After a long day at the office, you might be tempted to throw a frozen dinner into the microwave or pick up some take-out on the way home. If you're trying to lose weight, however, neither of those options is a good idea. When you're dieting, dinners don't need to be complex, but they do need to be nutritious and to fit within your caloric intake limit for the day. Take the stress out of dinner by learning a few simple tricks for putting weight-loss meals together.
Fit Dinner Into Your Day
When you're dieting, your goal is to create a calorie deficit, and each meal and snack needs to fit within your daily calorie budget. Although you'll need to figure out your own calorie goal based on your weight and activity level, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Association states that most people can lose weight eating 1,000 to 1,600 calories a day. If 1,400 is your magic number, you can have three meals of about 400 calories each and two 100-calorie snacks. That means you'll need to count calories and create dinners that fall right around that 400 mark.
Use Your Plate as a Guide
The USDA's MyPlate icon makes meal-planning easy for any kind of diet. Split your dinner plate in quarters so that you fill one quarter with lean protein such as chicken, fish or tofu; one quarter with whole grains such as brown rice; and the remaining half with fresh fruits and vegetables such as a large green salad and sliced strawberries. Supplement your meal with a small amount of dairy such as an ounce of feta cheese sprinkled on your salad.
Stick to Proper Portion Sizes
On a weight-loss diet, you'll need to take the MyPlate guidelines one step further to make sure your meal fits within your calorie budget by serving the correct portions. Keep these serving sizes in mind so that you know exactly how much food to prepare. One serving of lean protein is 2 to 3 ounces; a serving of whole grains is 1/2 cup; and a serving of vegetables is 1 cup. A serving of fruit is one medium whole fruit, such as an apple, or 1/2 cup of cup of berries, and a serving of dairy is 1 cup of milk or 1.5 ounces of cheese. You may need to adjust serving sizes slightly to make sure your meal fits into your specific calorie goal.
Mix It Up
For a dinner that contains about 400 calories, you can have a 3-ounce portion of salmon for about 150 calories, paired with 1 cup of cooked broccoli for 55 calories and 1/2 cup of brown rice for a little over 105 calories. Have 4 ounces of fat-free yogurt and one-half cup of strawberry halves for another 90 calories. Substitute chicken breast or tofu for salmon, a leafy green salad or roasted carrots for broccoli and quinoa or whole-wheat pasta for brown rice to keep your dinners interesting.