Meal Planning Made Simple


I know there are a lot of meal plans out there and often times they are pretty complex and can make you feel lost if you do not know much about nutrition and how it fuels your body. I have tried many types of meal plans and several have worked. However, what has worked for me are ones that are simple, easily paired foods are incorporated and I don’t have to stay in the kitchen all day.

Nutrition is a vital part of life in general and certainly important if trying to lose weight, improve health or work around food allergies. Before deciding to start a meal plan you must set a few goals in terms of what will this food plan provide for you. Otherwise, it is a meal plan that you can easily ditch when things get challenging. You must know why you are doing this plain and simple.

I am all about the basics; staples that you put in many meals throughout the day and some that are easily accessible when in a hurry. I meal prep on Sundays to afford reduced amount of time I stand in front of the stove.

A common food breakdown is to get an average of 1300-1500 calories per day if you are working toward weight loss. The macro ratio that is often suggested is 40% carbohydrates, 20% healthy fats and 40% proteins. This is certainly adjustable depending on your own needs, desired outcome and fitness level.

If you are interested about how to get a personalized meal plan feel free to email me at or send me a personal message on FB @michelledawn or IG @drscoggins_healthandwelness. Click here Simple_meal_plan for a reformatted excel sheet to give an example of how keep your ratios calculated and it proportion.  Tweak it yourself if feeling ready to do it on your own.


Carbohydrates: The Connection Between Mood, Snacking And Weight Management

Managing life while monitoring mood and weight can certainly be a daunting task. However, knowing food combinations and how to eat along with when to eat can be the key to success. Of course the craze is all about eating a specific amount of meals and calories, yet the type and mixture of food is just as important. Today the focus is on carbohydrates and how our bodies need and use them.


This is a chemical naturally made in our brains. It is also a key component in mood management. Medications such as Zoloft or Prozac used for depression work on the brain by maintaining the amount of serotonin available for the brain allowing for improved mood quality. Serotonin is also involved in satiation, the full and satisfied feeling achieved after eating a meal.


As the referenced article explained, think about going to a restaurant and snacking on bread prior to your meal being served. Often times when your meal arrives you begin thinking “my eyes are bigger than my stomach” and you already feel full. This is due to carbohydrates naturally creating the production of serotonin. Eating meals with complex carbohydrates such as vegetables help to improve mood functioning and satiation. However, timing is also vital. The reason is our bodies naturally love to feel good so the body tends to crave carbs in order to self-regulate moods. Also, people may tend to “self-medicate” with carbs in an attempt to manage moods. Think to yourself when you eat pasta or sweet potatoes there is a calming feeling that comes over you about an hour after the meal. That is serotonin working. It was also suggested to eat carbohydrates with dinner as a way to reduce nighttime snacking. So again timing is key as I am not suggesting to graze on carbs all day to stay happy but can give you an idea why in the afternoon you may crave chips or unhealthy snack foods.


If you are able to understand why you snack then managing snack time can become a little easier and more productive when managing weight.   As studies show obesity has been linked to high fat, empty calorie and simple carbohydrates. I will break this down a bit to provide better understanding. High fat foods are not the issues as there are “healthy fats” so knowing the difference will help along the way. Avoid trans fats as much as possible, which are often in processed foods and stick more to polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. These are contained in foods such as avocados, nuts, nut/seed butters, salmon, olives/olive oil, ground flax seeds/chia seeds, and tuna. Empty calories are included in most junk food, as they do not contain vital nutrients. This includes sugary drinks, candy, chips, and many processed foods. Simple carbohydrates are also included in the junk food section as the body breaks down the substance that lacks nutrients and thereby is just converted into sugar without providing anything to the body, that is except extra weight in the long run. Now knowing about the snack foods you can make better choices in carb intake. As I mentioned earlier eating complex carbs for dinner such as sweet potatoes, quinoa, or brown rice can help to reduce after dinner snacking.

Weight Management

Knowing what to eat, when to eat and the combinations of food can certainly help to control weight. Protein is an essential component in any meal plan as it helps to build and maintain muscles in addition to helping you stay full longer. Carbs as explained above help monitor moods, may increase snacking and obesity and is essential for energy. Fats also help to regulate system performance and there is a lot of research about high fat/low carb diets that really work. If you are a calorie counter then I say great job as that is the beginning, however, breaking it down further to know your combination of macros (carb/fat/protein ratio) will also afford the ability to better monitor weight, mood and overall healthy operation of the body. I will discuss in another post about macros and tracking to step it up a notch.


The bottom line that I continue to discuss is using food as a way to fuel our bodies properly. Food is not intended to fill emotional deficits or comfort us. Having an emotional connection to food is likely to fuel obesity rather than a healthy body. Finding other ways to emotionally soothe oneself is crucial to health and weight management.   Thereby, if you are an “emotional eater” I would suggest finding other ways to soothe emotions and only think about food as fuel.

New Year’s Resolution Rubbish


It is January 1st and it’s on everyone’s mind to improve health, wellness or loose weight. Good intentions are always at the start of this process, however, most of us know that these resolutions never last. I want to talk about ways to start off this New Year right and without losing motivation and remaining focused on life change.

Do not label change as a “New Year’s Resolution”

Resolutions are made to fail, rather change your perception and begin a “lifestyle change.” Lifestyle changes are meant to last for the long-term. Lifestyle changes are meant to have ebb and flow where things are not always the same or perfect. You must still be able to have fun, experience imperfection and be human. Many times New Year’s resolutions do not afford this flexibility.

Start Small and Improve Over Time

New Year’s resolutions often times are set up to fail as the goal is too specific and too drastic. Starting off small such as learning to count calories/macros or workout for 30 minutes 3 times a week are the way to start rather than “I want to lose 50lbs.”

Know Why You Want To Change

Again a set-up for failure is when the reasons behind change are weak. I have heard many times “I want to lose weight.” That is a great goal but what will the weight loss help with and how will it improve your life. Knowing the “why” behind the choice will help you at times when motivation is low. This is a surefire way to renew yourself over-and-over again.


Don’t get me wrong making change and working to improve your life is great but can serve as a double edge sword if not properly prepared. Making a lifestyle change can take place at any time as opposed to a New Year’s resolution. Like for myself I decided to incorporate my current lifestyle change in July and have remained active in this change. The bottom line is change can occur on any day of the year, start small and know why you are making this change.

Physical and Mental Wellbeing

Exercise for Good Physical and Mental Health

Believe it or not but physical and mental health go hand in hand. Being in our optimal health takes work on all aspects of life. Beginning our day with the appropriate nutrition affords the ability to have clear thoughts, energy and free from aches and pains associated with a poor diet. In addition, to focusing on ones diet getting the right amount of physical exercise allows the body to stay in optimal condition. It also helps to move chemicals around in the body needed for energy, digestion and mood control.

Those basic behaviors done daily help to restore the body and keep the system working as intended. Think of our bodies like an automobile. You can’t just get into your car day in and day out and drive it. Maintenance and fuel are essential to keeping your car in good condition. The body is our personal vehicle that requires nurturance and care.

How to care for our bodies as the foundation of optimal physical health which lead to ideal mental health.


Eat Enough Nutrient Rich Foods

As I mentioned above food is at the heart of our existence. I don’t mean this in a mannerism that suggests overeating but rather getting enough of the good stuff. No mystery here – get enough green stuff which is infused with essential vitamins, water to help the body keep hydrated and able to keep things circulating, and food that helps increase energy.

Almonds are full of magnesium and vitamin-B which are essential to good energy levels.

Popcorn which is a great whole grain snack that is packed with fiber and no blood sugar crash associated with other snack foods.

Peanut butter is high in good fats and protein which equates to satisfaction. It also helps to maintain stable blood sugar. Look for natural versions that are likely to have less added sugars.

Salmon is great for boosting the brain as it contains omega-3’s which are known to reduce depression and improve your mood. Salmon has some great health benefits aside from mood management such as being a good source of protein which keeps you full and can lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol.

Bananas are a great healthy snack that are filled with fiber, vitamin B6 and potassium. These supplements help one to stay full and help muscles to recover from a workout as potassium is sweat out during a workout and a banana will help to quickly replace what is lost which may help reduce muscle cramping.

Kale contains an amino acid known as L-tyrosine which has been identified as helping keep you alert and fiber which helps keep you full and keeps blood sugar stable.

Oatmeal is high in fiber, which again equates to satiation and lasting energy. In addition, the fiber content contributes to maintaining stable blood-sugar levels and will help you maintain energy making this a perfect breakfast choice.

Pistachios combine protein, fiber and good fats making for a perfect snack or an on the go filler to help reduce poor food choices. Though they are delicious make sure to not overeat these filling luscious nuts as they are calorie dense meaning just 25 of the total up to 100 calories.

Hummus is a great filling dip as the main ingredient is garbanzo beans or chickpeas, which are a great source of protein and fiber. Again fiber and protein help you to stay full and stabilize blood-sugar that helps boost energy.

Greek yogurt provides sometimes double the amount of protein that is in a regular yogurt. Alone it is a great source of energy and will keep you full but be careful of the toppings that may make your snack even more delicious as yogurt can become very unhealthy if not properly paired with nutrient rich extras.



Workout At Least 30 Minutes A Day

Exercise has been known to help reduce depression, anxiety and stress. Working out helps release important endorphins, help reduce inflammation in the brain, promotes relaxation and can serve as a good distractor. Tense muscles associated with stress and anxiety can also be relieved through regular exercise.

In addition, exercise has other great benefits such as the same feel good endorphins released when exercising also has been know to improve concentration and mental sharpness as well as stimulating growth of new brain cells ultimately slowing down the age-related mental decline. When we feel good and look good our self-esteem is likely to follow – exercise is a great booster in that department. You don’t have to work out and become a body builder but small gains such as a reduced mid-section or increased stamina can help to enhance ones sense of self. Instead of reaching for drugs and alcohol when adversity hits, exercise is a healthy way to manage stressors while maintaining a health immune system and cutting the impact of the stress felt.

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Get At Least 8 Hours Of Sleep

 Obviously sleep helps our bodies recover from daily activities. In addition, sleep helps our mind consolidate memories, which help to preserve our minds abilities as we age. Listening to your body is vital, for example if you are extremely fatigued on your day off take a nap, your body is asking for it. Sleep disorders have been linked to many mental health disorders and may impact the severity of the disorder with sleep deprivation. Monitoring sleep and making vital changes may make a world of difference in your mood and overall well being.

  • Lifestyle changes such as reducing or monitoring caffeine intake can help improve sleep quality. In addition, alcohol and nicotine impact the sleep-wake cycle. Alcohol affects the nervous system as acting as a depressant, however once it wears off so does ones fatigue. Thereby, drinking during the day may produce unneeded naps or dosing off which essentially affects the sleep cycle at night.
  • Physical activity brings on fatigue and helps overall sleep quality.
  • Sleep hygiene is how one cares for their sleep patterns. It has been thought that insomnia is learned by poor habits such as a haphazard bedtime, using the bedroom for more than sleep and sex, and sleeping with the television or lights on. It is recommended if you are suffering from a form of insomnia to use a technique known as sleep restraining where you stay awake longer ensuring fatigue before going to sleep and restricting daytime naps. Also, getting into a habit of relaxation techniques can help to reduce stress associated with bedtime allowing sleep to come on easier. Some forms known to work are meditation, guided imagery, deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation.

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