You may wonder what a weight loss meal plan is and why it’s recommended for dieters. After all, everyone knows that the key to losing weight is taking in fewer calories and being more physically active. And we all know that eating more whole grains and fruits and vegetables is the way to reduce calories. So why do you need a weight loss meal plan?
A weight loss meal plan organizes your diet and puts it down on paper. It tells you what to eat when and how much to eat of each food. Because it is based on your needs and goals, it includes the foods that are most likely to make your diet successful.
Qualities of a Good Meal Plan
Any good meal plan for weight loss will be:
1. Realistic. Nutritionists recommend weight loss meal plans that are realistic and achievable. There is no sense in creating a meal plan that is impossible to follow, or that is boring, unappetising, or unsatisfying.
2. Varied. A good meal plan includes a variety of foods. In addition to keeping the meals interesting and keeping you from getting bored with your food, a varied diet is more likely to provide all the nutrients, fats, carbohydrates, and proteins that you need.
3. Enjoyable. A meal plan is more likely to be successful if it includes foods you enjoy eating. You may not be able to eat all the foods you like, or as much of your favorite foods, but you should certainly be able to add in a few favs here and there.
4. Full of small, frequent meals. Your meal plan should include smaller, more frequent meals than you normally eat. You will feel fuller and more satisfied if you eat a little bit every two or three hours. If you plan for several small meals there’s less risk you will splurge on a high calorie snack.
5. Easy. The meals in a weight loss meal plan should be easy to prepare using foods that are easy to find locally.
6. Planned. By planning meals for a week in advance, you know what you need to buy at the store and you will be less likely to indulge in impulse buys.
7. Monitored. Keep of journal of what you eat, when you eat, and how much you eat. A journal can help keep you on track and honest about your diet. It can also help you see where you might be running into trouble so you can make mid-course corrections instead of abandoning the plan. Talking to a support group or a weight loss buddy can also help keep you focused.
8. Individualized. There is no weight loss meal plan that is right for every person. The right meal plan for you depends on many factors, including your weight and your weight loss goals, your food preferences, the desired caloric intake, your age and health condition, and your activity level, to name a few considerations. You decide what kind of diet you want to follow, whether it is low carb/high protein, high carb/low fat, etc. A good meal plan should be designed around the caloric intake and ratio of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates that you think is best for you.
Three Ways to Create Meal Plans
Creating meal plans is not as simple as writing down the healthy foods you are going to eat each day for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. You need to know the fat, protein, carbohydrate, and calorie content of these foods to design a weight loss meal plan that meets your needs. You also have to balance different foods for complete nutrition.
In general, there are three ways to come up with weight loss meal plans:
1. Do it yourself. The information you need to create a meal plan is readily available through nutrition resources and websites. Foods labels are excellent sources of nutrition information. You can use these resources to design your own plan, but it will take a good amount of time if you are starting from scratch on the nutrition learning curve.
2. Use meal-planning software. Another option is to use meal-planning software, which you can find on the Internet. Good software for planning meals should allow you to factor in your personal information, such as the type of diet you want to follow, your weight loss goals, and your activity level. It should allow you to personalize your meal plans.
3. Work with a nutritionist or dietician. A nutritionist or dietician can help you figure out how many calories you need each day to meet your weight loss goals. He or she can help you determine which type of diet will work best for you. Knowing your personal information, including your food likes and dislikes, the nutritionist or dietician can create individualized meal plans for you.
What is in a Weight Loss Meal Plan?
Your weight loss meal plan will specify what you will eat and how much at every meal. It should be very specific so you have no doubt what to buy and what should be on your plate. It may or may not include the number of calories for each food or each meal, but it should total the calories for the week.
Portion size can be confusing. One person might think one portion of cereal is half a cup, for example, while someone else might think it is a whole cup. That’s why a good meal plan specifies quantity in cups rather than portion size. Two people may have different ideas about what makes up a portion, but there is no room for error when you talk in terms of cups. (And, by the way, a cup is not a teacup or a mug; it’s an eight-ounce measuring cup.)
A Good Idea for Losing Weight
A weight loss meal plan is an organized and focused tool for eating right to lose weight. For anyone who is serious about losing weight, it’s a good place to start.