By Vincenza Garcia, RD, CDN
If you’re thinking about losing a few pounds, there are a few ingredients you need to ensure your success. First, you should have a sensible eating plan that is in line with your goals. Second, you should structure a reasonable exercise routine that incorporates both aerobic activity and strength training to ensure you receive maximum benefit from your efforts. The final, and most important, key to getting lean is to learn how to plan your meals for weight loss. Here are some tips on how to do so:
- Let’s face it, if you don’t have a meal plan, you’re likely to grab anything when hunger strikes and that will keep you from reaching your weight loss goals. Preparation is the key to planning your meals for weight loss and if you know what to take with you when you walk out the door every day, you are much more likely to stick to your weight loss plan. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Purchase containers for your water. You must drink water in order to hydrate yourself each day and increasing water consumption will help you reach your weight loss goals. Aim for 64 ounces or more of very low calorie fluids such as water, diet Snapple, Crystal light or other sugar-free beverage. This does not include coffee or Protein shakes.
- Buy a lunch box or cooler large enough for all the meals you will be eating away from home. Any sensible eating plan will call for a minimum of 3 meals and 2 snacks per day. This means you will be eating both snacks and your lunch away from home. Depending on your job, you may also need to plan for breakfast as well. Buy a large lunch box or small cooler that will hold your prepared meals. Don’t worry about what others think when you pack in that much food to the office every day, now is the time to be concerned with reaching your fitness goals.
- Toss pre-washed and pre-cut veggies and fruits in your shopping cart. We all know that pre-washed and pre-cut vegetables are more expensive than buying in bulk. But if you buy vegetables in bulk and they rot in the crisper while you nosh on potato chips or candy, did you really save any money or get closer to your weight loss goals? Go ahead and buy those bagged veggies and toss them in your cooler for an easy way to get in your vegetables and fruits!
- Choose foods that are protein-packed! Items like yogurt, cottage cheese, and a protein shake are quick, easy options for on-the-go but still provide enough nutrition to satisfy your hunger.
- Plan ahead for your week. Look at your schedule and figure out which days might be challenging and will require you to strategize. If you can’t plan ahead for your week, try to sit down each night and figure out your meals for the following day. Keeping a food journal might be helpful as well for planning. Base your shopping list off of your meal plan.
- Buy only those vegetables and fruits you actually like and will eat on a regular basis. It may sound silly, but for some reason when people try to lose weight they will buy foods they would never touch under normal circumstances. Don’t waste money buying things you won’t enjoy eating.
- Cook in bulk so you aren’t scrambling to come up with decent meal ideas during the week. If you happen to be grilling or baking chicken, fish, or other meats, grill extra for other meals. The same rule applies to vegetables and fruits. Make extra so you can easily put together different nutritious meals that stay within your eating plan.
The main goal is to not let yourself be caught without nutritious food on hand. This one essential key will go a long way in helping you stay with your eating plan. The more prepared you are when you leave home each day, the less likely you are to stray from your diet and raid the vending machines.Learning how to plan your meals for weight loss isn’t difficult, but it does require forethought and preparation.