the "Meal Options" button on the right side of the home page. There, you can filter out recipes by their ingredients, prep time, and cook time.

Subscriber version of the generator - The interface is almost exactly the same, but the nutrition targets are defined only in the meal options page.

Fine tuning your meal plan


Refresh buttons - found next to the meals and foods. Click this to mix up that food or meal. The meal refresh button uses the same algorithm as the main generator and will usually get pretty close to your desired meal plan constraints. The individual food refresh button uses a simpler algorithm and probably won't be as accurate, but offers finer control.

Food bank - Click the "Add a dish" button on the righthand side to pop out the Food Bank sidebar (clicking it again makes it go away). From here, you can drag specific dishes into the meal plan. There are also links here to create your own custom foods and custom recipes.

Food locks - These are locks next to each food and each meal that you can click to prevent the generator from changing that food/meal. This is especially useful in combination with adding your own foods. You can make a custom food, add it to the meal plan, lock it in place, and then generate around it to meet your nutrition goals.

My grocery list is too long


This is something I'm very aware of, and am working on solving. In the meantime, here are some things you can do to make it less of an issue:

Eat the same thing a few times a week. You can do this by locking a food or recipe into any template, and it will recur on those days every week. I lock the same thing for breakfast every day, 2-3 different types of sandwich for lunches, and dinner is always a surprise. The added redundancy shortens the grocery list a lot.

Make substitutions between similar foods. This is another thing I'm working on making happen automatically, but it's gonna take some time. If the grocery list tells you to buy spinach leaves and lettuce, you can use one of them for both recipes without changing the nutrition very much. In fact, you can pretty much eat as many vegetables as you want without changing the nutrition significantly, and the more vegetables the better.

I made some changes to my meal plan, but it's not showing up in my other meal plans

(Subscriber only)
In the calendar mode, any changes you make to the meal plan such as food choices and meal names are specific to the meal plan at that specific date. To change a meal name for ever Monday, for example, go into the Templates page and change the meal name there. Then, it will show up in every Monday that has not yet been generated. To do this for every day, simply change each template. Or if you just want to change the nutrition targets for every meal, use the appropriate option after clicking on the "Meal options" menu button.

How do the templates work?

(Subscriber only)
When the weekly meal plan generator sets up your meal plans for the next week, it takes your template meal plans and sends them through the meal generator again. Therefore, if you click the "lock" next to any food or meal, that food or meal will recur every weekday based on that template. So if you want to eat the same pancake breakfast every Sunday, lock it into Sunday's template. Or if you want the same lunch for every day you go to work, lock that meal in the corresponding templates with the foods you like. The other meals will be automatically portioned to still fit your nutrition targets regardless of what you have locked.

Is there a mobile app?


Not yet, but I am planning to make the site mobile friendly as soon as I can. At the moment, you can drag foods around in the interface via tap and drag, but this prevents you from changing food amounts. The interface is also really inconvenient to use on a tiny screen. In the meantime, the emailed versions of the meal plans and grocery lists can be easily read on a phone.

The generator isn't working in my browser. What's going on?


The generator has spotty support for Internet explorer and some browsers on linux. You can subscribe and receive the automatic weekly emails with any browser, but it will be difficult to edit them and make changes if the meal generator interface isn't functional. Before you subscribe, please play around with the free version of the generator at www.eatthismuch.com to make sure it works well for you.

What are the weekly emails like?


If you subscribe, Eat This Much will automatically generate a weeks worth of meals before the grocery shopping day and send them to you. These emails are HTML heavy, so make sure your mail client can read them (most popular ones can). Here is a sample meal plan.

How do I generate meals of different sizes?


There are sliders to adjust the meal size on the bottom of the meal options. These select the relative size of the meals, so if you move all the sliders to the "Snack" setting, they'll still all be the same size. For an even smaller snack, move one meal to the "Snack" size and the rest to "Huge meal".

Can I modify existing recipes?


If you want to make modifications to a recipe, click the "Recipe page" link under the recipe object in your meal plan to go to the recipe page. Then click "Personalize this recipe" to create a customized version of that recipe. You can then swap out the original recipe with your new one in the meal plan and lock it in place to keep it there. As a subscriber, your personalized versions of recipes will automatically replace the original in the generator.

Can I use my own custom recipes with the generator?


Yes! For free, you can create your own recipes and drag them into your meal plan, and then lock them so the generator will plan around them. As a subscriber, however, options will appear on the "Meal options" page asking if you want to include your personal recipes and they will automatically be placed into your plan with other foods. If you modify an existing recipe via the "Personalize this recipe" button on a recipe's page, your personal recipe will completely replace the original recipe in the generator.

My meals aren't getting much variety, what's up with that?


It's possible that your nutrition requirements are too strict to get much food variety. Your food filters could also be too strict. If it's the refresh buttons that aren't giving you much variety, it could be because the generator is looking for a pairing of foods nutritionally similar to the previous meal and there aren't many available combinations. Try mixing up the other meals a little and coming back to the original one.

Feel free to add more well written recipes to the database - I add more myself when I have the time, and every one helps with the variety.

Where do your foods come from?


All of the foods are from the USDA food database. It's not incredibly extensive, but it is fairly reputable. Do you have a suggestion for another database to add? Let me know.

How does price estimation work?


This is a ballpark figure derived from US federal nutrition studies and local US grocery prices. If it varies significantly from what you think is correct, keep in mind that prices are heavily influenced by location and season. If you still think something is way more off than it should be, send me an email. I'll try to build a price suggestion system in the near future.

What are your qualifications?


I have almost no qualifications whatsoever. There are, however, numerous resources for studying nutrition science available online, and the meal planner's suggested settings abide by most studies (most importantly, that body composition is largely defined by satisfying macronutrient requirements and total caloric intake). See the Nutrition References section for some basic articles.

Again, if you have any special needs in your diet, it is up to you or a qualified medical professional to make sure those needs are met. My unprofessional recommendation is to check the micronutrient values on the meal plans, add as many extra non-starchy vegetables to your diet as you can, and to supplement with fish oils, vitamin D, and possibly a multivitamin. Hopefully soon the meal planner will be able to account for all of those things better than it does now :-)