I credit planning meals out as the number one reason I’m able to lose weight rather easily. Whenever I stop doing it is when I tend to start gaining. I have a bad habit of not remembering to eat (or eaten often enough) coupled with making poor choices when I do eat. This is a recipe for disaster and – for me at least – rapid weight gain.
Why Meal Planning Works
- It takes the guesswork out of figuring out what you should be eating and when. This can reduce the chances that you’ll veer off course.
- It actually saves you time in both shopping for food and in food preparation.
- It can save you money by minimizing restaurant food consumption and taking advantage of sales and foods in season.
- You can be ready for healthy meals you actually enjoy.
- If you have special events coming up, it can help you be better prepared by balancing out your caloric intake the rest of the week.
I probably spend about 60 minutes or so planning out a week of food and a shopping list. I’ll take my laptop in the kitchen and have the local sales papers in hands. I’ll look at what I have on hand – paying particular attention to things that should be eaten sooner rather than later.
When I get the groceries in, then I’ll prepare most of the food I can for the week right then. It’s a lot easier (especially if you use a food processor or other tools) to prepare most of your meals for the week at one time. In some cases, I’ll prepare enough of something so that I have some leftovers to freeze to use another week. Things like soup, chili, stews, etc can freeze and defrost rather nicely.
Here’s a breakdown of what I’ll have in a typical week:
My first meal is always something that contains eggs. I made a great combo of eggs, egg whites, broccoli, turkey bacon and onion this week. You can see a picture here. That dish is only 125 calories and is very filling. I’ll have a half a whole grain tortilla with it and some salsa on top or something similar. Depending on the time I get up and how hungry I am, I may add either a banana or berries. One day a week, I’ll have a poached egg with some steel cut oatmeal.
My second meal is always some fruit and either regular yogurt or Greek yogurt with a bit of honey. Sometimes I’ll replace the yogurt with low-fat cottage cheese. For fruit, I will have fresh pineapple, berries or maybe kiwi.
It’s typically leftovers from dinner the night before. If I don’t have leftovers (either due to lack of quantity or that it wouldn’t reheat), I’ll have a turkey sandwich on a slice of prebiotic bread. I always try to keep some sliced turkey on hand. I’ll load a sandwich up with sprouts and tomato and have a dash of Dijon mustard. A sandwich will be one slice of bread.
I rotate between homemade hummus and veggies or whole wheat pita and a homemade pizza. For the pizza, I’ll take either a whole wheat bagel or a whole wheat pita, top with some tomato sauce, some Italian seasoning, 30 grams/1 ounce of low-fat mozzarella cheese, some bell pepper chopped (I’ll nuke it for 15-20 secs before). I turn the broiler on while preparing it and then put it in the oven for 5 minutes.
This week’s dinners are homemade veggie & turkey meatball soup, chicken stir fry, chili, Tilapia (fish) with mashed cauliflower, grilled chicken breasts and whole wheat couscous, salmon with 5 grain wild rice, and baked chicken in a tomato and mushroom sauce.
Once a week, I’ll have a special treat. For example, last week, it was a blueberry and cheese danish (220 calories so still not hideous). The other days, it will vary. It might be a low-calorie hot chocolate, a sugar-free pudding or some other treat that is around 50-75 calories. It’s really difficult for me to even get 6 meals in during a typical day so half the time I skip it entirely.
On top of the above, I have coffee throughout the day. I have coffee with 1% milk. A cup has around 30 calories and I have anywhere from 2 to 5 cups.
Recently, I’ve been having one daily bottle of Aquafina’s Plus+ Vitamins 10 calories. These are delicious and full of real vitamins.
With my second and fifth meals, I have a glass of Pellegrino with a bit of lemon juice added.
I also will have a couple extra servings of vegetables with meals throughout the day.
Following the above, I am typically shooting for between 1500 and 1800 calories a day. I end up actually having between 750 and 1800, averaging around 1460 over the course of a week. I’m trying to get that up to at least the 1500 mark. I find weekends hard since I sleep more and am just not as hungry. I would NOT recommend to anyone to go below 1200 calories for women or 1400 for men per day.
I’ll be sharing some recipes for some low-calorie meals I’ve created soon.