What are your plans for lunch today? How about dinner? Are you a planner when it comes to your meals and snacks or do you just wing it as the day goes on?
Planning your meals and snacks is one of the most important things you can do to eat more healthfully and better manage your weight.
No – this doesn’t mean you have to plan every meal and snack you consume each week but it is helpful to give it some forethought.
I hope these tips make this easier for you.
1 – Eat and repeat
Though they say variety is the spice of life, when it comes to meal planning, repeating your tried and true healthy meals and snacks can keep you on the healthy weight loss track.
A good strategy for healthful eating is to identify a repertoire of calorie-controlled breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack ideas that you enjoy, can quickly assemble and then repeat them week to week.
This simplifies everything – before you know it you can go on autopilot to do grocery shopping and quickly assemble your meals and snacks.
This strategy works well when ordering off a menu also. Take time to look at take-out menus of restaurants you frequent and circle some healthier options that you enjoy and find satisfying. The same goes for checking out the nutrition facts information posted online for fast food restaurants.
The goal is to have your tried and true, dependable meals and snacks that you know are good choices – but always leave some room for novelty and experimentation by trying new recipes. Isn’t that what enjoying life is all about?
2 – Visualize instead of measuring
Though attempts to lose weight may have you thinking about measuring cups and containers to portion out your serving sizes, there is another way.
In my book, Six Factors to Fit: Weight Loss that Works for You!, we discuss visualizing a low calorie-dense plate where ¼ of the plate is filled with whole grains or starchy vegetables, ¼ is filled with lean protein and ½ your plate is filled with colorful nonstarchy vegetables and fruits.
This is in contrast to the typical American plate that is big on protein (meat) and starchy carbohydrates (white pasta, white bread) and not so big on low calorie dense foods such as vegetables, fruits, beans and whole grains.
Re-proportioning your plate is a way to boost health and satisfy your hunger with less calories. It can also be done when eating in a restaurant, at your desk at work or in your own kitchen.
Being able to visualize a low calorie-dense plate is all that’s required.
3 – Ease into healthier eating
You see extreme diet makeover shows that may have you thinking extreme diet changes are needed to achieve a healthier weight and body. But the truth is that quick weight loss commonly leads to quick weight regain.
Instead – a strategy that works well for my patients and can work well for you too is to nudge healthier eating by making small changes in your diet.
Depending on your current diet, this may involve adding vegetables or fruits to each meal and snack, replacing sugary beverages with non-caloric alternatives or replacing a higher calorie, lower fiber cereal with a lower calorie, higher fiber one.
As you ease yourself into healthier eating, the calories saved from making small changes do add up to help you lose weight.
And because you are tweaking your current meals and snacks (foods you already enjoy), this healthier way of eating becomes easier to sustain.
Need More Meal Planning Help?
For meal planning examples with healthy meal and snack ideas that can fit your busy life, I encourage you to check out Six Factors to Fit: Weight Loss that Works for You!, published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
We were excited to have nutrition expert and celebrity diet consultant for People magazine, Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN, create the book’s meal and snack ideas.
Dawn is an expert at helping people enjoy healthy eating and supercharge their health.
Here’s to enjoying your health!
Robert Kushner, MD