People who want to lose weight always say the same thing: “I just don’t know what to eat”. Ironically, then after I give some suggestions, they are often shocked – or they are under the assumption they are eating “healthy” and believe healthy eating alone should be enough. Well, it’s not. There is a formula to weight loss and I will be sharing it with you today. It’s not my formula. It’s simply a formula scientists, doctors, nutritionist and fitness professionals use that is proven to work for the majority of people. Today, I want to focus on 3 aspects of the perfect meal plan for weight loss.
1. The right portions
When a brand new dieter looks at the portion size of the average low-calorie meal, they quickly get discouraged. The meals appear SO small. However, it’s not that these meals are so small, it’s that mainstream meals have gradually gotten bigger over the years. Making a sandwich for lunch used to be acceptable, now that sandwich has to come with chips, potato salad or cole slaw and a soda, packing on 300-500 more calories just from the extras.
Think about the traditional kid’s sandwich. While a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white bread is only 375 calories, once you add a small 1oz package of Doritos and a 16oz Coke, you now have a whopping 702 calorie meal. If you add extras to every meal, your calories easily double – and that’s not even including condiments, drink refills and desserts.
Nowadays, people eat sodas and desserts on a daily basis. When I was a kid, we didn’t have coke in our house. That was a treat. So was ice cream.
Our family got ice cream once a week. We all loaded up in the car and drove to Dairy Queen and I would get 1 small ice cream cone. My mom used to tease me about being lucky because my grandfather let me get my cone dipped with chocolate, but he never let her get it dipped when she was small. Maybe it was because she battled her weight as a kid – or maybe it’s just because that’s what grandparents do (they spoil their grandkids!!).
The key point here is that treats were a weekly thing, not a daily habit, and meals, drinks and snack portions were much smaller. Look at just how much “normal” portions have changed since 1950.
CLICK HERE to read my blog “Eat Like It’s 1950”
2. The Right Calories.
The next important aspect to the perfect meal is learning the right amount of calories to eat in one sitting. This information isn’t based on my personal opinion. I’m simply going to just point you to the pros. Brand name diet companies pay big bucks for the best physicians, dietitians and weight loss professionals to help them create meals that would fit most people’s diet plan for weight loss.
If you look at every one of these companies, NutriSystem, Weight Watchers, Atkins, Healthy Choice, Lean Cuisines and even specialty brands like Jimmy Dean’s D’Lights meals, they all have one thing in common. Most of their meals average between 250 and 350 calories and are based on a 1200-1400 calorie diet.
Even Dr. Oz has a 1200 Calorie Total Choice Diet Plan also backed by Dr. Oz, Dr. Michael Roizen and nutritionist Kristin Kirkpatrick. The Mayo Clinic even has their own 1200-calorie Mayo Clinic Diet. You can pretty much search every diet from every health care professional, and you will find the same caloric restrictions – which should tell you something. It works!
Even if you didn’t know anything about how many calories you should eat a day, but you ate pre-packaged meals, this would put you at an average of 900 calories a day for just 3 meals a day. Now, let’s talk about snacks. Most pre-packaged snacks all range from 100-150 calories. This should also tell you something. A low-calorie snack should be under 150 calories. So, again, let’s pretend you are only eating pre-packaged foods, and you added 3 snacks a day to go with those meals (a snack between every meal to keep your metabolism revved and energy up), you would end each day eating around 1200 calories.
So if you are one of those people who think eating 1200 calories a day is ridiculous or unrealistic, don’t take it from me. This is the industry standard for weight loss.
Let’s look at how a 1200-calorie day could look like.
300 calorie breakfast
100 calorie snack
300 calorie lunch
100 calorie snack
300 calorie dinner
100 calorie snack
1200 calorie diet
My meal plan looks more like this:
I am always sharing some of my own recipes and store-bough finds that fit a 1200 calorie diet, like this 315 calorie summer salad.
cardio on an empty stomach
200 calorie late breakfast
300 calorie lunch
150 calorie protein shake
400 calorie dinner
150 calorie snacks
1200 calorie diet
The Mayo Clinic Diet looks a little different.
Their sample diet below (posted on their site) allows for more calories for meals with fewer snacks. This could be a 200 calorie breakfast, 400 calorie lunch, 500 calorie dinner and a 100 calorie snack. They didn’t list calories next to their items, but it can give you an idea of how they structured a meal plan for a day.
Breakfast. A fruit yogurt parfait (1 cup fat-free yogurt mixed with 1 serving fruit).
Lunch. 1 serving tuna and pasta salad (combine 1 can water-packed tuna, 4 cups cooked shell pasta, 2 cups diced carrots and zucchini, and 4 tablespoons low-calorie mayonnaise — serves 4); 1 small orange.
Dinner. One-third of a 12-inch crust cheese pizza; green salad (2 cups lettuce with 1/2 cup sliced tomatoes, red onions and mushrooms); 2 tablespoons fat-free salad dressing.
Snack. 1 small apple
Also totaling 1200 calories
3. The Right Substrates
Now that you have an idea of correct portions and calories, you need to see where those calories are coming from. Meals rich in healthy fats and protein will stay with you longer, as well as help support your fitness lifestyle. One of my favorite brands, who understand the need for good fats and healthy meats is Atkins. If you browse their foods, every meal seems to have about 20-30gms of protein per meal. This is exactly what I try to shoot for when creating my own meals.
If you don’t cook, and you shop pre-packaged foods, then first look for the right calories, then look at protein. If you get a meal that is high in protein, that also fits your caloric restrictions, then everything else will likely fall right into place.
Personalize Your Temporary Diet Plan
Remember, dieting (or managing calories) is temporary. You don’t have to count calories and restrict foods forever. It’s just like being frugal when trying to save money. It’s a season. Once you reach your goal weight, you can boost calories to match you caloric output to maintain your new weight.
For instance, when I’m needing to lose weight, I eat 1200-1400 calories a day. When I’m in maintenance mode, I average 2000-2200 calories a day. Personally, I like to eat 1200-1400 calories a day during the week and take off on the weekends so I can totally splurge. This helps me manage my weight and still have fun too so I never feel really deprived – all while staying accountable.
Lastly, a 1200-1400 calorie diet isn’t for everyone. The calories you need would depend on your age, lean mass (muscle), weight, age and activity. An athlete requires a lot more calories and carbohydrates than the average overweight office worker who sits at a desk all day. However, the 1200-1400 meal plan has been selected by most brands because it fits most average overweight individual’s needs, which sadly is also normally inactive. So, if you can’t afford a nutritionist, you can follow the nutritionists who help these industry leaders create the best basic guidelines for the general public.
Take the next step.
Download the LoseIt app or go to LoseIt.com and let them give you some free diet assistance. After inputing your information, LoseIt will give you your caloric budget and help you track your calories for the ultimate weight loss results. You can easily scan prepackaged foods or look up your own fresh foods. Create recipes, share recipes and track your progress along the way. It’s the single best tool I could ever recommend to help people on their weight loss journey. Good luck!