From a nutritional coaching perspective, I do not like creating meal plans for clients. Not only because it is incredibly time consuming but long-term it is limiting for the client’s success and continuing good lifestyle habits. Plus, depending on the laws where you live, it might not be allowed unless you have specific credentials.
When first starting with a beginner who requires a degree of specificity (either due to their goal or because their personality is detail oriented) , they may need the assistance of a meal plan as they learn how to measure and manage their diets. That is normal and I have done that approach when necessary. However, once they are comfortable measuring, the next step is to graduate them to being able to create their own meal plans based on the per-meal macros that I give them.
With the clientele we typically work with at N1, most are receiving a macro-based plan and they are responsible for picking their own foods. We do work to educate on making quality choices and other suggestions, but try to leave most of the food-picking and measuring up to them. This also empowers them when they cannot prep food as they are more confident in adjusting on the fly if needed, especially when they understand some of the tools and strategies laid out in Macro Adherence Guidelines.
Keep in mind, most of these people have been training and managing their own nutrition for years as many of them are personal trainers, physique competitors, or coaches themselves.
However, when we do get the occasional beginner or “general population” person who wants/needs less rigidity, there are other approaches that can work well for them. For example, the portioning method favored by Precision Nutrition. This can be excellent for someone who doesn’t want to count macros or spend time measuring and has no interest in learning to do so. These are typically the people whose goal is just to improve overall health, lose some body fat, maybe build a bit of muscle, and have better energy or just “feel good” during the day.
Ultimately it is important to coach to the level of the client because consistency and adherence to the overall program will be a massive component of their success long-term.