1. About the Meal Plan OPTIONS.
ORIGINAL MEAL PLAN, SIMPLIFIED EDITION, OR BUILD-YOUR-OWN.
1. ORIGINAL MEAL PLAN. This is the Original Phase 3 meal plan I designed that utilizes all the week 1 Phase 3 recipes that were created. This plan provides the most variety to your eating, but also requires more cooking. In most cases, you eat each meal twice - fresh and then once as leftovers the following day for lunch or dinner. You can still batch cook meals and 3 cooking schedules are listed in each week’s meal plan. Everything is done for you (except the actual shopping & cooking!) What recipes to cook, how much to eat of them, and the specific grocery list with everything listed to feed you for the entire week if you were to follow the plan exactly.
2. SIMPLIFIED MEAL PLAN. This is a designed for you P3 meal plan as well, just like the Original version, just with fewer recipes and more eating of those same recipes in one week. So instead of eating 1 recipe twice in a week, you will often make a recipe to eat for 4 lunches that week or 1 recipe for 3 dinners. Once again, with this plan I have everything done for you: What recipes to cook, how much to eat of them, the grocery list is already made for you, I even have 3 different “cooking schedule” options listed with a calendar that shows you what to cook on what day based on either a “cook-as-you-go” option, twice-weekly batch cook, or 1x weekly batch cook method.
3. BUILD-YOUR-OWN MEAL PLAN KIT. I designed this build-your-own-kit plan based off of feedback from some of you who wanted to cook fewer recipes and just make up simple things like a chicken breast on salad and stuff - grab and go type things without much cooking.
So if this is you, and you don’t mind spending some time understanding the details behind how I laid out the calories and macronutrients of the original plan so that you can try to mimic it on your own with your own food and ingredient combos and you’re truly happy with super basic tasting meals, coolio!
WHEN IN DOUBT, ie. you are not quite sure what to do and we're hoping to not have to live on lettuce and chicken breast the rest of your life, but aren’t sure if that’s possible or how to go about it, I would stick with giving the Original or Simplified plan a try. It is really working well for a lot of folks and as you follow it, you will naturally start to get a feel for what you can eat (way more satisfying stuff than chicken breast & lettuce) and how much and how to pair items to allow for maintaining weight loss while still having meals that are incredibly satisfying and tasty.
If you start out with the Build-Your-Own Meal Plan kit and find you’re struggling with either your weight or making decisions on what to eat, please feel free to switch over mid-phase 3 to one of the other two meal plans.
4. I spent quite a bit of time (okay like a whole year lol) crafting these recipes and the combinations of them into a day based on the idea of making sure that these meals had a lot of VOLUME to them for the calorie amounts, so that even on week 1 when the calories are the lowest, you would still feel like you had plenty to eat in general with only possibly small increases in food needed to hunger, and ensuring the tastes of the meals would be psychologically satisfying as well so that you didn’t get the “munchies”. Oh yes, I know all about the munchies - when you finish that chicken breast and plain steamed broccoli and then you’re looking around the kitchen like, hmmmm what can I eat now? With the meals I’ve designed, it’s much less likely you’ll feel that way.
5. P3 is only 3 weeks folks. This isn’t your whole life we’re talking about here and I don’t want you to think that you necessarily have to do this amount of work for your whole life in order to maintain. I don’t! But here’s why doing this now can really help:
If you can set aside a little more time than usual for cooking the special dishes in the P3 meal plan, it might help you get some insights into some things both with eating, cooking, and maintaining weight loss that you can then utilize to more easily craft your own simpler eating lifestyle in Phase 4 as time goes on. You also might find that some dishes LOOK time-consuming on the surface, but in actuality, once you get going, they are pretty quick and more about having certain things, like your spice drawer, handy. If time or energy is an issue, definitely the simplified meal plan will save on both of those quite a bit, but you will at least have everything laid you for you still with real meals.
THIS IS WORKING, FOLKS! It’s important to note the details that make the crafted P3 meal plans what they are - calories increase gradually each week, it’s a high protein plan, there ARE SOME carbs but they are from whole food sources, etc. So all these things together are creating a successful plan for stabilization for P3toLifers.
2. Meal Planning For Family
Okay so here’s the thing. My goal with these meal plan documents was to do as much of the legwork as possible for you so that you would basically only have to go grocery shopping and get what you’re told to get and come home and cook what you’re told to cook. This was to eliminate all the work and decisions that in our busy lives can prevent us from living a wise Phase 3. Decision fatigue and resulting bad choices is a real thing scientists have studied.
Now, I have tried and looked at this from like 68.5 different angles, and it’s basically impossible to lay out these PDF’s in a way that they will fit EVERY single scenario when it comes to the logistics of how much of each ingredient to buy for groceries depending on how many people you are feeding for which meals. I tried I really did. As such, my instructions for ALL the meal plans, Original & Simplified, are laid out for feeding ONLY YOU. When you buy everything on the grocery lists each week as it’s laid out, you will have what you need to feed YOU for the week.
In the Original meal plan, it’s fairly easy to increase this simply by doubling the ingredients for whatever recipes you need to double, or triple because most the recipes make 2 servings and are planned out to eat twice in that week. If you just double ALL the ingredients on the grocery list in the Original meal plan, you will now have what you see on the meal plan x 2, to feed one more person that week the same way you are eating.
With the Simplified meal plan, however, it became more complicated, because now you are eating some recipes 3x in the week, or 4x in the week, and sometimes still just 2x. This means that on the grocery list it starts to get hard to figure out how much you need of what if you need to increase the servings of some of those recipes for family members.
IF doing this, my suggestion is to look at the meal plan calendar, choose which recipe you are wanting to increase, check that recipe to see if the plan has you 2x or 1.5xing it for yourself that week, and then look at those ingredients and multiple them further as needed.
3. A Note About Carbs
Low-carb, NOT almost-zilch-carb.
You will notice that while the P3 meal plans are low carb, they DO have some carbs, meaning more than 20g of net carbs per day.
Total Carbs: 55-75g
Net Carbs: 35-55g
Total Carbs: 50-70g
Net Carbs: 30-45g
Total Carbs: 55-100g
Net Carbs: 40-70g
This is not an Atkins induction phase low carb type plan. This is a plain and simple low carb and I don’t want you to panic. I felt like it was important to discuss this because I know for myself, I feel like I was a bit brainwashed to think that any food over like 2-5 net carbs was something to avoid like the plague. Women are stabilizing on this P3 meal plan WELL you guys, including these low (but not lowest possible known to man) levels of carbs from whole food sources.
I know you might be like, WHAT!!! That’s just crazy talk Rayzel.
Stick with me for a sec okay? I am speaking now from my own almost 5-year weight maintenance experience AND from the P3toLifer experiences that are now coming into my inbox where they are following my original P3 meal plan, which INCLUDES these net carb meals from low carb vegetable & fruit sources as the P3 recipes dictate, and they are totally stabilizing. In some cases, they are losing weight because they need to up the calories a little.
OKAY SO LET’S TALK ABOUT THIS:
I feel like a lot of us may have the tendency to think, “well things will turn out better if all my P3 meals are 2 net carbs and if I eat higher than that, it’s like I’m choosing a less ideal choice. I’d like to challenge this thinking a little. The “carbs” we are eating are from whole food, low carb vegetable sources and small amounts of either low carb fruits or as a tiny amount of a higher carb fruit.
Please give this a ‘lil try? While we don’t want to be eating 2 loaves of bread a day, somewhere along the way our minds got jaded to think that all carbs are bad, but in the right amount and right source, they play a vital role in our metabolic functioning long term, especially as women.
We have to, of course, balance this with what we know of our own bodies and in some cases, you may need to add your healthy carbs even more slowly than the plan dictates. But overall I can tell you women have been surprised that they stabilizing while following this and eating the food as it’s written in the plan.
Of course, in the end, do what works for your body, but I’d love for you to give this a chance- you have the opportunity to train your body to gradually accept some healthy carbs again in a structured manner right now.
An experience related to this below.
From P3tolifer Heather:
“I usually stabilize on a ketogenic diet. As a matter of fact, I have been keto for five years except for when I am doing hCG. Here’s the thing I don’t want to live the rest of my life this way! It’s too hard to stay under 25 carbs a day, one slip up and I’m up 3 pounds.
So this last last round of hCG I did to lose some pounds I had gained, but also to force my body to lose weight at 30-34g of carbs each day on phase 2. I am trying to truly reset my body so in phase 3 I make sure I get at least that many carbs each day. I am on day nine of phase 3....and I am still within 1 pound of my LIW!!!!!!
I made the spaghetti squash and meatballs last night, I purposely waited until week two because I know spaghetti squash generally will make me gain 3 to 4 pounds overnight even if I only have half a cup.....I had an entire cup and no weight gain. My body was so sensitive that I couldn’t have anything like a mug bread- even though it was fiber carbs....my net carbs had to be below 25 and my total carbs could never go over 35 so I was getting very little fiber. I am eating a mug bread every day! I could seriously cry because I feel like what I set out to do, reset my body and tell it “you are not the boss of me I’m the boss of you” is actually happening! Thanks SO MUCH! Much love, Heather.”
This is just one example to show that the state your body is in right does not have to be that way forever. You may like and want to eat super low carb forever, and if so and you feel great and maintain your weight, hey, stick with it! But if you LIKE the idea of something like this- where you can have spaghetti squash and other vegetables and some fruit and still maintain, please see this as a time to train your body to do this. This means purposefully choosing some meals to be in the “higher” range of the net carb range listed for those meals that week.
4. Sourcing Your Carbs
OKAY so after all this talk about utilizing the full range of net carbs some days, I’d still like to reiterate the importance of the source of those carbs. The success that is being had by P3toLifers with the designed original P3 meal plan that has these net carb levels is from low carb vegetable sources, and SMALL amounts of medium-carb vegetable sources (example 1/8th cup of peas in a dish) and fruits (ie. 1/4 cup shredded apple in a mug muffin breakfast).
So even if you don’t use the original P3 meal plan or the P3 recipes, take note of how much of an ingredient is used and the serving size in my various P3 recipes to help you get an idea of how much to eat of various items. So if you were to eat something that was like, I don’t know, straight sugar, but still somehow fell into the correct “net carb” amount - this may likely not pan out in the same great way.
5. Calorie Intake, Hunger & Fullness
If you follow the Original or Simplified P3 meal plan, while I list the calories and macronutrient facts for each meal, you don’t technically have to count them yourself if you eat the servings sizes dictated in the plan.
Regardless, it can be quite useful to get a feel for just how many calories your body can come to use without gaining weight, and this is something that can change and increase, which is why the calories in P3 actually raise each week - it’s called reverse dieting and is a scientifically backed way to re-train your metabolism to be able to eat more calories than previously without gaining weight. Obviously, at some point, you will, of course, max out and find that level between weight maintenance and weight gain.
So THERE ARE 3 MAIN POINTERS HERE:
1. A BASELINE OF CALORIES EACH WEEK - NOT WRITTEN IN STONE: The BASELINE of calorie intake each week of P3 is listed earlier on the “goals of P3 meals” sheet. However, this calorie baseline is at a level that SOME would continue to lose weight during P3 if they followed it exactly. This means in some cases, to stabilize/maintain, you will need to add calories.
2. IF HUNGRY: Add calories as needed to hunger and to keep weight stable. And PLEASE do not be afraid to do this- if you are getting hungry with the baseline plan, eat more! The whole point is not to make your body suffer at a lower level but to raise your calories to a maintenance level where you are not hungry and it’s enough for what your body needs. There is a segment on ways to do this on the p3tolife.com site under “SIS- Super Important Stuff” called “STILL HUNGRY.” Sometimes it could be as simple as adding 1 tablespoon of butter to your P3 recipe serving - that would add 100ish calories right there! Or, adding a 2nd lower carb (maybe 2-7g net carb) P3 smoothie to your day. Adding calories is very simple.
3. IF FULL BUT THERE’S FOOD LEFT: If you are actually feeling FULL on P3 meals in the plan before you finish, go ahead and stop eating! I mention this because it’s happening. When you first come off Phase 2, some of you ladies will be less hungry than others when it comes to what you point you feel satiated and comfortably full. This is about tailoring how much you consume to YOU and your own feeling of hunger- and this will likely be different from day to day too. But if you eat beyond your hunger and get an overly-full feeling, this will likely lead to gains on the scale because your body is letting you know it’s more than you need.
6. Time Spent Cooking:
Most of the P3 recipes were designed so that you would get 2 meals out of it yourself, for instance, dinner one night and leftovers for lunch the next day, or you could double the recipe and get 4 servings - for instance, 4 lunches for the week. Additionally, w/ things like mug muffins or chia puddings can make multiple servings at once. Dessert smoothies: These take 3-5 minutes to make. I have video tutorials on these in the “dessert smoothies course” on the p3tolife.com site.
I am finding that eating real whole foods vs. more processed foods (bars/nutrition shakes), even with the same calorie amount, is not the same thing. Our bodies just seem to do a lot better with the real food thing when it comes to weight loss and weight maintenance.
Additionally, I also find that psychologically, eating real recipes with a combination of protein/fat/carbs and a few spices is much more satisfying than plain chicken breast and steamed broccoli, again, even if the actual calorie and nutrition facts on the meal are the same.
This can’t be underestimated in importance when deciding how much effort to put into making some real meals like this, even though it takes a little extra time. Being truly satisfied with what you just ate will make it so that you NATURALLY don’t get the munchies. You will feel “done” with eating for a while after your meal and not be psychologically wishing to eat more/something else.
I know for myself, I tend to eat way more calories when instead of a really satisfying meal with a variety of ingredients I just keep going back to the fridge and slicing more jack cheese. Before I know it an hour later I’m like, WOA did I just eat 2/3rds of that whole brick? Yikes! I STILL do that from time to time now, which of course I then have to “fix” it. It’s simply easier to overeat if we snack on calorie-dense foods rather than having a real meal that has a balanced amount of fat, protein, and carbs all in one thing.
Please see the Cooking Schedule Ideas coming up for ways to batch cook real meals.
7. Preparing/Starting the Program:
I want to preface this section by saying, I understand that cost is sometimes a limiting factor and it just is what it is. While the below are recommendations that can have a real positive impact on your long-term health and weight maintenance, if you simply cannot afford it, the program still works very well. Remember too that it need not be all or nothing. In some cases, a non-GMO or organic version of a product may cost only a little more. In other cases, it might be much more costly. You can pick and choose as your budget allows. Keep in mind that the condiments and prepared ingredients, while being more costly on the purchase, will last you for quite some time with many recipes, as the bulk of our ingredients are fresh vegetables and protein.
Meats, Eggs, etc
Wherever possible, choosing organic/free-range meats
Many grocery stores now carry an organic version of the main meat cuts we use like chicken breast, thighs, steak cuts, and ground meats.
Our use of pre-made ingredients:
Wherever possible, I encourage you in our limited uses of already prepared condiments like mayonnaise and the sugar-free substitutes like stevia and erythritol, to use non-GMO and organic products.
Primal Kitchen Mayo w/ Avocado Oil, no added sugar
Chosen Foods Mayo w/ Avocado oil, has honey but the amount is so small it's still 0g sugar per tbsp, which is fine for our purposes.
BetterBody Foods Mayo - Avocado oil, non-GMO
Sir Kensington, non-GMO - specifically Avocado Oil based (they have many others) - contains organic sugar, but again, 0g sugar per 1 tbsp serving.
GMO derived products can cause dysbiotic changes in the bowel.
Swerve - uses erythritol sourced from non-GMO corn grown in Europe.
Pyure - erythritol sources from non-GMO corn grown in China
Both of these brands are commonly found in grocery stores and many places online including Amazon.
8. Grocery Costs:
Initially you may spend extra on some new staples for new alternative pantry items that you’ll see listed in the P3 recipes, BUT you won’t have to buy these items again for a long time & if you keep making recipes like this, which is really the foundation for your long-term maintenance, that cost is really spread out over several months.
WAYS TO REDUCE COST: You can buy small amounts of alternative baking ingredients and super fresh spices in small quantities for very low prices at savoryspiceshop.com.
EXAMPLE: You buy at savoryspiceshop.com a small 2oz bag chia seeds for $3.80 instead of buying 1 whole pound for $11 (we only use 4.5 tbs over the course of the original P3 meal plan for the chia puddings recipe and the lemon blueberry protein bars - if you like the chia puddings you may like to make them more in the future, but you can decide that later). This can be great if you’re new to these types ingredients & not sure if you want to use them long term yet. They carry all sorts of alternative baking ingredients.
9. Subbing Ingredients
1. Recipes calling for refrigerated boxed coconut milk or almond milk - the first two weeks I went with coconut because of sticking with the whole dairy/nut free thing, but to be honest my main purpose there was really just because these food groups are so calorie dense and easy to overconsume. Almond milk has hardly any actual almonds and it’s very low calorie so in that sense it’s not really a problem for that reason- so you can probably just go with either coconut or almond milk if you like to save on cost- so you’re not buying large cartons and wasting half of it. These cartons do have a long expiry date which is nice.
2. If there is a protein you do not care for, you can sub it out. If the meat is lean, ie shrimp, you’d want to replace with another lean meat (ie chicken breast, not ribeye steak). If the meat is a slightly higher fat meat (ie chicken thighs, then you could replace it with another higher fat meat of your choice).
3. If you make substitutions either due to food intolerance or just an ingredient you don’t care for, mostly what you want to aim for is replacing it with something of LIKE caloric and nutritional profile. So an ingredient that is higher fat, you’d use a higher fat item- ie. if you replaced the half and half in a dessert smoothie with something dairy free for instance, you wouldn’t want to use 8 calorie nut milk in place of it, as the fat in the half and half adds a LOT to the taste and texture and the result will be bland and unpleasing - so you would instead add a higher fat ingredient like canned coconut milk or avocado.
10. Subbing Whole Meals
Sometimes you might decide you’d like to substitute an entire meal, say breakfast, with a protein shake in keeping with the idea of making things fast and simple. There is nothing wrong with doing this, especially on occasion, but one thing I will say just from trying things both ways now. It seems to me like smoothies when eaten as a meal replacement (ie with protein powder and such) vs. a dessert smoothie, that the protein smoothies don’t truly “replace” the real food in the exact same way.
The following is just my observation with my own body. I notice that I gain weight more easily when consuming the same calories in a protein smoothie compared to if I eat those same calories in real food like vegetables and meat that I have to chew and digest if using them on a daily basis as a replacement. This may be because from my research our bodies absorb more of the calories from something that’s already been pretty broken down for us (thank you Vitamix) where our digestion has a lot less to do to assimilate it into our bodies. Do with this information what you want, I’m just sharing it because I found it more difficult maintaining my weight loss when I was “meal replacing” more often over one summer, and when I ate actual meat and veggies and fruit, this just wasn’t a problem. Thus currently I rarely ever have a protein smoothie, but I have P3 dessert smoothies every night, sometimes twice!
This knowledge might encourage you to take the extra 15-20 minutes to prepare- say a batch of egg muffin cups that will last you several days if it ends up making a difference in your stabilization and long-term maintenance.
And speaking of dessert smoothies........
11. Dessert Smoothies
You might be wondering, JUST WHAT IS A DESSERT SMOOTHIE ANYWAY? And does this involve hiding kale in it? :)-
First of all, there is NO kale in any of the dessert smoothie recipes because their purpose is not about health. My dessert smoothies were born from my reality which is that I had a sugar addiction and I like VOLUME in what I eat. I never could eat a little handful of something and be done. No matter how many times I told myself just a couple. Which obviously with lots of regular foods can be a problem for weight.
These smoothies are meant to be SUPER THICK so that they feel like a true dessert/ice-cream replacement. They are also SUPER VOLUME (ie. as big as I could make them) and SUPER LOW CALORIE for what they are. The purpose? So I could eat dessert frequently and in an amount, I felt like having it, without getting myself in trouble. They are NOT for nutrition or for a meal replacement or to be uber-healthy. It’s basically just to satisfy the need for a sweet snack with the volume you’ll be satisfied with that won’t get you and your weight in trouble. You’ll see they truly are very low calorie, yet amazingly flavorful and satisfying and big! IT WILL ALMOST SEEM LIKE MAGIC. 😉
So you just might want to give them a try! Here’s what a few others have said of them so far:
“I have LOVED the dessert smoothies. They are my favorite!!!”
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“This has made P3 so much less scary because I know what to eat and how to satisfy my cravings. “
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“My hubby LOVES the dessert smoothies- he has the sweet tooth in the relationship hehe.”
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Which dessert smoothies you make do not have to be in a certain order, EXCEPT that I recommend you save the smoothies that contain dairy or nuts until week 3. You can see ALL the dessert smoothies in the Cookbook Style pdf of DESSERT SMOOTHIES on P3tolife.com. Once you find a favorite, you’ll know how to make it by heart after a couple times or keep it on a post it note near your blender.
MAKING THE DESSERT SMOOTHIES: There is a bit of an “art” to making these smoothies, in order to get them to that level of thickness we want so they taste like a true dessert replacement. They take only 3-5 minutes to make once you get the hang of them, but to learn the best way to make them, depending on what blender you have, and also to see if there’s a better blender to consider getting for making these, please see the Dessert Smoothies Course on the P3tolife.com site.
12. The Why
If you’re wondering why the meal plan is the way it is, so that you can start making your own plans and eating choices even more knowledgeable, please check out the coaching tutorials section on p3tolife.com. I explain in detail the various facets to the recipe makeup and layout and calorie and macronutrient balance and why I made the choices I did for this phase (and you will see that many of the same principles extend into Phase 4 and life maintenance as well!)
These are the types of questions I answer in more detail here:
- You say the recipes are designed not to trigger cravings - how’s that?
- Why aren’t we eating 6x’s a day like I’ve heard we should?
- Why is this plan high protein?
- Why is this program not ketogenic?
- Why do the calories increase gradually?
- Why don’t we add dairy and nuts until Week 3?
- Shouldn’t we add every single food one at a time slowly in a rotation to stabilize?
- The carbs seem higher than I would expect. Why is this okay?
13. Transitioning to Regular Life after the Program
This 7-week program is purposefully designed as a high protein plan - the reason this works so well for ladies is because scientific studies show high protein meals DO indeed cause individuals to feel more full and satiated such that the desire to overeat and overconsume calories is indeed reduced - and this makes a significant impact on the ease of stabilizing and maintaining weight loss.
Thus high protein during these weeks while transitioning from a VLCD and learning to maintain is a wise approach.
My suggestion to you as you continue to utilize these recipes in life maintenance and continue to pave your own life eating path is to gradually increase your daily vegetable and fresh whole fruit intake, and decrease your meat/dairy/egg protein intake - not remove, but reduce. I will explain why below, but first, how best to do this with P3toLife recipes:
In most cases, if you simply reduce the main protein serving down (example: recipe says 5oz of chicken breast, reduce to 3-4 oz per serving) and then compensate by using a larger quantity of vegetables already used in the recipe, along with a little of whatever fat/oil is used (for instance, adding another 2 tsp of olive oil, or a bit more avocado etc) will make for transitioning yourself into a way of eating that is more alkaline and less acidic.
Now I’d like to explain a little about the WHY on this recommendation:
Complete protein from the meat, eggs, and dairy sources are acidifying to the body. Whereas as vegetables, fruits, seeds, and nuts are alkalizing to the body.
Over time, a body that is continually in a too-acidic state can develop problems with osteoporosis/osteopenia, arthritis, and other inflammatory issues.
Shooting for a more alkaline state is known to be much better for the body in terms of staving off disease, reducing/preventing inflammation, and allowing for healing from chronic diseases.
Since you have been on P3toLife, you’ve been avoiding all grains and sugar sources, foods you may have been eating daily prior to hCG and P3toLife, which these too are very acidifying - so congratulations, you are ALREADY on your way there!
Now it’s time to take it to the next level.
Various ways to increase your intake of alkaline promoting foods:
- You can eat more of them in your meals - as we discussed decreasing your meat protein a little, and increasing your vegetables and fruits.
- You can also juice the vegetables - we have this juicer, and it takes me exactly 9 minutes to wash, juice, and clean up and end up with a quart glass of juice that contains 1 whole head of organic celery and 2 organic cucumbers. I dilute it half by water, add a squeeze of lime (don’t skip this! Tastes wayyyy better), add a little organic stevia, and drink half and give my hubby and son the other half. I drink mine with glass straw and it’s actually quite refreshing! If you decide to try this, I’d like to recommend sticking with juicing green things to keep the sugar content down.
While I don’t do this daily yet, that is my goal! Part of what makes it more likely to get into a routine is to have what you need set up and ready to go - we keep our juicer on the counter now, plugged in. Cutting board and knife right next to it. When I think it will take too long, I think to myself: 9 minutes. And honestly I could probably do it faster. Wanna race? 😉