Part of the world? Then AI is in your life, baby! From using it to unlock your phone to navigating with Google Maps, AI has transformed the technological space. And now, it’s coming for our lifestyles, too. With the advent of ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence language model that harnesses information on the internet and condenses it for users, people have been able to come up with myriad uses, from generating workout programmes to helping them with their dissertation (insert dubious emoji!). Now, a slew of AI eating plan programmes have become available, too. These free and paid-for services promise to personalise your input and help you reach your goals.
What are AI eating plans?
An AI-powered meal plan generator works by harnessing the language and methods it’s learned to give you a meal plan that fits into your macro, calorie and other body goals. With just a few prompts and in seconds, models like these can spit out detailed information, including meal plans and eating guidelines. Naturally, I wondered if it would work for weight loss in a real way.
Why did I opt for an AI eating plan?
Simply put, I was looking to lose some weight and wanted to see if an AI eating plan would cut costs while still being as effective as an expert-led eating plan. Forgoing a qualified dietician had its own risks, I knew, since eating plans made by experts are tailor-made to your unique circumstances. Still, I was looking for quick guidance and something to anchor my eating habits to, without opting for take-out every other day when things got overwhelming. I turned to Meal Mate, a popular free AI eating plan tool that’s most recommended when searching for this kind of thing.
The AI meal plan
First, what you input into the chat box makes all the difference. When I told Meal Mate that I wanted to lose 1kg a week, it spat out a meal plan with snacks included. Without telling them any of that? I ended up having to choose from about three different meal plans from all the prompts. In the end, I opted for the eating plan with the fullest prompt: ‘I want to lose 20 kilos; make me an eating plan for 1200 calories a day.’ Wondering why my calories are so low? Check this article on losing weight when you’re short.
While each day’s meals were different, I still found it difficult to stick to each and every meal, since prep time was competing with my household chores, work and jetting off to my workouts daily. Still, I ate chicken salads, scrambled eggs for breakfast and stuck to most dinner guidelines, which ended up being a variation of protein with vegetables on the side.
Meal Mate’s meal plans didn’t specify portion sizes or any other kind of cooking guidelines. A meal noted “chicken salad” didn’t specify which greens to put into the salad, for example, nor the exact amount of chicken to prepare. Since I was using a calorie counting app to account for my goals, I measured out portions that would fit within my calorie goals for each meal. But had I not known to do this, I could have been left eating far more calories than I should have been eating.
Unlike with a dietician, who you can refer back to when you’re struggling, AI meal plans are just there to spit out information, but won’t be able to give you feedback on what you’re eating and the challenges you might face. I had very busy days and opted to swap out one salad with a tuna sandwich, which was faster to prep. But I knew I wasn’t hitting micronutrient goals with the meal. To that end, I felt alone in my journey, unable to gain encouragement from a real-life person who could let me know what to do, or that my next meal could go better.
Since I had to forgo takeout for a week and eat mostly vegetables and lean protein, I managed to lose about one kilogram on this meal plan! I was surprised: despite loosely sticking to each meal and following the guidelines the AI meal plan provided, I still saw results.