When planning menus during a weight-loss program, you'll want to take into account the rest of your day's calories while planning each meal. It may not be practical to create breakfast, lunch and dinner using the same percentages of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Plan each meal so that by the end of the day, you will have eaten a balanced diet that contains the calories and nutrients you need for good health and weight loss.
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Determine how many calories you'll need to eat each day to lose weight. To lose 1 lb. of weight per week, you'll need to burn 500 calories more per day than you eat. Use an online calorie calculator, such as the one found at LIVESTRONG, or the U.S. Department of Agriculture's daily calorie recommendations for a person of your age, gender and activity level.
Once you know how many calories you need to eat each day, use nutrition labels, or online research tools, such as those found at LIVESTRONG's MyPlate, to determine how many calories each meal will have. Write a first draft of a menu, check out how many calories it would have, then adjust ingredients or portion sizes to create a menu that help you meet your weight-loss goals. Nutrition labels also tell you how much fat, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, cholesterol, sodium and dietary fiber foods have. This will help you create healthy diet menus.
Carbs, Fats and Proteins
Like the USDA food pyramid, the Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight pyramid emphasizes whole grains, vegetables and fruits in your diet. The Mayo Clinic pyramid reverses the USDA recommendation about where these calories should come from, recommending more servings of fruits and vegetables than whole grains. Divide your plate into three areas to guide you in creating portion sizes. Half of your plate should contain non-starchy vegetables, with the rest of the plate evenly split between starchy vegetables and proteins.
Instead of getting your protein from whole eggs, bacon, sausage, butter and milk, choose egg whites, yogurt, low-fat milk, lean ham and a fat-free butter substitute. Pair these with oatmeal, cold cereals, whole grain bagels, English muffins, pancakes, waffles, fruit juice or fresh fruit.
Add lots of vegetables to sandwiches and use whole grain breads or rolls and lean meats. Cut out the cheese and mayonnaise. Make pizza with a whole grain crust, low-fat cheese and tomato sauce and vegetable toppings. Use a fat-free mayo for tuna or chicken salad and add celery and carrots. Add black beans to soups for protein and iron. Add nuts and low-fat cheese to salads for protein and use a fat-free dressing. Try turkey burgers instead of beef burgers.
Use lean cuts of beef, such as flank steak or sirloin, to reduce fat and cholesterol. Serve protein in a stir fry to give yourself some beef, chicken or fish without relying on protein as the "main dish," surrounded by starchy "side dishes." Serve whole grain pasta with tomato sauce and add veggies instead of hamburger. Try a baked sweet potato without the butter, sour cream, cheese and bacon bits that often accompany a baked potato. Add a bowl of soup to your dinner -- researchers at Penn State University found that study participants who ate a bowl of soup as part of dinner ate 20 percent fewer meal calories than those who didn't.