Creating a meal plan sounds simple enough, and it is if you’ve done it before. For beginners, though, it can be confusing until you get the hang of it. That’s why we’ve created these weight loss meal plan tips to keep in mind.
A few questions you should ask yourself as you develop your meal plan are:
- What are my maintenance calories?
- What foods should I include in my plan based on their caloric value?
- What meals do I enjoy eating and are easy to prepare?
- What do I need to purchase at the grocery store to ensure I stick to the plan?
How to create a calorie deficit in a nutrient-dense way?
A weight-loss meal plan should reduce the daily number of calories you consume based on your Total Daily Energy Expenditure, or TDEE, and provide the vitamins and minerals your body needs to remain healthy. Never compromise your health for the sake of losing weight.
First thing’s first: calculate your maintenance calories (TDEE). This number represents how many calories your body needs to carry out everyday functions.
If you want to lose weight, you need to consume fewer calories than those allotted by your TDEE number. And, if you’re going to gain weight, the opposite is true, so you’ll need to go above your daily number of maintenance calories.
Say you’re fasting and don’t consume any calories throughout the day. You will certainly lose weight. However, if you do this over an extended period, you may quickly run into health issues due to nutrient deficiencies. While you can add supplements to address some deficiencies, nothing beats eating whole, organic foods.
To mitigate nutritional deficiencies, you need to ensure you include low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods in your diet. Note that some of these items may seem high in calories, but because they’re nutrient-dense, they’re better for your body than lower-calorie options.
Here are some options to choose from: (This is by no means an exhaustive list!)
- legumes like beans, lentils, and peas
- egg whites
- lean meats and skinless poultry
- Greek yogurt
- cottage cheese
- sweet potato
- oils: olive, coconut, and safflower
Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to losing weight. What will work for you may not work for others. It all depends on factors like—but not limited to—your fitness level and your preferred diet.
For instance, if you’re aiming for a low-carb approach, be more selective with the carbohydrates you include in your meal plan, meaning you can also add more fatty foods, despite their high-caloric value.
Picking a Meal Plan Method that Fits Your Lifestyle
A weight loss meal plan is a tool we use to achieve our weight loss goals. You can lose weight without a meal plan, but you’ll be considerably more successful with one if, and only if, the meal plan method you choose fits with your lifestyle.
To reap the full benefits of a meal plan, choose one that works with your cravings, activity level, and schedule. In other words, convenience is key. Below are a few ways to approach meal planning. Ultimately, you should customize your meal plan based on the schedules and meals that work best for you.
A few meal plan methods to consider
- Schedule-based meal planning: Identify your busiest days and times, plan to batch cook your meals for when you won’t be home, and find healthy delivery options to order in.
- Diet-based meal planning: Define meals based on your low-calorie, ketogenic, or plant-based whole foods diet, to name a few.
- Budget-based meal planning: Set a maximum weekly budget and work around that. You’ll be amazed at how much variety there still is in your meal plan!
Snacks: An Important Part of Your Weight loss Plan
Gone are the days of five-course meals—ain’t nobody got time for that! Today, most of us are grazers and snackers, and, for convenience’s sake, you should include snack ideas in your weight loss meal plan. Here are some easy ideas:
- an entire piece of fruit (e.g., grapefruit, apple, banana)
- rice cake or cracker, with avocado and tomato
- a handful of nuts (pistachios, almonds)
- popcorn with nutritional yeast
- a quick smoothie
- carrot sticks and hummus
- Greek yogurt and honey
How to speed up your meal preparation time?
A weight-loss meal plan doesn’t have to take over your life and cut into precious weekend time. Here are some tips for speeding up your meal prep.
- Batch cook and freeze meals and sauces for future consumption.
- Eat your leftovers.
- Include raw vegetables that cook quickly.
- Include the same meal 2–3x per week. (New recipes take time.)
- Have a list of quick and easy meals ready, just in case.
- Drink meal replacement shakes.
- Buy pre-chopped veggies or cut them yourself and store them in the freezer.
- Order in from diet-based meal planning businesses.
Use a meal planning app – There’s an app for everything, and that includes meal planning. If you don’t feel like creating your own meal planning system to keep track of your daily progress, recipes, meals, schedules, or shopping list, there are numerous free and paid apps to help you. Some will even integrate with other accessories like the FitBit.