Mini meals that include healthful selections from different food groups make it simple to meet your nutritional needs, manage hunger and control overall caloric intake. If you limit meals to 300 calories each, however, you need to eat more frequently than three times a day. Women generally require a minimum of 1,000 to 1,200 calories and men need at least 1,200 to 1,600 calories daily to meet basic energy and nutritional needs -- although appropriate calorie targets for weight loss may be higher based on individual factors. Another option is to consume four to five mini-meals a day, spacing them up to three hours apart.
Start with two to three servings of non-starchy vegetables. One serving of vegetables provides around 25 calories. One cup of salad greens or 1/2 cup of cooked vegetables constitutes a serving. Incorporate different vegetables in each meal in order to maximize nutrition. Because vegetables have a low calorie content for their weight, they help you feel full with fewer calories.
Include a lean protein option when planning 300-calorie meals. If you choose proteins that provide 3 g of fat or less, the calorie content per 1 oz. serving averages around 35 to 55 calories, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Options in this calorie level include skinless chicken or turkey, lean beef, low-fat cheese, flounder, salmon, egg whites and legumes.
Add a serving of whole grains or starchy vegetables to your meal plan. A 1/2 cup of whole wheat pasta, bulgar, sweet potato or corn adds 80 calories to your meal. Other options include 1/3 cup brown rice, legumes or couscous.
Finish off your meal with a small portion of fruit. For 60 calories, you can choose a small apple, 1/2 of a medium grapefruit, a medium peach or 1 cup of fresh berries.
Count calories from condiments and seasonings used to enhance the flavor of your meal. Season your food with healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil, which provide around 45 calories per teaspoon.
Drink calorie-free beverages with your meals to help you stay within your calorie target. If your goal is to eat four to five mini-meals a day, exchange the fruit serving for 1 cup of low-fat milk during two of your meals. Otherwise, you can get your dairy servings as part of planned low-calorie snacks. Consult with your doctor before changing your eating habits if you have diet-related health concerns.
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: Facts About Healthy Weight
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: Aim for a Healthy Weight: Food Exchange Lists
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Low Energy-Dense Foods and Weight Management: Cutting Calories While Controlling Hunger
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Healthy Eating for a Healthy Weight