Healthy Eating Plan
Following a healthy eating plan will help you to achieve your health goals and encompasses much more than avoiding junk food. Most people will agree that following a healthy eating plan is necessary because the saying “You are what you eat” is true. And it’s really important to do this for younger people in their teens and early 20s so that by the time they reach their 30s and 40s, they will have fewer lifestyle diseases like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity.
Before we can tackle the topic of healthy eating, we need to put a little context around it. We know that our bodies are built up of trillions of cells. In other words, we are so complex that everything about us is made up of several million million molecules altogether. Each molecule has an essential role to play and in turn makes up one part of our body. To help us understand what’s going on inside your body and how you can influence how well the molecules function, there is no better way than by understanding its components.
Choosing a Weight Loss Meal Plan
Before you choose the best low-calorie diet plan, it’s important to know how many calories you need to eat each day. The number can vary depending on your size, sex, and activity level. Weight loss does not occur without a calorie deficit, which means you need to burn more calories than you consume.1
Many commercial weight-loss plans limit women to 1,200 calories per day. The number might be higher, however, if the woman is physically active. This is based on total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). For example, you might see that your weight loss calorie goal is 1,200 calories per day. But, for example, if you choose to burn an extra 300 calories per day through exercise, you can eat 1,500 calories and likely still lose weight.
Men are often assigned to a 1,500- to 1,800-calorie daily diet plan. Again, size and activity level play a role in the number of calories a man should eat. The ideal number for you may be much higher if you are active, especially if your job is mostly on your feet and you also participate in regular intentional exercise.
The body does not always work like a calculator and metabolic adaptations to weight loss occur during the losing process. You will likely need to adjust your calorie deficit over time to continue seeing results.
Portion Size As an Alternative Method
Instead of weighing and measuring everything to count calories, you can use portion sizes to moderate what you are eating. If you are eating a certain portion size currently and maintaining your weight, remove a little from each of your regular portions to reduce calories. If this does not lead to weight loss, remove a little more.
Estimate Portion Sizes Using Your Hands
Each of the following equals one serving size. You may need more than one serving per meal, depending on your sex, weight, activity level, and other factors.
Protein: 1 palm
Carbohydrates: 1 cupped hand
Fats: 1 thumb
Vegetables: 1 fist
Free Meal Plans for Weight Loss
Below is a sample of a 7-day meal plan you could use for weight loss. Modify serving sizes and add snacks to suit your specific calorie needs. This is a sample only and there may be meals that suit your dietary needs and preferences better.
- Day 1: Granola, Greek yogurt, mixed berries; chicken breast, spring greens, apple, walnuts, honey mustard dressing, whole-grain roll; whole grain pasta, marinara sauce, extra-lean ground turkey, green beans
- Day 2: Egg omelet with mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, grapefruit, toast; chili with beans, cornbread, side green salad; halibut, lemon, green beans, roasted potatoes
- Day 3: Egg and ham breakfast burrito with cheese, spinach, orange juice; whole wheat sandwich with tuna, Greek yogurt, mayo, arugula, side green salad; sirloin steak, broccoli, baked sweet potato
- Day 4: Almond flour waffles with peanut butter, banana, Greek yogurt; turkey noodle soup with vegetables, whole-grain roll, side green salad, apple; baked chicken parmesan, green beans, rice pilaf
- Day 5: Oatmeal with flaxseed, egg white, berries, almond butter; sirloin steak salad with blue cheese, walnuts, strawberries, cup of tomato soup; lean ground beef enchiladas with whole wheat tortilla, lettuce, tomato, hot peppers, broccoli
- Day 6: Protein pancakes, mixed berries, cottage cheese; baked sweet potato filled with shredded chicken, chickpeas, tahini yogurt sauce, cucumber and tomato salad; fish tacos with corn tortillas, cabbage slaw; side green salad
- Day 7: Scrambled eggs, multi-grain toast, sauteed asparagus; chicken salad made with Greek yogurt, mayo grapes, slivered almonds, apple on whole-wheat bread, side spinach salad; salmon, dill sauce, roasted potatoes, green beans
Alternatively, if you know how many calories you plan to eat each day, you could choose one of these meal plans for weight loss. Keep in mind that these calorie-per-day plans could be too low for you if you are active, are a larger individual, have a substantial amount of muscle mass, or have other factors. Check with your doctor to determine whether a low-calorie diet is right for you.
For instance, 1,200 calorie diets are typically reserved for inactive females; they are inappropriate for most males or for active people of any gender. Speak to your doctor before beginning any new diet plan.
- 1,200 Calorie Per Day Meal Plan to Lose Weight
- 1,500 Calorie Per Day Meal Plan to Lose Weight
- 1,700 Calorie Per Day Meal Plan to Lose Weight
Planning Your Meals
Once you’ve chosen a meal plan, then it’s time to schedule and track your meals. If you plan each meal in advance and have foods ready to go, you’ll be more likely to stick to your diet.
Downloadable Weekly Planner
The meal plan you’ve chosen above will provide what to eat, but you’ll still need to decide when to eat. Is there an ideal time to eat each meal during the day? Not really. For weight loss, the number of calories you eat each day matters more than when you eat them.5
Of course, that doesn’t mean meal timing doesn’t matter at all. Try to plan meals no more than five hours apart. Then schedule a light snack in between each meal. That way, you won’t get so hungry that you overeat or go for unhealthy choices. Use your intuition, follow your own personal schedule, and listen to your own needs as your guide.
Tips for Meal Planning
Find weight-loss success by following a few strategies that’ll make meal prepping easier. By prepping ahead of time, it’s easier to eat healthfully and therefore, lose weight.
- Schedule time to plan. Set aside 30 minutes each week to plan your meals and create a shopping list. Schedule your meal planning time just like you schedule all other important events in your life. This is also the best time to schedule your workouts so you’re sure that you get enough exercise to lose weight faster.
- Shop and cook. After you’ve planned healthy meals, then it’s time to go shopping. Many people do this immediately after they fill out their meal plan so that they are fully stocked for a week of healthy eating. Then you can organize your refrigerator with diet-friendly foods.
- Post your plan. Your healthy weight loss plan won’t do any good if it’s sitting in a drawer. So once you’ve filled out your plan, post it in a place where you see it every day. It will serve as a reminder of your food choices and your commitment to reach a healthy weight.
- Prep foods in advance. After dinner, in the evening, lay out the foods you’ll eat for breakfast so they are ready to go when you wake up. Then, pack your lunch and snacks for the next day. Finally, do any meal prep for the next night’s healthy dinner so that it’s easy to throw together.
Additional Weight Loss Tips
Weight loss is about more than following a meal plan or a specific calorie count. Exercise is advisable for the best results, to help create a calorie deficit that does not come only from limiting food intake as well as (and most importantly), all of the other benefits that come from being active such as reduced risks of disease, healthy metabolism, stronger muscles and bones, longer life span, and healthier heart and lungs.6
It is vital to consume enough calories with a focus on nutrient-dense foods so that you can fuel your daily activities and perform at your best mentally and physically. A slow and steady rate of weight loss is easier psychologically as well as physically and is easier to maintain.
12 tips to help you lose weight
1. Do not skip breakfast
Skipping breakfast will not help you lose weight. You could miss out on essential nutrients and you may end up snacking more throughout the day because you feel hungry.
2. Eat regular meals
Eating at regular times during the day helps burn calories at a faster rate. It also reduces the temptation to snack on foods high in fat and sugar.
3. Eat plenty of fruit and veg
Fruit and veg are low in calories and fat, and high in fibre – 3 essential ingredients for successful weight loss. They also contain plenty of vitamins and minerals.
4. Get more active
Being active is key to losing weight and keeping it off. As well as providing lots of health benefits, exercise can help burn off the excess calories you cannot lose through diet alone.
Find an activity you enjoy and are able to fit into your routine.
5. Drink plenty of water
People sometimes confuse thirst with hunger. You can end up consuming extra calories when a glass of water is really what you need.
6. Eat high fibre foods
Foods containing lots of fibre can help keep you feeling full, which is perfect for losing weight. Fibre is only found in food from plants, such as fruit and veg, oats, wholegrain bread, brown rice and pasta, and beans, peas and lentils.
7. Read food labels
Knowing how to read food labels can help you choose healthier options. Use the calorie information to work out how a particular food fits into your daily calorie allowance on the weight loss plan.
8. Use a smaller plate
Using smaller plates can help you eat smaller portions. By using smaller plates and bowls, you may be able to gradually get used to eating smaller portions without going hungry. It takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to tell the brain it’s full, so eat slowly and stop eating before you feel full.
9. Do not ban foods
Do not ban any foods from your weight loss plan, especially the ones you like. Banning foods will only make you crave them more. There’s no reason you cannot enjoy the occasional treat as long as you stay within your daily calorie allowance.
10. Do not stock junk food
To avoid temptation, do not stock junk food – such as chocolate, biscuits, crisps and sweet fizzy drinks – at home. Instead, opt for healthy snacks, such as fruit, unsalted rice cakes, oat cakes, unsalted or unsweetened popcorn, and fruit juice.
11. Cut down on alcohol
A standard glass of wine can contain as many calories as a piece of chocolate. Over time, drinking too much can easily contribute to weight gain.
12. Plan your meals
Try to plan your breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for the week, making sure you stick to your calorie allowance. You may find it helpful to make a weekly shopping list.
Three tips for healthy weight loss
1. Eat a healthy breakfast
Start the day well – studies suggest that people who start the day with a protein-rich, satisfying breakfast are less likely to make poor food choices later on and may potentially reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes. Sign up to our free Healthy Diet Plan to discover some filling breakfast recipes, like our vegan strawberry pancakes.
2. Eat mindfully
Get in touch with your hunger levels and think carefully about what your body is telling you. If you’re craving something sweet, are you really hungry or are you actually bored, stressed, tired or emotional? Trying to address these other needs can help you to feel better without eating when you’re not really hungry. Depending on what your body needs, you might try distracting yourself with a fun or relaxing activity, having a quick nap, enjoying a relaxing bath, or calling a friend for a chat. If you really are hungry, eating a healthy snack should tide you over until your next meal. Take a look at our balanced snack and sweet treat suggestions.
3. Curb nighttime cravings
If you’re prone to overeating in the evening, you’re not alone. Many people eat a large proportion of their daily calorie intake once they’ve settled down on the sofa, and if you’re aiming to lose excess weight, this can hinder your efforts. Be prepared and plan to eat a satisfying, balanced dinner that you know you will enjoy. Choosing a meal full of strong flavours, such as spices, combined with beans, pulses and vegetables, may help satisfy carb cravings – discover delicious options from our Healthy Diet Plan.