A Meal Plan for Extreme Weight Loss

When you need to lose a lot of weight, you want to lose it fast. Don't fall victim to fad diets that make big promises and don't pay off in the long run. To lose an extreme amount of weight and keep it off, you need a meal plan that supplies the right number of calories and is filled with a healthy balance of nutrient-rich foods. Consult your doctor or dietitian to discuss a weight-loss diet that fits your specific health needs.

Bowl of yogurt with blueberries and strawberries. (Image: Lauri Patterson/Vetta/Getty Images)

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Avoid Extreme Calorie Restriction

For weight loss, you need to find the right balance of calories so that you lose at a rate of 1 to 2 pounds a week. Starvation diets that severely restrict caloric intake may help you lose weight faster, but you're losing water and muscle, not fat. Plus, when you eat too few calories, your body may hold onto fat as a means of protection against the starvation. This change in metabolism makes it even harder for you to lose the unwanted pounds.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests subtracting 500 to 1,000 calories from your usual intake each day to lose at a healthy rate. First, keep a food diary to estimate the number of calories you currently eat, then subtract the calories to determine your weight-loss calorie needs. For example, if you currently eat 2,300 calories a day, to lose 1 to 2 pounds a week you need to reduce your intake to 1,800 calories or 1,300 calories a day, respectively.

A healthy weight-loss diet generally provides a minimum of 1,200 calories a day for women and 1,800 calories a day for men. Don't eat fewer than 1,200 calories daily unless it's recommended by your doctor.

Fill Your Meal Plan With Healthy Foods

Calories are an important part of your weight-loss journey, but so are the foods you choose to spend those calories on. It may not come as any surprise, but a 2011 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people who fill their diets with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and yogurt tend to be thinner than those who eat more junk such as soda, potato chips and processed meat. Eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains may help you eat fewer overall calories, which helps with weight loss. These high-fiber foods slow digestion, holding off hunger. As for yogurt, the researchers theorize that the friendly bacteria in the fermented food may change the bacteria in your gut, which may help prevent weight gain.

Round out your healthy weight-loss diet with protein foods such as seafood, poultry, beans and soy food as well as healthy fats such as avocados, nuts, seeds and olive oil.

Sample Breakfast Meals

You may be tempted to skip meals like breakfast when you're trying to lose an extreme amount of weight, but those who succeed at weight loss make breakfast a priority. Try a poached egg on a slice of whole-wheat toast covered in one-eighth of an avocado and served with 1 cup of sliced strawberries and a 6-ounce container of nonfat Greek yogurt for 420 calories. A 1/2-cup serving of low-fat cottage cheese with a sliced banana and an English muffin with 2 teaspoons of peanut butter also makes a good breakfast option on your weight-loss diet. That option contains 440 calories. Or enjoy a breakfast smoothie by blending 12 ounces of nonfat Greek yogurt with 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds, 3/4 cup of blueberries, 1 cup of raspberries and ice for 400 calories.

Sample Lunch Meals

It's not just breakfast that's important when it comes to weight loss. So is lunch. A 2015 article published in Current Obesity Reports notes that planned, regular eating habits play a big role in promoting a healthy weight. Enjoy 2 cups of minestrone soup with five whole-grain crackers and 1 ounce of low-fat cheddar cheese at your next lunch for 410 calories. A quinoa salad made with 1 cup of cooked quinoa tossed with 1 cup of mixed diced raw veggies such as grape tomatoes, red onions and peppers, 1/2 cup of firm pressed tofu, 1 teaspoon of sesame oil and grated ginger for 390 calories also makes a good lunch option on your weight-loss diet. Or try a simple turkey sandwich made with two slices of whole-wheat bread, 3 ounces of turkey breast with lettuce, tomato and mustard and served with 6 ounces of nonfat yogurt, a small apple and 1 cup of sliced cucumbers for 440 calories.

Sample Dinner Meals

Knowing what you're going to eat for dinner may help prevent those last-minute stops at the fast-food restaurant. Spend a little time once a week planning out your dinner menu and prepping ahead, such as defrosting your chicken and chopping veggies. Make a healthy chicken Parmesan by topping a 3-ounce grilled chicken breast with 1/2 cup of tomato sauce and 1 ounce of low-fat mozzarella cheese, and serve it with 1/2 cup of cooked whole-wheat spaghetti and 2 cups of steamed broccoli. This meal has 425 calories.

Use leftover spaghetti for lo mein the next night. Toss 1 cup of the spaghetti with 12 peanuts and 1 cup of chopped celery, onions and bok choy that's been sauteed in 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil for 425 calories. Make fish tacos with 3 ounces of grilled halibut stuffed into two 6-inch corn tortillas with lettuce and chopped tomatoes and served with 1/2 cup of a mix of brown rice, black beans and corn for 405 calories.

Snacks for Weight Loss

If you do it right, snacks also make a healthy contribution to your weight-loss plan. Keep them snack-size and know ahead of time when you're going to eat them, such as in between lunch and dinner or after dinner. Keep snack calories to 200 or less. Good options include 2 cups of air-popped popcorn tossed with 12 peanuts; a container of nonfat yogurt with 1/2 cup of unsweetened whole-grain cereal; 2 cups of raw veggies such as broccoli, cucumbers and carrots with 1/4 cup of hummus; or 1 tablespoon of almond butter with a small apple.

Exercise for Extreme Weight Loss

In addition to making changes to your diet, you also want to add exercise to help you lose and keep the weight off. Being more active not only helps you burn off calories, but it also helps increase the number of calories your body burns throughout the rest of the day. For the most benefits, include both aerobic and strength-training exercises.

Try to do at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, such as a fast walk or a low-impact aerobic class, five days a week. Additionally, you want to work out all the major muscle groups with strength-training exercises, such as lifting weights or using a resistance band, for 30 minutes two days a week. As you lose weight and your fitness level improves, you may want to increase your exercise to up to 60 minutes a day to burn more calories, but with your doctor's permission and supervision.

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