How to plan your meals for weight loss doesn’t have to be difficult. Follow these points to make sure you lose weight while also following a healthy diet.
One thing that I hear over and over again from people starting to lose weight is that they don’t know what to eat. They want to?cook healthy meals, but often just give up because they don’t know what they should be cooking. If you are in this position, then it will hopefully help you to learn how to plan your meals for weight loss.
How To Plan Your Meals For Weight Loss
Weight loss meal plans can be complicated to put together on your own. Of course, you can follow a meal plan to lose weight that you see in a magazine or online. But you never know if the diet plan is based on scientific evidence. Following a plan created by an expert nutritionist or dietitian is usually the smartest, safest choice. These downloadable schedules and simple tips can help you reach and maintain your goal weight.
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.2 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.3
Men are often assigned to a 1,500- to 1,800-calorie daily diet plan.2 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.4
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.
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.
Use a printable weekly weight loss meal plannerform to schedule your meals.
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.7
A Word From Very well
Keep in mind that the first time that you sit down and plan meals to lose weight the process will take a little longer. But once you have a system in place, you’ll breeze through the ritual—you might even start to enjoy it. Getting organized feels good and reaching your weight loss goals feels even better. So, take enough time to follow through with the prep steps to get used to your diet plan and stay on track.
6 Steps to Creating a Customized Diet Plan for Weight Loss
Achieving meaningful and long-lasting weight loss requires a thoughtful eating plan. Your body needs the right balance of nutrition and calories for sustained energy through workouts and daily activities. Maintaining that balance is the key to losing fat and keeping it off over time.
A successful diet plan for weight loss combines the vitamins and minerals your body needs to build muscle and maintain energy in one convenient and delicious menu. Follow these steps to design a diet plan for weight loss that’s specifically structured to support your lifestyle, goals, and habits.
Step One: Avoid Calorie Counting Diet Plans
Why is a daily count the wrong way to approach nutritional intake?
- Every food has a different calorie content. Unless you eat almost the same thing every day, it gets difficult to keep track of how much you’re consuming without laborious tracking.
- From spending time out with friends to going on vacation, there are a number of times when dieters simply can’t maintain a strict daily count without sacrificing enjoyment of social situations.
- To short-circuit temptation, many diet plans call for a “cheat day” that allows the dieter to eat whatever they want without counting the calories. It is possible to stick to a daily restrictive calorie count and still not lose weight due to overindulging one day a week.
- Daily calorie counts tend to encourage undereating. Dieters try to stay under their limits to preserve caloric deficits. Over time, too many missed calories negatively impact weight loss efforts.
Instead of setting yourself to a set number of calories per day, we recommend you develop a diet plan that covers your nutritional necessities to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This approach is exceptionally helpful in a weight loss program as it helps with your energy levels, is less restrictive, and allows you the freedom to enjoy what you want but in moderation. Determining your nutritional needs is different for every person based on their age, weight, activity levels, and other medical needs. Setting these nutritional goals or guidelines gives you the flexibility to eat a variety of different foods to reach your weight loss goals. These nutritional goals focus on your intake levels of: protein, carbs, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Keeping these key factors balanced for what your body needs is a more successful approach for weight loss than calories counting.
Step Two: Calculate Your Macros
Dieting isn’t just about how much you eat. You also need to ensure that you’re giving your body what it needs to grow muscle, melt fat, and keep your energy high. Macronutrients are the basic building blocks your body uses to accomplish these tasks. These fundamental nutrients also represent the bulk of your caloric intake. The three main categories for macros are:
- Carbohydrates. Simple and complex sugar chains break down in the body to provide fuel for muscles.
- Fats. Excess calories are stored in fat cells to provide emergency energy when fast-burning carbs aren’t available. Fat is an essential element in many hormonal and brain functions as well.
- Proteins. These powerhouse macros provide sustainable energy and material used to repair and grow tissues throughout the body.
Balancing these macronutrients gives you the best chance of building the body you want without feeling deprived or exhausted. The general rule of thumb suggests that you divide your calorie intake into 35% healthy fat, 40% protein, and 25% carbohydrates. For a more personalized ratio, use an online calculator to determine your best mix.
Step Three: Find Foods That Fit
However, it’s also important to put some effort into trying new menu options. Many dieters come to weight loss programs because of a limited diet that is high in empty calories. Adding more nutritional options to your daily menu is an essential step to creating a long-term eating plan.
Start by making a list of the foods and ingredients that you love the most. Once your diet begins, aim to add one or two new fruits, vegetables, or grain selections each week to your list. It’s helpful to also include data on the macronutrient content of each item, as this will help you decide how much of each of these ingredients you can enjoy in each meal.
Step Four: Stock Up On Recipes
Now that you know what you can eat, start collecting a variety of recipes that feature your listed foods. Pay attention to preparation instructions. The way you cook your food has a big effect on macronutrient content.
A large recipe selection is important in your diet plan for weight loss because it keeps you from getting bored. Losing interest in daily menus is the main reason many dieters don’t reach their goals. Variety ensures that you’ll always look forward to your next serving. An online recipe book is a great way to store your recipes.
With enough research, you can tailor your recipe collection to fit your preferences. Are you a lover of sweetbreads and pastries? Find low-calorie versions of your favorite baked goods. Are sauces a necessary part of your daily dining experience? Look for homemade versions of your most frequently used condiments. Does the idea of giving up fried foods make you nervous? Look for recipes that use your oven to simulate the crunchiness you crave without the additional fat content.
For those who live life on-the-go, compile a list of your most frequented restaurants. Ask the staff for nutritional information on their menu items. Use that data to create a list of selections that fit within your dietary budget.
Step Five: Set An Eating Schedule
For many, a diet plan for weight loss that follows the traditional 3 meals a day paradigm doesn’t work. This is especially true for those who are aggressively cutting back their daily calorie intake. Try spacing your meals and snacks roughly 3 hours apart. This keeps you from getting too hungry and running for unhealthy options to fill your belly. Here are some other guidelines to help you build the perfect diet plan for weight loss.
- Eat a filling dinner to avoid late night snacking.
- Consume a high-protein breakfast within an hour of waking up.
- Stick to your scheduled meal plan.
If you have diabetes or other glucose conditions that are impacted by your eating habits, see your doctor for help building a schedule that helps maintain the proper blood sugar levels.
Step Six: Track, Analyze, and Adjust
Use a food diary to keep track of your meal plan. This creates a record that allows you to revisit your eating habits and analyze the effectiveness of your plan. Make adjustments when needed to keep yourself on track to your goal weight. Don’t be afraid to change things up if a certain dietary plan isn’t providing the desired results.