Meal Plans vs Flexible Dieting (IIFYM)

What’s the difference, and which one should you choose?

In all of my personalised coaching programs I offer the option to follow a set Meal Plan, or Macros only approach. Essentially this gives you the option to have it all laid out for you – what to eat, how much to eat and when to eat it – or, give you the flexibility to create your own meal plan from scratch.

Here’s a break down of the pro’s and cons to help you decide the best approach for you and your goals.


A custom meal plan refers to an eating guide which has been specifically tailored to the client’s nutritional requirements, food likes/dislikes and health goals. A custom meal plan will specify exactly which foods are to be consumed, the quantity and when to eat them.

A custom meal plan can be a great idea for clients who like structure and having everything laid out for them, are time poor and prefer to be told what to eat, and are unsure of what foods and quantities to eat to achieve their goals.

MEAL PLANS – The Pros

  • Convenience and peace of mind knowing it’s all been laid out for you.
  • Less room for error – simply follow the plan!
  • Suitable for beginner clients, those with little nutritional knowledge or those who are time poor.
  • Teaches you how to eat to achieve a certain goal.
  • Easier food preparation as you are preparing the same meals.
  • Grocery bills tend to be cheaper as there is less variation in meals.
  • A stricter, more structured approach can reduce temptation to over-consume treats.
  • Greater dietary consistency which makes it easier to identify sensitivities and intolerances.

MEAL PLANS – The Cons

  • Less flexibility with food choices, meal frequency and timing.
  • Linked to a higher rate of disordered eating behaviours compared to flexible dieting.
  • Nutrient deficiencies if you consume the same foods repeatedly.
  • Can be “boring” for those who prefer more variety in their meals.
  • Can make social events and eating out at restaurants harder as a set meal plan does not take these into consideration.
  • Can be more difficult to maintain long term.

The “IIFYM” or flexible dieting method focuses on non-restrictive eating practices. Clients are provided with daily protein, carb, fat and fibre intakes, with the freedom to make their own food choices. No prior experience with IIFYM is required as I will equip you with all the information and support that you need to get started. I believe taking a non-restrictive approach to nutrition encourages a healthier relationship with food and in turn, long-lasting results. However, it can be overwhelming for clients who have little nutritional knowledge, or don’t have the time to plan and track their intake.

FLEXIBLE DIETING (IIFYM) – The Pros

  • More flexibility with food choices, meal frequency and timing.
  • Greater variety in meals.
  • More flexibility around social events and eating out at restaurants.
  • Linked to fewer cases of disordered eating behaviours.
  • Promotes increased nutritional awareness around foods.
  • Can be easier to maintain long term.

FLEXIBLE DIETING (IIFYM) – The Cons

  • Requires more time to plan out your meals and ensure you’re hitting your daily macro targets.
  • You must commit to weighing and tracking everything you eat and drink.
  • Greater room for error and inconsistencies.
  • Nutrient deficiencies and slow progress if the majority of the diet does not consist of healthful, minimally processed whole foods.
  • More temptation to over-consume treats.
  • Requires a higher level of nutritional knowledge which can be harder for those just starting out.
  • Grocery bills tend to be higher due to wider variety of food selection.

No one approach is better than the other, it really comes down to a number of personal factors, including your nutritional knowledge, diet and training experience, personality type, and schedule.

At the end of the day, the BEST diet is the one you can actually stick to and remain the most consistent.

Need help improving your diet to reach your health and fitness goals? Find out more about one-on-one coaching here.

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