Using the SparkPeople Diet Menu Planner

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SparkPeople is a site that helps with oveall health and fitness. They have a great daily menu planner with a lot of great features.

SparkPeople is an excellent online health and fitness site. As part of its site, there is a free diet menu planner. The SparkPeople site is so much more than a diet menu planner. For now, I want to focus on just the menu planner. Once you register, you will have access to the menu planner.

To register, you will need to provide an email address, create a username and password, provide your birth date, and indicate whether your are diabetic or pregnant. You will then create your account. If you checked that you were diabetic or pregnant, on the next page you will need to indicate if you have your doctor’s permission to start SparkPeople's program. Any time you are making life changes to diet or fitness, you should consult with your physician. Especially, if you have a physical condition that could be affected by these changes.

Now you can select goals. You can either follow a SparkPeople plan with weight loss or one without. Make your selection. At this point you will be presented with fill in boxes to provide your weight and height. The page will then calculate your BMI and set a weight goal that you should attain in a year’s time. You can change that calculated amount, if you would like. This way you can adjust your weight loss goal to either length of time or amount of weight you want to lose. All of this information is essential so that the SparkPeople site can choose the best menu plan based on your information.

Once those selections are made, you will go to the SparkPeoples preferences and conditions page. Here you will choose the type of diet you want to follow, and indicate any physical conditions you might have. By the choices you make Sparkpeople can make sure that you are set on the right diet plan.

 Now you move on to your goals and decide if you want to be part of any of the SparkPeople communities. By default some are chosen for you, but this is a totally optional part of the site. It can help with your diet if you have others that are also dieting to communicate with. That’s all there is to creating goals and getting signed up.

If you are looking for the menu planning portion, then the nutrition planner is where you want to go. This is extremely versatile. You can follow either meal plans that are already set up, or follow a meal plan that you create yourself. I use a combination of both. I like to use their meal plan and add foods that I like. You are also able to substitute foods that are on the meal plan. If you don’t like a particular food that is listed, just click on it and it will bring up a selection of substitutes.

My meal plan always has a choice of 1% milk. I drink 2% milk. So I select add a food and search milk and select 2% milk and add it. No calories are calculated until you either check a food or add a food. Works great to really customize your plan to foods that you like to eat. Yet if you stay within the meal plan selections and only choose a limited amount of additional foods you can be assured of following a balanced diet, and staying within your calorie limits.

Go through your meal plan for the entire week and choose all the foods that you want to eat for each meal. Once you do this, you will be able to print a grocery list. Makes shopping for your diet a breeze. You can also print out your meal plan, and see progress reports. At the end of the day you click on the button under the add food to see your daily feedback. This will show you how you did on your goals that are based on the type of diet you are following. I find this to be an extremely helpful feature. The menu planner not only tracks calories, but also nutrients.

The site also contains a recipe calculator. You can add the ingredients of your recipe and SparkPeople will calculate the nutrients and calories. You can save the recipe and share with others. You can then add the recipe to your meal planner. This way the calories and nutrients can be included in your progress reports. You can also browse recipes others have used, and add them to your meal plan if you like. Also there are member ratings on the recipes, which help with deciding if you want to try a recipe.

This site makes planning a weekly diet menu a snap. It also provides a lot of useful information and allows you to track information on nutrients as well as calories. If you are looking for an easy to use and versatile program this is the one to use.


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Posted on Jul 22, 2010

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Pat Bartels

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