A combination of healthy eating and exercise will get you to your goal weight, but you’ll be more successful if you have a strategic daily meal plan. The plan should begin with a list of nutritious meals and snacks. Add to this an increase in water consumption, some helpful portion guidance and more protein on your plate and you’ll be on your way to slimming down before you even hit the gym.
A daily meal plan for weight loss begins with a healthy breakfast providing all of the major macronutrients: protein, carbohydrate and fat. Here is an example of a balanced breakfast: one whole-grain English muffin topped with an egg and Swiss cheese with a side of red grapes. Eating a balanced breakfast means you’ll eat less throughout the day, and eating less means losing more. However, avoid sugar-loaded breakfast cereals as they tend to cause spikes in blood glucose levels and lead you to eat more as the day progresses.
Drinking more water is an integral part of your daily meal plan if you want to lose weight. A study published in the Feb. 18, 2010 issue of the journal “Obesity” found that drinking 16 ounces of water before each meal increased weight loss in middle-aged and older adults. To make it easier, buy a fun, portable water bottle that you’ll enjoy drinking from and that will allow you to easily tally the number of ounces consumed.
Don’t forget to include healthy snacks in your plan. They’ll keep your metabolism humming and avoid dips in blood sugar. Plan healthy snacks around 100 to 200 calories each with a balance of nutrients. Some healthy options include sliced apples with natural peanut butter, popped corn sprinkled with parmesan, or carrot sticks and a glass of skim milk. Watch out for the “100-calorie” prepackaged snacks. Although they don’t contain many calories, what they do have are often empty calories from refined flour and sugar. This won’t tide you over until the next meal the way a handful of nuts and a piece of fresh fruit will.
Accurate Portion Sizes
A study conducted by researchers from Rutgers University and published in the Sep. 2006 issue of the “Journal of the American Dietetic Association” found that Americans’ ability to judge appropriate portion sizes has declined in the past two decades, resulting in burgeoning plates and waistlines. To get a handle on your portion sizes, measure everything you put on your plate. Fruit and vegetables are the exception because they contain so few calories. The difference between one and two tablespoons of peanut butter on your sandwich is around 100 calories. It may sound inconsequential, but trimming just 100 calories a day adds up to 10 pounds of body fat lost over the course of a year.
The best meal plan for weight loss provides a balance of calories from protein, fat and carbohydrates. For the fastest weight loss, ensure 30 percent of your daily calories come from protein. A study published in the July 2005 issue of the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” found that this type of high-protein diet reduces appetite and yields greater weight loss. Protein contains 4 calories per gram. Thus, if you consume an 1,800 calorie diet, you would need 135 grams of protein per day for it to equal 30 percent of your caloric intake.
About this Author
Pamela Ellgen is an award-winning journalist and certified personal trainer with the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She graduated with a B.A. from Washington State University where she studied writing. Ellgen wrote for the Portland, Ore.-based newspaper, “The Asian Reporter,” for 10 years.