Meal planning for weight loss

Guide, tips, recipes, and more

Done right, meal planning can be an incredibly useful weight loss strategy. This article explores the most important aspects of meal planning for weight loss, including a few easy recipes and extra tips.

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Meal planning can be a helpful tool if you’re trying to lose weight.

When done right, it can help you create the calorie deficit required for weight loss while providing your body the nutritious foods it needs to function and remain healthy.

Planning your meals can also simplify the meal prep process and save you time.

This article explores the most important aspects of meal planning for weight loss, including a few easy recipes and extra tips to help you reach your goals.

How to meal plan for weight loss

When it comes to weight loss meal plans, the magnitude of options can be overwhelming. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you search for the most suitable plan.

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Creating a calorie deficit in a nutrient-dense way

All weight loss plans have one thing in common — they get you to eat fewer calories than you burn.

However, though a calorie deficit will help you lose weight regardless of how it’s created, what you eat is just as important as how much you eat. That’s because the food choices you make are instrumental in helping you meet your nutrient needs.

A good weight loss meal plan should follow some universal criteria:

Building nutrient-dense meals

To incorporate these tips into your weight loss meal plan, start by filling one-third to one-half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables. These are low in calories and provide water, fiber, and many of the vitamins and minerals you need.

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Then, fill one-quarter to one-third of your plate with protein-rich foods, such as meat, fish, tofu, seitan, or legumes, and the remainder with whole grains, fruit, or starchy vegetables. These add protein, vitamins, minerals, and more fiber.

You can boost the flavor of your meal with a dash of healthy fats from foods like avocados, olives, nuts, and seeds.

Some people may benefit from having a snack to tide their hunger over between meals. Protein- and fiber-rich snacks seem the most effective for weight loss.

Good examples include apple slices with peanut butter, vegetables, and hummus, roasted chickpeas, or Greek yogurt with fruit and nuts.

Summary: A successful weight loss meal plan should create a calorie deficit while meeting your nutrient needs.

Helpful tips to make meal planning work for you

An important aspect of a successful weight loss meal plan is its ability to help you keep the lost weight off.

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Here are some tips to help increase your meal plan’s long-term sustainability.

Pick a meal planning method that fits your routine

There are various ways to meal plan, so be sure to pick the method that best fits your routine.

You may decide to batch cook all of your meals over the weekend, so you can easily grab individual portions throughout the week. Alternatively, you may prefer to cook daily, in which case, opting to prep all of your ingredients ahead of time might work best for you.

If you don’t like following recipes or prefer a little more flexibility, you may opt for a method that requires you to fill your refrigerator and pantry with specific portions of foods each week while allowing you to improvise when putting them together for meals.

Batch-shopping for groceries is another great strategy that helps save time while keeping your refrigerator and pantry filled with nutrient-dense foods.

Consider trying an app

Apps can be a helpful tool in your meal planning arsenal.

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Some apps offer meal plan templates that you can alter based on your food preferences or allergies. They can also be a handy way to keep track of your favorite recipes and save all of your data in one place.

What’s more, many apps provide customized grocery lists based on your selected recipes or what’s left over in your fridge, helping you save time and reduce food waste.

Pick enough recipes

Picking an adequate number of recipes ensures that you have enough variety without requiring you to spend all of your free time in the kitchen.

When selecting how many meals to make, look at your calendar to determine the number of times you’re likely to eat out — whether for a date, client dinner, or brunch with friends.

Divide the remaining number of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners by the number of meals that you can realistically cook or prepare for that week. This helps you determine the portions of each meal you’ll need to prep.

Then, simply sift through your cookbooks or online food blogs to pick your recipes.

Consider snacks

Allowing yourself to get overly hungry between meals may push you to overeat at your next meal, making it more difficult to reach your weight loss goals.

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Snacks can help lower hunger, promote feelings of fullness, and reduce the overall number of calories you eat per day.

Protein- and fiber-rich combinations, such as nuts, roasted chickpeas, or veggies and hummus, appear best suited to promote weight loss.

However, keep in mind that some people tend to gain weight when adding snacks to their menu. So make sure you monitor your results when applying this strategy.

Ensure variety

Eating a variety of foods is instrumental in providing your body with the nutrients it needs.

That’s why it’s best to avoid meal plans that suggest batch cooking 1–2 recipes for the whole week. This lack of variety can make it difficult to meet your daily nutrient needs and lead to boredom over time, reducing your meal plan’s sustainability.

Instead, ensure that your menu includes a variety of foods each day.

Speed up your meal prep time

Meal prepping doesn’t have to mean long hours in the kitchen. Here are a few ways to speed up your meal prep time.

Inexperienced cooks or those simply wanting to reduce the time spent in the kitchen may want to pick recipes that can be prepared in 15–20 minutes from start to finish.

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Store and reheat your meals safely

Storing and reheating your meals safely can help preserve their flavor and minimize your risk of food poisoning.

Here are some government-approved food safety guidelines to keep in mind:

Summary: Picking a meal-planning method that works for you, along with an adequate number and variety of meals and snacks that can be cooked or reheated quickly and safely, increases your likelihood of sustainable weight loss.

Easy recipe ideas

Weight loss recipes don’t have to be overly complicated. Here are a few easy-to-prepare ideas that require a minimal number of ingredients.

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Summary: The recipe ideas above are simple and require very little time to make. They can also be prepared in a variety of ways, making them incredibly versatile.

7-day menu

This sample menu includes a variety of nutrient-, fiber-, and protein-rich meals to help you reach your weight loss goals.

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Portions should be adjusted to your individual needs. Snack examples are included in this plan but remain completely optional.

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Ideas for dietary restrictions

Generally speaking, meat, fish, eggs, and dairy can be replaced by plant-based alternatives, such as tofu, tempeh, seitan, beans, flax, or chia seeds, as well as plant-based milk and yogurts.

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Gluten-containing grains and flours can be substituted for quinoa, millet, oats, buckwheat, amaranth, teff, corn, and sorghum.

Carb-rich grains and starchy vegetables can be replaced by lower-carb alternatives.

For instance, try spiralized noodles or spaghetti squash instead of pasta, cauliflower rice instead of couscous or rice, lettuce leaves instead of taco shells, and seaweed or rice paper instead of tortilla wraps.

Just keep in mind that completely excluding a food group may require you to take supplements to meet your daily nutrient needs.

Summary: Weight loss meals should be nutrient-dense and rich in protein and fiber. This meal plan can be adapted for a variety of dietary restrictions but may require you to take supplements if completely excluding a food category.

Summary

A good weight loss meal plan creates a calorie deficit while providing all the nutrients you need.

Done right, it can be incredibly simple and save you a lot of time.

Picking a method that works for you can also reduce your likelihood of regaining weight.

All in all, meal planning is an incredibly useful weight loss strategy.

Last updated on December 1, 2021, and last reviewed by an expert on November 25, 2021.
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