Ugh. I hate when people say this. Most, no ALL, dietitians do. I’m just being honest. We educate others HOW to eat, but we want you to think for yourselves beyond that. The idea is to take responsibility and control over your situation. Besides, we don’t know your budget, cooking abilities, lifestyle, food likes, social support, etc. There are A LOT of factors when it comes to developing a meal plan. So it’s not as simple as “just tell me what to eat and I’ll do it!” It’s NEVER that simple, which is why we loathe that dire request.
So, I’m going to give you some steps to do this. Because I KNOW you can. I have confidence.
Step #1. Determine your calorie needs.
Understand that this is not an exact science. If you have ever dieted before you know what I mean. In a perfect world, you would subtract 500 calories from your calculated needs and lose one pound per week, every week, right on schedule. Why? Because 3500 calories = one pound of fat, right? Wrong. That is a very old school way of thinking. The body is designed to “protect” us from starving to death. Which means, our metabolism will adjust itself when calorie intake is cut, especially when you add exercise into the mix. Oftentimes, I have seen my clients lose weight successfully by INCREASING their calories. Think of it as “adding fuel to the furnace.” But also accept that there are some weeks, or even months, where your body is just going to take a break from losing weight. Especially if you have already lost a significant (5-10%) of weight. Your body has to “reset” itself to that lower weight before you can lose anymore. Like I said, our bodies are designed to “protect” themselves against starvation. Fortunately, we don’t live in a culture where famine is common. Unfortunately, our bodies did not change with the times.
Step #2. Plan for three high protein, meals around the same time every day (within a two hour time frame is okay, ditch perfection.)
It is not considered a “meal” if it falls below 300 calories, however. This means you can’t have a 170 calorie protein shake and call that breakfast. Add a piece of fruit and a cheese stick too. Otherwise, you are setting yourself up for a binge later on because you will be starving by mid-morning.
Step #3. Plan snacks.
Key word: PLAN. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Snacks need to be intentional, otherwise they turn into cookies, chips, crackers, and other junk food items that leave you feeling tired and looking for more. How do you know when to have a snack and when to wait for the next meal? When you have more than 3-5 hours between them. You know your threshold. The point of no return….when you could eat your own arm off and you stuff yourself silly because you went too long without eating. Don’t let that happen. If you have lunch at Noon, and dinner isn’t going to be until 7pm, plan a high protein snack around 3 or 4pm.
Step #4. Drink plenty of water.
We need half of our body weight in ounces of water. As in, a 150 pound person needs 75 ounces of water daily. Preferably you are adding something cleansing to the body like fresh lemon or lemon essential oil. My personal favorite is 1 drop of lime essential oil per 8 ounces of water. Water helps ward of feelings of hunger (our body often confuses dehydration and hunger), fatigue, and even sweet cravings. So make sure you stay on top of that and avoid soda, sweet tea, high calorie coffee sweeteners, and other wasteful calories that otherwise don’t serve you.
Step #5. Incorporate fresh fruits and/or vegetables at every meal and every snack, if possible.
Most of us just don’t do this. But it’s important. It’s a known fact that fresh fruits and vegetables are linked to less incidences of cancer, heart disease, and can help aid weight loss. They are full of antioxidants and phytochemicals. These are just fancy terms for the healthy components of plants that fight disease in our bodies and give plants their color. There is a lot to be studied and a lot we still don’t know about phytochemicals, but we do know it’s best to get them from a variety of fresh (frozen is great too) plant-based foods. This means don’t live on broccoli and bananas. Expand your horizons. Just because you didn’t like kale as a child, doesn’t mean your taste buds haven’t developed into more “mature” tastes as an adult. You might surprise yourself! Be adventurous! I triple dog dare you!
Step #6. Don’t be afraid of meatless meals.
In fact, make it a goal to have three meatless meals a week if you can. Beans, lentils, even soy-based products like tofu are great choices to get your protein in. Canned beans are just as healthy as dried beans. And super easy. They are available in “no salt added” varieties now and they don’t lose their fiber and protein content in the canning process. You can choose dried, but I don’t know a lot of people who have time for overnight soaking these days. Frozen is also a great option for the ones available (like black eyed peas and edamame) and do taste much better. Think bean chilis, bean burritos, tofu stir-fries, and breakfast for dinner (scrambled eggs, anyone?) Word of caution: season your beans with herbs, spices, liquid smoke, olive oil, and high quality essential oils (contact me if interested in learning about the brand I use). Forget the bacon grease, fat back, and ham hocks…you’re ruining the point of a heart-healthy meatless meal!
Easy, protein options:
Eggs (can be hard-boiled in advance, but cooked any way is great. I particularly love frying in avocado oil. Remember olive oil breaks down and loses it’s health properties when cooked, so save that one for flavoring cold salads), cheese sticks, greek yogurt, nitrite/nitrate free deli meat, unsalted nuts/seeds, plain greek yogurt “dip” seasoned with 1 teaspoon powdered ranch and all the veggies you want, “deviled” eggs filled with hummus, hummus and veggies (very easy to make your own, click picture for recipe), Fair Life ultra pasteurized milk, soy milk (almond does not have any protein), canned tuna/chicken, canned sardines, and Quest protein bars.
I hope this helps! I would love to see what you come up with in the comments. Let me know! And happy planning.
Don’t miss another blog post. Click here to subscribe!