In this document I’m going to show you how to get started using our site with an account. A free
account will let you plan an entire day’s worth of meals and see relevant nutrition information,
while subscribers can plan weeks at a time and customize each day. After reading through this
document, you should be comfortable: generating and editing a daily plan, customizing meal types,
entering custom foods, saving a diet, and.
Let’s generate a meal plan to get comfortable with all the features. If you filled out everything
during sign up, you should see your preferred macronutrient breakdown and total calories near the
top under the label ‘Current nutrition targets’. Just for practice create another nutrition profile,
for a lower carb paleo style diet, without using the preset options. Start by clicking on the name
of the current nutrition profile, (by default it is set to "My Nutrition Targets", but you may have changed this
during the signup process) which will drop down a menu with a button saying ‘create new targets’ at
the bottom. This menu is where you can access all the nutrition profiles you’ve created.
Once you’ve clicked the button, a popup will appear with all the various fields you can customize.
The name and description are just for your own uses, so for now let’s name our profile ‘Simple
Paleo’ and enter a description like ‘learning to generate meals’. Enter an appropriate calorie
number, based on either your own knowledge or our nutrition calculator. You may have noticed that
you were unable adjust your macronutrients before entering a calorie amount. This is because there
is a direct conversion between grams of food and calories (detailed above), so a mismatch between
calories and grams will confuse the generator.
Now you can adjust the macronutrient composition of your diet by typing in a range, or adjusting the
sliders. Because nothing is truly exact in the world of nutrition (labels only represent the average
lab tested values, most of our food isn’t weighed to the gram before eating), having a range for
these values allows for some useful ‘wiggle room’ in your plans. It’s not uncommon to hear about a
diet with extremely specific macronutrient requirements, then find out that the majority of people
either give themselves some leeway or eat the same combination of meals every day for weeks. Both of
these are valid strategies, and have yielded real results, but our algorithm is geared towards the
former. You can set very narrow macronutrient ranges, or even set specific percentages of your diet
for each macronutrients, but computers are very literal and you will see a decrease in variety of
meals and potentially some strange combinations. If you’re having trouble getting diets that work
for you, setting larger ranges is a good way to get more options – which you can then customize to
your liking. If you set a range that has no combination of values that would fit your calorie
requirements, a warning will pop up with an option to ‘increase/decrease your minimums/maximums’ to
match with your calorie target. The adjustment will change all macros equally (based on calories),
to preserve the general ratio you had specified.
To make a low carb plan, slide the minimum value for carbs much lower, something like 50 grams, and
then raise the maximums for both fats and proteins by another 50 grams. Depending on how strict you
want to be, you can also increase the minimum for fats and proteins, to ensure that they outnumber
carbs. The last 3 options are for less prioritized nutrition factors, and are by default either off
(sodium and cholesterol) or set very conservatively (fiber in this case). Although the generator
will preference recipes that meet these restrictions, they won’t always be exactly right, for the
sake of giving you more options and variety. You’ll have to review meal plans to make sure they fit
your requirements before trying them out, but we’ll provide detailed information at all levels of
organization to make it easy for you.
At last we’re ready to generate a meal using our ‘simple paleo’ profile. You’ll notice the name of
the nutrition targets and your macro ranges displayed at the top of the screen. Between these
numbers and the regenerate button you’ll see a drop-down menu for the number of meals. This will not
affect the nutritional content of the suggested day, but will have some effect on the available
recipes. The generator tries to get at least 200cal in each meal, so having too many meals will
cause each of them to contain relatively less food. We’ll get into options for controlling the size
of the individual meals a little bit later so just set it to 5 for now. This will allow for the
regular breakfast lunch and dinner combination most people are used to, with two additional snacks.
Now that we’ve completed all the options at the top of the page, click the regenerate button to see
how it goes. In less than a minute the generator should populate the bottom of your screen with five
individual meals selected to meet our requirements. You can see how well the generator did by taking
a look at the pie chart and various nutrition information on the right-hand side of the screen. This
information relates to the day as a whole with similar information available at the meal and recipe
level elsewhere. There is also a count of net carbohydrates, which refers to the amount of
carbohydrates excluding fiber which is not digestible. Estimated costs are based on the value of all
the ingredients used in this day combined, but do not reflect the total amount needed to buy normal
quantities of each ingredient. The more often you cook food for yourself the better this price
reflects the actual cost to you, as some ingredients may go bad if you don’t cook for an extended
time. Clicking the “micronutrient stats” button will expand a block of text showing the gram amounts
of all nutrients recorded in our database.
If you turn your attention to the meals and foods on the left side of the screen you’ll notice that
the first three meals are labeled breakfast lunch and dinner by default, with the last two meals set
as snacks. Let’s assume you eat a snack before dinner and then a similar one at night. Reorganizing
a plan is as easy as clicking and dragging the foods where you want them to go, but it’s a good idea
to take a little time to set specifications for each. Let’s start with dinner by clicking on the
word ‘dinner’ above the third meal on your screen or the small cog shaped icon next to it. This will
open a window where you can customize the specifics of the next dinner meal that you generate,
either by regenerating the entire day or just this meal.
We’ll leave the name of the meal alone for now, and turn our attentions to the meal size. This
drop-down menu contains five options, which are relative to each other and the total amount of
calories you set for the day. If all five meals are set to normal meal, the generator will do its
best to show you five meals with all the calories equally distributed. The meal sizes represent 25%
increments in size, such that the smallest meal is only half or 50% the size of a normal meal and
the largest meal is 1.5 times the size or 50% larger than the normal meal. The sizes are relative,
therefore if you set every meal to be a huge meal but do not change your total calories, there will
be relatively little variation between the amounts of calories in each meal. Let’s aim for a big
(but not huge) dinner, since we’re going to have snacks as well; click the small black arrow and
select ‘big meal’ from the drop down menu.
Next, we’ll set the available time for this meal, corresponding to the total amount of time you have
to prepare and cook your Dinner. For the sake of this exercise assume you enjoy taking time to
prepare a nice dinner, and set the timer to ‘Lots of time’. The buttons underneath this selection
refer to whether you will have access to cooking implements. Selecting ‘Can cook’ will allow the
generator to pick recipes without taking prep time vs cook time into consideration. Must cook will
only return recipes with at least some cook time, and can’t cook will allow for any recipe that
doesn’t involve cooking and has prep time less than your ‘available time’.
Breakfast foods are a divisive topic, some people wish every meal was breakfast while others gag at
the idea of having friend eggs after midday. To manage these differing expectations, recipes can be
tagged as breakfast foods, and their availability can be set individually for each meal. I’m pretty
easy to please, so I’m going to take the middle road and allow all types of foods in my dinner.
The number of persons allows you to multiply the size of a meal to accommodate cooking for others,
without going off your plan. As of now, this option merely multiplies your dinner by the number of
people – so it’s not ideal for couples or families with vastly different nutritional goals or
preferences. If you want to use one account to create a plan for multiple people, the best option is
to add their individual caloric requirements together and then simply divide each meal appropriately
after cooking. Let’s save this meal type for now, and go over recurring foods in a separate example.
Now let’s generate another meal plan, with our new dinner in the correct place. Set the 4th meal
(probably listed as ‘snack’ for now) to dinner using the cog icon, and then switch the final meal of
the day to ‘dinner’ and the third meal of the day to ‘snack’. Once the order is correct, click
‘regenerate’ to get a plan that fits the ‘simple paleo’ nutrition profile, but has meals setup the
way we want. Take a minute to click regenerate a few more times and observe what changes and what
stays the same, such as number of recipes and calories per meal. Generating several meal plans like
this is a great way to see what eating on a specific type of diet will look like, especially if
you’re considering making a big change or starting a new program. As you look over suggested daily
plans, try clicking the ‘heart’ icon to favorite recipes that sound appetizing. If you see something
that you don’t ever want to eat, hovering the mouse over that recipe will bring up four small
buttons, and the universal ‘no’ symbol allows you to add that recipe to a list of blocked foods,
that won’t be suggested in the future. Over time, you’ll build your blocked and favorite lists and
the generator will give you less and less suggestions you won’t eat.
If you want to have more direct control over which foods appear in each meal type, setting recurring
foods is the easiest way to do this. We’ll customize the structure of breakfast and lunch to see how
to use recurring foods for a variety of purposes. If you’ve been playing around with the current
plan, regenerate a fresh plan first, so you have all 5 meals with their normal amount of recipes.
Now add whatever is currently listed for lunch to your favorite list by clicking the heart, and then
use the ‘x’ icon to delete that recipe from the daily plan. Deleting a recipe simply takes it off
the screen, and has no effect on future searches unlike the ‘ban’ button.
Now click the magnifying glass icon to open up the sidebar. The sidebar allows you to navigate all
of our databases without leaving the main generator page. The search results update in real time so
foods will appear as you are typing. Search ‘egg salad’ too see what this looks like and then choose
a recipe you like and drag it onto the lunch meal. Once the recipe is on the generator screen it
will behave like the other items. You can view nutritional information about it and change settings
with the buttons on the left. Let’s drag a couple more foods into lunch and then set them all as
recurring by clicking the circular icon. Once you click the recurring foods button, a menu will pop
up with relevant options. You can choose which meals to set this recipe to, as well as how
frequently it should appear. Selecting often will cause the generator to slightly favor this recipe
over others when creating meal plans, while selecting always means that this recipe will always be
generated into this meal. This is similar to the lock function that was available on the old version
of the site.
Drag several recipes into lunch and set them all to recur. Instead of clicking the big orange
regenerate button, try using the smaller white button with the same icon to regenerate one meal at a
time. This will bring you a new set of suggestions for that meal, leaving everything else in the
plan untouched. Notice that even though recurring foods were set to ‘often’ they probably won’t
appear in the next several refreshes. As your list of recurring foods grows you’ll see familiar
recipes more often. If you want a recipe to appear in all plans, the ‘always’ recur option will work
better. This is commonly used for breakfast, when you don’t have a lot of time and are not
interested in trying anything new.
Let’s open up the sidebar and search for a breakfast food like oatmeal. Drag a recipe onto breakfast
and set it to always. Now you’ll see that recipe appear in breakfast every time, whether you
regenerate the meal or the entire day. To take this a step further, repeat the process and add
several different recipes to recur always. This will override anything else the generator usually
does, so breakfast will always include these recipes and the rest of the day will be smaller. If you
want to have a small list or rotation of foods for a meal, click the recur button again, and change
all the foods to ‘often’. Then open the meal options for breakfast and check the box marked ‘only
use recurring foods’. Now refresh breakfast and you’ll see that all the meals are created as some
combination of the recipes set to ‘often’. Different combinations of these settings can be used to
very precisely control what foods will be suggested for each meal.
Now we’ve covered everything you need to know to build meal plans from scratch using the generator
and our database. If you have your own recipes, or want to make changes to recipes that are
suggested to you, you can create custom recipes and foods.
Click the small blue circle next to the image for any recipe to bring up the more information page,
where you can see nutritional information about this particular recipe and change its settings.
Nutritional information is shown in the same format as the main page, with the ingredients in this
recipe displayed like the recipes in the meals. By default all the information will be based on the
whole recipe as it was entered in our database, clicking the ‘1 serving’ button will update the
information based on a single serving. Beneath all that are the directions for this recipe, with a
button to show the micronutrient content below that.
Click the large blue button at the top of this window to personalize this recipe. From this window
you can change all of the information related to this recipe, to reflect your personal experience or
preferences. Ingredients can be deleted by clicking the x next to their image, and new ingredients
can be dragged over from the side bar. This is a great way to substitute different sweeteners or
oils if you have restrictions against common ingredients. After you click ‘save changes’ you’ll be
taken back to the recipe information screen, where you can set your recurring food as a favorite or
repeating food. All of your personalized recipes and foods can be found in the sidebar with their
own category. This makes it easy to substitute recipe’s you’ve spent some time on into new plans.
Now you’re ready to use all the features of Eat This Much. Enter your favorite recipes, set your
staple foods to recur, tweak the meal types until they are just right and soon you’ll be able to
quickly find plans that work for you. As you edit suggested plans, blocking recipes and saving your
favorites, the suggestions will only get better. If you want to get a little more serious, sign up
for a free trial of subscriber services to use these same tools to create weekly plans with grocery