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I asked ChatGPT to create my meal plan and I give it 2/5 stars.

Like so many people right now, I started playing with ChatGPT. I began by asking it questions about my hobbies, plot inspiration for a novel I’m writing, and, of course, meal planning.

I asked ChatGPT, “What do you know about meal planning?” 

Here’s what it said:

Meal planning is the process of organizing and selecting meals in advance, usually for a specific period of time such as a week. It can help people save time, reduce food waste, and make healthier food choices by pre-determining their meals and ingredients for the week. Meal planning often involves creating a grocery list and shopping for ingredients, preparing meals in advance or cooking in bulk, and storing meals for later consumption.

This is a decent description of meal planning, although it seems the Chat is lumping meal prepping in with meal planning, which I don’t consider to be an essential part of meal planning.

I give this response 4.5/5 stars.

Meal planning benefits.

Next, I asked ChatGPT about the benefits of meal planning and I got a list of seven things. 

Meal planning offers several benefits, including:

    1. Saves time: Meal planning eliminates the need for daily decision-making about what to eat, which saves time and reduces stress.
    2. Increases healthy eating: Meal planning enables you to prioritize healthy, nutrient-dense foods and minimize impulse or unhealthy food choices.
    3. Saves money: Meal planning helps you avoid food waste, as you only buy the ingredients you need for your planned meals. It also reduces the frequency of eating out or buying convenience foods, which are often more expensive.
    4. Improves weight management: Meal planning helps you control portion sizes and manage calorie intake, which can lead to improved weight management.
    5. Supports specific dietary needs: Meal planning can accommodate specific dietary needs, such as gluten-free, vegan, or low-carb diets.
    6. Increases food variety: Meal planning provides an opportunity to try new recipes and incorporate a variety of foods into your diet, leading to improved nutrition and a more enjoyable eating experience.
    7. Decreases food-related stress: Meal planning eliminates the last-minute scramble to find something to eat, which can reduce stress and increase overall satisfaction with food and eating.

This is a perfect list of benefits of meal planning! We talk about these benefits all the time and have actual stats from our customers that show people experience these good things when they meal plan.

I give this response 5/5 stars.

cropped image of a woman's hand holding a phone with a recipe visible, while frosting cupcakes

ChatGPT as a meal planner.

I wanted to see what ChatGPT would come up with for an actual meal plan, so I asked it to create a one-week meal plan.

Here is a sample meal plan for a week:

Monday:

Breakfast: Oatmeal with almond milk, berries, and nuts

Lunch: Grilled chicken salad with mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and avocado

Dinner: Baked salmon with roasted vegetables and quinoa

Tuesday:

Breakfast: Greek yogurt with granola and honey

Lunch: Turkey and cheese wrap with carrots and hummus

Dinner: Spaghetti with homemade marinara sauce and a side of garlic bread

Wednesday:

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with whole-grain toast

Lunch: Veggie stir-fry with tofu, rice, and mixed vegetables

Dinner: Chicken fajitas with peppers and onions, served with whole grain tortillas

Thursday:

Breakfast: Peanut butter and banana smoothie

Lunch: Chickpea salad with mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and feta cheese

Dinner: Beef stir-fry with brown rice and mixed vegetables

Friday:

Breakfast: Whole grain pancakes with fresh berries and maple syrup

Lunch: Tuna salad sandwich with whole grain bread and mixed greens

Dinner: Grilled shrimp with roasted potatoes and asparagus

Saturday:

Breakfast: Veggie and cheese omelet with whole grain toast

Lunch: Grilled chicken sandwich with mixed greens and tomato

Dinner: Vegetable lasagna with a mixed greens salad

Sunday:

Breakfast: French toast with fresh berries and syrup

Lunch: Grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup

Dinner: Pork chops with roasted sweet potatoes and mixed vegetables

This meal plan provides a variety of healthy and delicious meals to choose from throughout the week. Feel free to customize and make changes based on your preferences and dietary restrictions.

What I like about the meal plan is there’s a lot of variety. It populated a diverse selection of recipes that include animal protein dishes, vegetarian dishes, simple dishes, and some that are a little more complicated. I didn’t specify what I like to eat or any dietary restrictions, but this meal plan could be easily modified to meet more specific needs.

I see this as a great jumping-off point for recipe inspiration if I was looking for new recipes to add to my meal plan.

But the recipe variety is also what I don’t like about this meal plan. When I look at this plan as a whole, all I can think of is the ginormous shopping list. There’s too much variety here for me. The ChatGPT meal plan has different main ingredients for each recipe and different sides with most recipes. Even breakfast is different each day, which is a rarity in my house. The only ingredient that could be a throughline would be “mixed greens” (at least that tub of spring mix wouldn’t go to waste this week!). 

Because of this recipe variety, there would be a lot of cooking each day. Every mealtime requires some amount of food preparation, even the “simple” breakfast ideas. Leftovers aren’t accounted for either, which means leftover food could go to waste. 

Along with the ginormous shopping list for this plan would come a ginormous grocery bill. Buying unique ingredients for each day and each meal time tends to add up quickly. I like to be able to reuse ingredients throughout the week in multiple recipes because it’s a less expensive way to shop. I like items that can either be bought in bulk or repurposed in another recipe. 

I rate this meal plan 2/5 stars.

young black woman putting place settings on a dinner table while holding child.

That led me to ask ChatGPT about a budget-friendly meal plan.

Here’s a sample 1-week budget-friendly meal plan:

Day 1:

Breakfast: Peanut butter and banana smoothie with almond milk

Lunch: Bean and cheese burrito with salsa and avocado

Dinner: Baked chicken drumsticks with roasted sweet potatoes and mixed greens salad

Day 2:

Breakfast: Whole grain oatmeal with almond milk, sliced banana, and a sprinkle of cinnamon

Lunch: Grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup

Dinner: Spaghetti with marinara sauce and garlic bread

Day 3:

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with whole-grain toast

Lunch: Peanut butter and jelly sandwich with carrot sticks

Dinner: Baked salmon with roasted vegetables and brown rice

Day 4:

Breakfast: Greek yogurt with mixed berries and a drizzle of honey

Lunch: Turkey and cheese sandwich on whole grain bread with mixed greens salad

Dinner: Beef stir-fry with broccoli, bell peppers, and brown rice

Day 5:

Breakfast: Whole grain waffles with turkey bacon and fresh fruit

Lunch: Chickpea salad with mixed greens and balsamic vinaigrette

Dinner: Baked chicken breast, roasted vegetables, and mashed sweet potatoes

Day 6:

Breakfast: Smoothie bowl with almond milk, frozen berries, and Greek yogurt

Lunch: Grilled cheese sandwich with mixed greens salad

Dinner: Grilled salmon with roasted vegetables and quinoa

Day 7:

Breakfast: Whole grain pancakes with turkey bacon and maple syrup

Lunch: Veggie burger on whole grain bun with sweet potato fries

Dinner: Chicken and vegetable stir-fry with brown rice

This meal plan emphasizes cost-effective, nutritious foods such as frozen or canned vegetables, pantry staples like beans and rice, and budget-friendly protein sources like eggs and chicken. This can help you eat healthily without breaking the bank. Of course, you can adjust the ingredients and recipes to fit your personal preferences and dietary needs.

I like the disclaimer at the end about using frozen or canned foods and pantry staples. It even accounted for “budget-friendly protein sources”, but it clearly doesn’t know the price of eggs right now. 🙂

Overall, I wasn’t more impressed with the budget-friendly version compared to the original meal plan. There are a few more overlapping ingredients like almond milk, bananas, Greek yogurt, roasted vegetables, and brown rice. But those items tend to not be too expensive in the first place. Salmon is listed for two of the dinners and in my neck of the woods, that’s far from a budget ingredient. 

I would still expect this meal plan to be rather costly and take a significant amount of cooking time each week (although I didn’t ask for a budget-friendly and time-saving meal plan). 

The budget-friendly meal plan gets 3/5 stars.

Final thoughts

ChatGPT appears to give better responses the more detailed your questions or requests are. And while I would not recommend using ChatGPT as your only source for meal planning (not that I expected you would), maybe if you got super specific it could create something useful for you.

To me, it has many of the same flaws as meal planning apps that provide meal plans to their customers. There’s no autonomy in pre-designed meal plans and little room for your own preferences and creativity. A pre-made meal plan doesn’t account for your weekly schedule, budget, dietary restrictions, or cooking abilities and ChatGPT proved to have the same issues. 

I think ChatGPT can be a great tool for recipe and meal planning inspiration, but ultimately, you know your preferences and family favorites better than any machine learning device. 

If you try ChatGPT for meal-planning ideas, let us know by tagging @plantoeat on Instagram!  

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