Formulating and sticking to a meal plan may sound difficult, but the benefits to your long-term health are significant, as it can shape your behavior and perspective on eating in major ways. By controlling and consciously choosing everything that you put into your body, it will be much easier to stay healthy and see results on your road to wellness.
Meal planning is one of the most important aspects of a healthy diet. When you have the opportunity to look ahead, shop wisely, and prepare your food in a timely manner, you are far more likely to stick to your goals and eat in a more conscious way. For people who tend to only look one meal ahead, the idea of planning meals probably sounds impossible, but it is well worth it. If you choose to plan your meals a few days or an entire week in advance, it will not only end up saving you money and time but will also help you take control of your health and weight.
For those trying out meal planning for the first time, it is suggested that you begin by planning 3-4 days in advance. Before going to the grocery store, consider your tentative schedule for the week, including plans to see friends or eat out busy afternoons of errands, and potential times when you could prep some of your meals. Based on that schedule, and your caloric/health goals, you can design a meal plan for a few days in advance. While you don’t need the exact recipes of every dish you intend to make, ensuring that you have most of the ingredients you’ll need will be a motivating factor to actually follow through. Knowing what your meals for the next few days may feel like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders.
This meal plan will also become something of a cookbook, in which you can write down new recipes or meal ideas, along with their nutritional info. In combination with the use of a calorie counter, your meal plan can be even more detailed, and easier to manipulate and customize in the future.
Healthy Meal Plan for Weight Loss
If you are seeking a weight loss meal plan, you will likely want to cut down on fats and simple carbohydrates, but increase your complex carbohydrate and protein intake, as these will make you feel full and reduce your hunger pangs. For a weight loss meal plan, you should reduce your daily calorie load to between 1,200 and 1,800 calories, combined with regular exercise. Below are some of the best meal ideas for someone just starting on a weight loss plan.
- Veggie burger and steamed vegetables
- Salmon Filet
- Nicoise Salad
- Quinoa, tofu, and sweet potato
- Soba noodles and sautéed spinach
- Low-fat cheese plate
- Grapes, apricots, and almonds, drizzled with honey
- Fruit smoothies
- Frozen yogurt
Healthy Eating Meal Plan
Not all meal plans are about losing weight; some are designed for healthier eating, without having a major effect on your weight. These meal plans tend to involve shifting your percentages of calories around – more healthy fats and less basic carbohydrates, less red meat and more lean protein, etc. While some healthy eating meal plans will also result in weight loss, that isn’t the basic goal. Balancing your caloric intake and preventing deficiencies in key nutrients is the purpose of these plans.
7-Day Meal Plan
- Breakfast – Greek yogurt, berries and 1/4 cup of granola
- Snack – Carrot sticks and hummus
- Lunch – Steamed artichoke hearts and boiled Greek chicken
- Snack – 1/2 cup of almonds
- Dinner – 4 oz salmon filet, steamed spinach, and quinoa
- Breakfast – Spinach, kale, celery, turmeric and almond milk smoothie
- Snack – Sliced tomato and cucumber with balsamic vinegar
- Lunch – Savory egg and spinach frittata with a banana
- Snack – Hard-boiled egg
- Dinner – Veggie burger with avocados, spinach, and tomatoes
- Breakfast – Egg white omelet with mushrooms and onions
- Snack – Apple slices with peanut butter
- Lunch – Whole-wheat wrap with grilled chicken and veggies
- Snack – Bagel with low-fat cream cheese
- Dinner – Stuffed peppers with lean ground beef
- Breakfast – Fruit salad, 1 fried egg, and 2 strips of bacon
- Snack – 1/2 grapefruit
- Lunch – Chickpea and avocado salad
- Snack – 1/2 cup of almonds or walnuts
- Dinner – Turkey breast, sweet potato, and fried aubergine
- Breakfast – Blueberry, strawberry, Greek yogurt, honey, and protein powder shake
- Snack – Raw broccoli and carrots with hummus
- Lunch – Ahi tuna salad with asparagus and 1 hard-boiled egg
- Snack – Medium-sized avocado with pepper and hot sauce
- Dinner – Grilled tofu, miso soup, and steamed spinach
- Breakfast – Breakfast burrito with eggs, peppers, onions, and fried potatoes
- Snack – Unsalted edamame
- Lunch – Whole-grain pasta with steamed vegetables, no cheese
- Snack – Fresh berries drizzled with honey
- Dinner – Brown rice, chicken breast, and steamed broccoli
- Breakfast – Oatmeal with blueberries
- Snack – Handful of walnuts and a sliced apple
- Lunch – Wild salad with carrots, radishes, kale, spinach, zucchinis, and chickpeas
- Snack – Dried fruit (pineapple, mango etc.)
- Dinner – Tuna steak with a sweet potato
Family Meal Plan
When you are cooking for your whole family, rather than just for yourself, it can take a bit of extra time in planning, particularly if your children have certain food allergies or dislikes. You also need to consider the dietary needs and health goals of your various family members. Some people find great success in sitting down with their family and planning weekly meals as a group.
Guiding family decisions on meals takes discussion and a joint commitment to better health. As a parent, the fact that you do the shopping is a major advantage. In other words, if you want to create a healthy meal plan for your whole family, don’t fill the pantry with tempting snacks, high-fat options and processed foods that do little for your overall health.
Healthy Diet Tips
The best tips for people embarking on a diet include quitting smoking, eating smaller meals more often, increasing lean-protein intake, adding more fiber to your meals, drinking enough water, and scaling up your physical activity.
If you are trying to lose weight, quitting smoking will help you with the physical activity side of your diet. Smoking leads to poor circulation and respiration, making you less likely to work out, and reducing the amount of time that you can engage in physical activity. It also causes inflammation and increases your risk of fat deposition.
Eating smaller meals 4-5 times per day, rather than 3 big meals, will ensure that your metabolism operates at a high level throughout the day. This means more consistent calorie- and fat-burning, as well as increased feelings of satiety, so you will be able to prevent over-eating or unhealthy snacking between meals.
There are good and bad types of protein, and overly fatty red meat is not highly recommended. Increasing your lean protein intake is an excellent way to shave off the pounds and keep your diet on track. Foods like salmon, tuna, mackerel, chickpeas, leafy green vegetables, tofu, and lentils are excellent options for protein aside from beef.
By increasing your overall fiber intake, you will not only optimize your digestion and lower your cholesterol levels, but also improve nutrient uptake and stimulate satiety. Fiber makes you feel full, so you are less likely to eat unhealthy foods between meals, making it easier to stay within the guidelines of your diet.
Staying hydrated is important for everyone, particularly people who are on a diet or are trying to lose weight. Water is the most critical component of our overall health since more than 70% of our body is composed of this liquid. If you want to increase your metabolic speed, improve your body’s fat-burning ability and optimize your digestive processes, drinking 8-10 cups of water per day is highly recommended.
Remember that dieting alone won’t give you all the results you so desperately seek. Healthy eating must be complemented by physical activity to burn off those excess calories and get your body back into shape. 30 minutes of physical activity at least 5 times per week is a good minimum to shoot for.