Planning to Lose: Weight Loss Meal Planning

Dr. Christopher McGowan
December 21, 2021

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail” is a saying that can certainly be applied to losing weight. It is one thing to hope and wish that the pounds will melt away on their own, but weight loss takes planning and intentionality. 

Exercising and staying active is important, but what you eat, and how much you eat, is going to have the greatest impact on how successful you will be at finding and sticking to a healthy weight. It helps to start by cutting foods with added sugar or simple carbs, but if you are going to get serious about losing weight, you will have to get serious about planning to succeed.

What are Some Tips for Meal Planning for Weight Loss?

To succeed in a diet plan, many people find that a multi-day meal plan is the best way to make good food choices. This can mean shopping in bulk and doing meal prep ahead, cooking for several days and packaging meals in your refrigerator for better portion control, and replacing foods with low nutrition density with more nutritious foods like veggies, fruits, and lean protein. You also need to plan for easy meal prep to ensure you actually stick to the healthy meal plan you have worked hard to prepare. Lastly, ensuring there is enough variety in your meal plan will help keep you on track instead of getting bored or tired of the food you have planned out.

Planning individual meals in a diet is about drilling down to the details to make sure you are keeping your caloric intake in check while getting the macronutrients you need. This means paying attention to the nutrition density of your diet, and making sure you are packing in the vital healthy fats, lean proteins, and complex carbs your body needs to stay healthy. 

One of the most important tips for successful meal planning is knowing what should and shouldn’t be a part of a healthy meal. A good rule of thumb is to picture your entire diet the way you would one plate of food. What you put on that plate, and what you put on your grocery list, should match well with a few simple rules. 

Concentration on non-starchy veggies as the foundation of your diet will help get things started in the right direction. Filling half your imaginary plate with these vegetables will help eliminate many of the mistakes we make in planning out a diet. Filling half the remaining plate with high-protein foods like lean meat, fish, or tofu will help build on this foundation. Completing the job by filling the remaining space on your plate with whole grains, fruits, nuts, and a few starchy vegetables will fill out your diet plan with the nutrients you need. This sort of planning leaves little room for the nutritionally poor but high-calorie foods we choose too often. 

Snacking as Part of a Healthy Meal Plan

Snacking is one area where many meal plans fall apart. You need to be very thorough to keep to a successful diet plan. If your body is not used to a caloric deficit and you are not planning out snacking, there is potential that you will binge on unhealthy foods between your carefully planned meals. 

If you know that snacking is part of your normal routine, preparing healthy snacks ahead of time can make all the difference. Though not as crave-worthy as a bag of potato chips, a small pre-packaged serving of hummus with slices of bell peppers can provide a low-calorie snack packed with healthy chickpeas rather than high-calorie oils and unhealthy fats found in traditional snack food. Even apple slices and peanut butter is a better option than most foods from the snack aisle.

The Details of a Healthy Meal Plan

Sometimes the changes you make in your low-calorie diet plan may seem small, but they can have profound consequences on your overall progress in losing weight. A great example is swapping out simple carbs for complex carbohydrates. 

Picking whole grain bread instead of refined white versions, eating brown rice instead of refined white rice, or choosing sweet potatoes instead of white or gold potatoes may not seem like a big change, but the complex carbs in sweet potatoes will help your body manage blood sugar levels after you eat, as well as provide fuel for longer periods of exercise that can help sustain weight loss. 

The devil really is in the details when it comes to planning a nutritionally dense diet. Small changes can help you ensure that you are getting the vitamins and minerals you need while keeping the number of calories you consume as low as possible. Foods that can make the difference in upping the nutrition density of your diet plan include:

  • lentils
  • avocados
  • blueberries
  • Greek yogurt
  • quinoa

When Should You Plan Your Meals?

When you plan your meals is an individual decision that will have a lot to do with how you fit meal prep into your life. Some people prefer to do the planning and preparation on the weekends to carry them through the coming days. Others find that planning and preparing over longer periods of time will not only help them plan their meals, but will also help make shopping for food easier. 

Knowing ahead of time what you are going to buy helps keep unhealthy but delicious items from sneaking into your shopping cart that weren’t on the shopping list. Planning exactly how much you are going to eat at every meal for the next several days can help you ensure that you have enough to eat, but that you are not buying extra food that could tempt you to break your diet by accidentally overeating

It Takes More than A Meal Plan to Lose Weight

Planning out what you eat is a critical step many people need to take to lose weight. Maintaining a caloric deficit takes discipline, and nearly all of us in Western society have access to more food than we can burn off in a given day. 

One thing you will need to plan around are specific health conditions you may be living with. If you are overweight or even obese, there is a good chance you may have other conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, or heart disease that may restrict the sorts of foods you can eat. If this is the case, you may need to work with a registered dietitian to set up a healthy eating plan that fits your specific needs and weight loss goals. This is also true if you start workouts you are unfamiliar with, which could change your caloric consumption. 

Healthy weight loss takes work and discipline, and though it may seem hard at first, many people find that a weight loss meal plan that allows you to eat fewer calories overall can still allow for treats like tasty tacos now and again, even if you are trading out the carnitas for some lean chicken breast meat instead. 

No matter what your weight loss program, lowering the number of calories you consume is only part of the plan. Exercising regularly and managing other parts of your overall health are all required if you are going to lose weight, and keep it off, in a healthy manner. For some people, it takes help to get started off on the right foot. 

Getting help with weight loss can mean options like the medical assisted nutrition program at True You Weight Loss. Working with a staff of dietitians, nutritionists and other specialists, you will have the resources you need to find freedom from excess body weight. This is a great option for people who are looking to lose weight, but may not yet be good candidates for procedures such as gastric balloons or an endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty (ESG). 

If you are looking to make the most of your diet plan, or if you just have questions about what options are available in losing weight, request a consultation with True You Weight Loss today.

Dr. Christopher McGowan
Dr. Christopher McGowan

Dr. Christopher McGowan, MD, a leader in endobariatrics, specializes in non-surgical obesity treatments and is triple-board-certified in Internal Medicine, Gastroenterology, and Obesity Medicine. Renowned for pioneering endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty (ESG) with over 2,000 procedures, his global influence and research contributions define him as a top expert.

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