A very important strategy in almost all areas of life is planning, and this is no different with your diet. It is equally important whether you are trying to lose or gain weight. As I have been told so many times throughout my life, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." Although cliche, it holds very true when it comes to eating and meeting your health and fitness goals.
I like to know when my day starts what foods I will be eating at every meal through the day. Most often this is one of my first activities in the morning but I prefer to do it the day before. You can choose what strategy works best for you. I know the macros I am shooting for, and I pick a regime of meals that closely fit those macros. However, don't get caught up in being too precise. You want to be close, but I give myself some leeway. As a general rule, I say 5% either direction. If you don't, this process will become too much of a chore and you will not keep it up.
Here is an example. Today I am shooting for 4100 calories with 299g Protein. I don't have target values for carbohydrates or fat, but this same principles apply if you do. This morning I picked out the meals I would be eating throughout the day. It took me maybe 3 total minutes. As you can see from the image below that I went a bit over at 4204 calories and 320 grams of protein, but this is acceptable. I tend to go over a bit when trying to put on weight and a bit under if trying to lose weight.
It is important to use a meal tracking tool such as Cronometer or MyFitnessPal. Both are awesome applications and can be downloaded for your phone or accessed on line through your browser, and both offer free plans to get started. Remember you can't manage what you don't measure, so it is important to plan and then adjust if things don't go according to plan.
Now you may be saying, "I never know what is going to happen during my day so I cannot plan what I am going to do." And this is a valid point but you have to start somewhere. Often something changes during my day and I am forced to adapt. For example my wife may want to go and eat lunch together. When this happens, I simply update Cronometer with what I really ate for lunch and make any other calorie adjustments needed.
In the beginning this process will take a bit more time. As you start to learn when in the day you like to eat your higher calorie meals and what foods sound better during certain times of the day, it will become much easier. Also this process will make food shopping easier as you have to have the foods you plan to eat available, but also save you money as you won't be buying items that you are not planning to consume.
Plan what and when you plan to eat during a day and you will be surprised how easy to achieve your goals!