Meal plans can help you stick to your resolve, optimize nutrition and streamline grocery shopping. Estimate the number of calories you need to maintain your weight by multiplying your weight in pounds by 12, suggests registered dietitian Joanne Larsen, and then subtracting 500 calories. Since one pound equals 3,500 calories, this will yield a 1-pound-per-week weight loss. Divide your daily needs by three meals and two smaller snacks. The amount you eat at each meal depends on your calorie needs.
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Eating breakfast helps enhance satiation, jump-starts your metabolism and may prevent poor food choices later in the day, notes the American Council on Exercise. Balanced weight-loss meals for breakfast might involve hard-boiled or poached eggs with whole grain toast and a piece of fruit. Dieters who ate a breakfast consisting of eggs lost more weight than those eating equivalent calories in a bagel-only breakfast, reported a study in the "International Journal of Obesity" published in 2008. The protein in the eggs may be responsible for making participants feel full longer and eat fewer calories later in the day. Other protein-rich breakfast meals include a quick smoothie made with banana or whey protein powder and fresh berries, nonfat Greek yogurt with peaches and 1/4 cup of low-sugar granola.
A meal plan for weight loss always includes lunch, as skipping this meal can lead to late-afternoon cravings. If you are at an office or on the road and do not have access to a kitchen, pack a lunch in a cooler or insulated lunch box. You can pack hummus, bell pepper and carrot strips, an apple and whole grain crackers. Another stand-by is a nitrate-free deli turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with mustard, spinach and tomato. Enjoy with a small nonfat yogurt sweetened with a drizzle of honey and a sprinkling of walnuts. At home, heat up low-sodium broth-based soup and eat before a meal of grilled chicken or other lean meat, romaine lettuce, chick peas, cucumber and feta cheese. Eating soup before your meal can help reduce your total calorie intake at that setting by 20 percent, note researchers in a November 2007 issue of “Appetite.”
Planning a well-balanced dinner helps keep the late-night munchies from blowing your calorie goals. Include a lean protein with 1/2 to 1 cup of whole grains or sweet potato and a cup or two of non-starchy vegetables. Good protein choices include salmon, chicken or turkey breast, flank steak and pork tenderloin. Plan to use cooking techniques such as broiling, roasting, grilling or roasting that add minimal fats. Whether you cook for an entire family or live alone, you can help your weight loss efforts by planning dinners in advance. You can add flavor by putting your chosen meat in a marinade in the morning and pulling out for cooking in the evening. Try balsamic vinegar and dried thyme and rosemary on chicken, or soy sauce and garlic for pork.
A meal plan for weight loss also provides for two or three snacks during the day. As a woman, eating regularly can help boost your metabolism and stabilize insulin levels, concluded a study in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" from January 2005. In the study, obese women experienced higher thermogensis -- metabolic effects of digestion -- and beneficial levels of cholesterol and insulin when they ate six meals daily at regular times, compared with when they ate the same number of calories at three to nine irregular intervals. They also took in fewer overall calories when on the consistent six-meals-per-day plan. Fill your pantry with healthful, light snack options and carry them with you if you will be away from home between meals. Options that range in the 150- to 200-calorie range include string cheese with a medium apple, a banana and 1/2 ounce of almonds, 1/2 cup nonfat cottage cheese with a tablespoon of raisins and a serving of whole grain crackers with a hard-boiled egg.