Obesity is a global health concern, but it's a condition that is entirely treatable. A person is considered obese if his or her body-mass index measures between 30 and 39.9 and severely obese if the BMI is over 40.
Although it's not easy to lose weight to get below the obesity threshold, there are a variety of tried-and-true tactics that can help you along the path toward losing weight, including creating a healthy meal plan for obesity.
Meal Planning and Weight Loss
Planning your meals isn't a panacea when it comes to promoting weight loss, but it is a valuable tool in your arsenal. A 2017 study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that people who planned meals were less likely to be overweight or obese, as well as more likely to eat a wider variety of foods and have a higher-quality diet overall.
Meal planning helps weight loss by:
- Reducing the likelihood of stopping for unhealthy restaurant or take-out food because there's nothing to eat at home.
- Ensuring that your meals are balanced with the ideal amount of protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats, plus a good amount of vitamin- and mineral-containing foods, such as fruits and vegetables.
- Allowing you to control the amount of sodium, saturated fat and other nutrients that are problematic in large quantities.
As a bonus, meal planning can help you stay on budget, because it cuts down on spontaneous trips to restaurants and supermarkets to pick up food for immediate consumption.
Read more: Leading Causes of Obesity in America
Meal Planning Guidelines for Obesity
There's no right or wrong way to plan your meals. With a little bit of trial and error, you can figure out what works best for you (and your family, if other people need to be taken into account). However, when you're trying to figure out some meal planning guidelines for obesity, a few ideas include:
Deep-dive into recipe inspiration. There have never been more easily available ideas for healthy meals than right now. Head to websites such as Pinterest or online versions of healthy cooking magazines such as Eating Well to find meal ideas. If you prefer cookbooks, visit the library to check out volumes of recipes that focus on your ideal obesity diet plan —
whether it's low-carbohydrate, clean eating or otherwise.
Choose theme nights. If you don't feel comfortable in the kitchen, the sheer number of options for meal plans can make it too intimidating to even start. Narrow down the choices by assigning a theme to each night of the week—for example, soup Sundays, meatless Mondays, taco Tuesdays and so forth.
Plan for leftovers. When you cook every night of the week, you're bound to have leftovers in the fridge. If you work outside your home, plan to take these healthy leftovers to work the next day. If there's still more leftover, pencil in a night dedicated to eating up the food that's still in the fridge.
Once you have made a meal plan for a week, hold onto those menus. Rather than reinventing the wheel in the future, use that meal plan and those recipes again at a later date. Eventually, you will get into a rhythm that makes meal planning feel a lot easier.
The Importance of Portion Control
Remember, portion control matters. Even the healthiest of meal plans won't help you to lose weight if you're overeating. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends managing portions by splitting entrees when eating out, putting individual portions of food on a plate rather than setting the serving dishes on the table at home, and eating a healthy snack between meals to avoid overeating later due to hunger.
Sample Meal Plans
There's no one meal plan that works for everyone — a successful obesity eating plan has to take personal preferences into account, as well as food allergies and intolerances, availability and culinary skill level. However, everyone can take certain components of a meal plan into account.
For example, a healthy meal plan should be rich in fruits and vegetables, but the specific fruits and vegetables that are included are up to you. A healthy meal plan should also include protein, unsaturated fats and complex carbohydrates.
Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan
Just as there's no one meal plan that works for everyone, there's no obesity diet plan that's guaranteed to work wonders. However, U.S. News & World Report, in its annual ranking of diet plans, named the Mediterranean Diet as the top overall diet thanks to its emphasis on fruits, vegetables, olive oil and fish, among other healthy meal components.
Rather than focusing on calories, fat or other nutrient numbers, a Mediterranean Diet meal plan emphasizes eating foods high in fiber, lean protein and unsaturated fats. Cooking Light magazine suggests a sample meal plan that consists of:
- Breakfast: Seven-grain hot cereal with Greek yogurt, goat cheese and fig preserves
- Lunch: Grilled chicken pitas with sesame drizzle
- Dinner: Seared salmon salad with beets and blackberries
- Snacks: Beet chips, rosemary roasted almonds, vegetables with pesto yogurt dip
Clean Eating Meal Plan
If those ideas don't appeal to you, there are plenty of additional weight loss-focused meal plans you can pick from to choose an effective obesity-busting diet. For example, a sample day of meals designed for weight loss from Clean Eating magazine includes:
- Breakfast: Yogurt berry bowl made from Greek yogurt, sliced strawberries, chopped walnuts and chia seeds
- Morning snack: Sprouted-grain toast with cottage cheese and mango salsa
- Lunch: Salmon hand rolls, brown rice and edamame
- Afternoon snack: Banana dipped in flaxseed
- Dinner: Turkey taco lettuce wraps
High-Protein Diet Meal Plan
If you'd like to focus on consuming more satiating protein, Eating Well magazine offers a high-protein meal plan that includes:
- Breakfast: Broccoli and Parmesan cheese omelet
- Morning snack: Plum
- Lunch: Butternut squash soup with avocado and chickpeas
- Afternoon snack: Kiwi
- Dinner: Citrus-poached salmon with asparagus and brown rice
Low-Fat, Low-Sodium Meal Plan
If you're concerned about the effects fat and salt may be having on your heart, the Mayo Clinic suggests several dishes as part of a sample meal plan:
- Breakfast: Cooked oatmeal with walnuts, banana, skim milk
- Lunch: Low-fat plain yogurt with flaxseed, peach halves, Melba toast crackers, raw broccoli and cauliflower, low-fat cream cheese, sparkling water
- Dinner: Salmon, green beans with almonds, salad greens with low-fat salad dressing and sunflower seeds, skim milk and an orange
- Snacks: Skim milk, animal crackers
Read more: The Best Exercise for Someone Morbidly Obese
- International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity: Meal Planning Is Associated With Food Variety, Diet Quality and Body Weight Status in a Large Sample of French Adults
- The Kitchn: 15 Tips for Better Weekly Meal Planning
- WebMD: Healthy Eating for Weight Loss
- Clean Eating Magazine: 2-Week Weight-Loss Meal Plan
- Eating Well: High-Protein Meal Plan: 1,200 Calories
- Cooking Light: What Is the Mediterranean Diet?
- Obesity Action Coalition: What Is Obesity & Severe Obesity?
- Mayo Clinic: Menus for Heart-Healthy Eating: Cut the Fat and Salt
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How to Avoid Portion Size Pitfalls to Help Manage Your Weight