Light Diet Meals

Mid Section View of a Young Woman Cutting a Carrot on a Chopping Board at a Kitchen Counter
Preparing a healthy meal. (Image: Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images)

When it comes to dieting, there is no-one-size-fits-all plan. Some people do better eating three meals a day, while others find it easier to control hunger when they eat more often. In either case, it all comes down to calories. When making the choice to eat light meals to help you reach your weight-loss goals, keep your meals small and calorie-controlled.

Do the Math

Close-up of a person eating salad with a fork
Small, manageable meal. (Image: George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

One pound of fat contains 3,500 calories, and to lose that pound you need to decrease your weekly intake by 3,500 calories. When eating five or six small meals a day, make sure each light meal contains no more than 300 calories. Limiting the calories of each meal helps you keep total calories within 1,000 to 1,600 calories per day, which is the calorie range that can help most people lose weight, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Start the Day Right

muesli cereals food
Whole grain cereal. (Image: Picsfive/iStock/Getty Images)

Start every day off right with a healthy breakfast. Breakfast gives you energy and helps control hunger to prevent overeating later in the day. A light breakfast meal might include 1 cup of whole-grain cereal with 1 cup of skim milk and a small banana, or one slice of whole wheat toast with 2 teaspoons of peanut butter and an apple.

The Mini Lunch

Turkey sandwich on wheat bread
Turkey sandwich. (Image: SoleilC/iStock/Getty Images)

Eat every two to three hours when eating light meals, and make sure each meal contains a fruit or vegetable. Fruits and vegetables are low in calories and high in fiber, so they help satisfy hunger while helping you stay within your calorie range. A light lunch might consist of a turkey sandwich featuring two slices of whole wheat bread and ounce of turkey, along with 1 cup of mixed greens topped with 2 tablespoons of low-fat salad dressing. Another lunch option is 1/4 cup of hummus with one whole wheat 6-inch pita and 1 cup of cut-up vegetables, such as cucumbers, carrots and celery.

Midday Snack Choices

Popcorn texture background
Popcorn is a good snack. (Image: AndreaAstes/iStock/Getty Images)

For hunger control, include whole grains at meal and snack times. The fiber in whole grains keeps you feeling full longer. For a light midday snack, try a 6-ounce container of low-fat yogurt with 12 whole wheat crackers or 6 cups of air-popped popcorn mixed with 20 peanuts.

Lighten Up Dinner

Kassler Rippenspeer in White Sauce with Salad
Keep dinner light with a pork loin. (Image: Eising/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Keep calories under control on your light diet by choosing lean cuts of meat, such as pork loin, poultry and fish. Prepare 3 ounces of grilled salmon with a 1/2-cup serving of sweet potatoes and 1/2 cup of steamed broccoli. Or mix 1/2 cup of brown rice with 1/2 cup of black beans and 1/2 cup of tomato salsa for a tasty, light meal.

Post-Dinner -- But Not Too Late

Cantaloupe
Fresh melon. (Image: György Barna/iStock/Getty Images)

When eating light, try not to eat too late into the night. Your last meal of the day should be no less than three hours before you go to bed, according to Diabetes Forecast. A healthy nighttime snack might include 1/2 cup of low-fat cottage cheese with 2 cups of fresh melon or 4 tablespoons of raisins mixed with 18 almonds.

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