Let’s talk about how to plan your meals for weight loss. And no, I’m not going to get too strict here and tell you 1 protein, 1 carb, 3 veggies on your plate or anything like that. I like a much more casual approach.
The health & fitness industry loves to overcomplicate things, but weight loss is actually very simple: just burn more calories than you eat/drink.
You do not have to track your calories to lose weight and there are no good or bad foods.
If you want to track macros then go for it, I’ve done it in the past and it’s effective. But, I love the freedom that comes with not weighing and logging everything I eat into MyFitnessPal.
I have been intuitive eating for a couple years now and have still managed to hit my goals.
So this post is going to go over what to prioritize, as well as, tips for preparing meals and snacks to have on hand to set you up for success. Because, while there are no good or bad foods, there are definitely less filling and more filling ones.
When trying to lose weight you want to opt for filling foods so that you never are tempted to binge on less filling ones.
How to plan your meals for weight loss:
Eat protein at every meal and snack.
If you ever tracked your food intake, you should be used to this. This is the key.
Protein has so many benefits, not only does it take slightly more energy to digest protein than carbs or fats, but it also keeps you fuller longer. In fact there have been several studies showing that those who eat more protein tend to consume fewer calories throughout the day because of that full feeling.
This is the secret weapon to achieving that calorie deficit without tracking.
Imagine being hungry and grabbing a handful of goldfish. You’re most likely going to be hungry again a couple minutes later. Several handfuls later and you’re still ravenous, so you finally make yourself a meal. Instead make that meal first or grab an easy, protein-packed snack and avoid foods that don’t fuel you.
Food is fuel. Those handfuls of goldfish provided very little fuel. They were basically just empty calories. Now, if you had a huge craving for goldfish, then those handfuls did serve a purpose because food should also be enjoyable. BUT usually when we’re really hungry we reach for anything fast so it’s not really about a craving you can’t shake.
Veggies can add a lot of volume to a meal but are usually very low in calories. This meals you can get away with eating the same volume of food, but have less calories overall to contribute to that calorie deficit for your weight loss goals.
One of my FAVORITE ways to add bulk to a meal is to add a bunch of cauliflower rice to any bowl style meal. Think burrito bowls, Tikka Masala, stir fry, etc. I typically will do have regular rice and half cauliflower rice that way I have less calories, but the same amount of food.
I used to do this all the time when we would order Indian take out. I would completely sub out the rice with cauliflower rice that I had a home. We buy ours from the frozen section of Costco, just heat it in the microwave & it’s ready to go.
Plan to not have a plan.
Weird right? The biggest time we consume more calories than we need is when we’re hungry and have no plan. Make sure you have some quick meals at the ready for when you have nothing to eat. These are your fall back meals.
Mine are a chocolate peanut butter protein shake, eggs & toast, beef jerky, and protein bars.
Protein supplements are not my favorite thing to eat hardly ever. Even the best tasting ones still taste like a protein supplement, but they are super convenient and that’s the point.
When I’m in a pinch I make a shake or grab a bar to satisfy that initial hunger and then make a better plan for my next meal. This way I never rush and eat empty calories that don’t (1) fuel me or (2) satisfy a craving.
Make a list.
Time to get into the actually planning section. I like to make a list of every protein source I like to eat, THEN I list every veggie I (or the kids) am willing to eat. I form our meals around this list.
Next list all the quick foods you like but ONLY if they are high protein. These will be your fall backs. No more stocking up on snacks that don’t fuel you.
The fact is, you are less likely to overeat if you prioritize protein & veggies. I did not touch on carbs or fats in this post; they are not off limits. They are great for balancing out a meal but reaching for an all carb or all fat meal will never be as filling as one with protein unless you do a way larger portion which means more calories.