Meal Planning for weight loss is a topic that was on my mind for a long time. We all meal plan, some plan physically on pen and a paper and some do it intuitively with the stuff available in the pantry, let us take a deeper look at meal planning for weight loss. I have lost 40 lbs and I can personally tell you if you do not go for meal planning, there are many instances that we just eat whatever is available ( that includes cheerios, Doritos and the likes 😊)
What is meal planning?
Meal Planning is a process in which you decide your meals ahead.
It can be one day ahead, two days ahead, or a week ahead. In tropical countries like India, we can not store prepared food for a long time but yes we can do meal planning for the whole week. Usually, meal planning is done on a weekend preferably on Sunday when everybody is at home.
Here is a simple way to go about it:
- Planning your meals on a piece of paper ( or a diary)
- Making a list of all the ingredients needed for the meal plan
- Shopping for the meal plan
- Making the ingredients ready for meal preparation
- Spend one day or 1/2 hour every day to make your meals ready.
What Is The Importance Of Meal Planning for weight loss?
To be honest, this is not my first weight loss cycle, I have been putting on and losing much weight in the past. But this time around, I was serious about losing weight and sustaining it. Every day I had decided to make a difference and change my habits.
I was always planning my meals, but now it included more vegetables, fruits, and more raw produce. It was not intuitive. For a regular intake of fruits and veggies, I had to plan for grocery and vegetable shopping. Here are some steps which make meal planning easier.
What Are The Principles Of Meal Planning?
We all understand what is needed for our family at what time. Those with kids can map their meals around kid's meal timings but there are some important factors to be considered while planning a meal or menu and those are
The first and foremost thing is whether the menu or meal plan is nutrient-dense or not?
In tropical countries like India, it is not possible to store a lot of perishable foodstuffs. It also results in the food ending up with fewer nutrients. So, plan your meals based on freshness.
The meals should be adequate and filling. More often than not we end up preparing far too little food or far too much to store.
Gauging the right quantity of food required by the family is an important aspect of meal planning.
It is always good to make food just adequate to eat for that particular time. It also minimizes the leftovers.
Balancing proteins, carbs, fats, and other nutrients is the key. If it is done appropriately, weight loss is easy.
Following traditional and seasonal food guidelines is a better method to create a meal plan effortlessly because our traditional food is ingrained in our nature and always promotes our well-being
You can also count macros if you are tracking your food diligently for fitness goals.
Most of our traditional food has a lot of variety. Planning meals accordingly will help to balance the nutrients along with variety. Seasonal changes should also be taken into consideration.
What Are The Steps In Meal Planning?
STEP 1 - Check The Availability
Check what you have in the pantry and in your refrigerator. List down things you want to include in your meal plan.
There is no specific step for starting the meal planning, but I feel checking the availability helps us stay on track and be specific about our needs and not waste food. It is also a money saver.
STEP 2 - Mapping your meal to your goals
Actual meal planning is the next step. Check your weekly goal for weight loss or fitness.
Usually one can lose around 1 pound in a week with proper food and workouts every day.
So, for now, let us keep that goal in front of us. For losing one pound a week, unless you are not doing Intermittent Fasting, you would need a small amount of food every two hours. That would include nuts, fruits, and a generous amount of vegetables.
STEP 3 - Focusing on Fresh Produce While Buying
Jot down your requirements and get it from the store. Stock it based on their expiry date or the perishable nature. I like to plan my meals based on the freshness of fruits and vegetables.
Fruits like Banana and Mango which have high perishability should be quickly consumed. Plan to eat them in the first two days of your meal plan.
If you are making any batters plan them in the first four days of your meal plan. Cruciferous vegetables like Broccoli, Cauliflower stay for a bit long time so plan to eat them in the last leg of the week. Spinach and all other green leafy vegetables should be consumed quickly in one or two days.
STEP 4 - Emphasize on mind mapping of meals
Put it all on paper when you have a mind map. Many ladies do it intuitively but people like me write it down and then make the meals as per the plan.
It is good to have the meal plan on hand to prevent eating junk food which may sabotage the weight loss.
STEP 5 - Learn through the process
Remember, though you have planned for your meals, there might be some other hindrances to follow the exact plan. Just accept it and be on track for the next meal or the next day.
Do not feel bad about not adhering to the plan, just stick to it as much as possible.
Contrary to popular belief, an article from the Center For Disease Control and Prevention states that "Research shows that people get full by the amount of food they eat, not the number of calories they take in. You can cut calories in your favorite foods by lowering the amount of fat and or increasing the amount of fiber-rich ingredients, such as vegetables or fruit." And it is actually true for weight loss.
If you have the key to meal planning with you, you have the key to eat fiber-rich low-calorie food for effective weight loss.
But here is something to keep in mind, it is always not so easy to identify what to eat when?
Which Food To Pick When While Creating a Meal Plan for Weight loss?
I have been eating fresh fruit every morning as suggested by Celebrity nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar. It has by far cured my IBS ( Irritable Bowel Syndrome). So eating a banana or any fruit should be the first thing as you get up. Or you can also have it as a pre-workout or post-workout meal.
Unless you are following an intermittent fasting diet, you can eat nuts as a snack at any time of the day. For those who are following low carb meals for weight loss, include nuts in your salads if possible. Having them as a snack is the best option.
The buck stops here :).
Precisenutrition.com quotes that
Dense carb foods are best consumed during and after exercise, for up to about 3 hours. And remember, carbohydrates have a protein sparing effect, so we require less dietary protein when carb intake is higher.
If you do not want to go in detail, just remember that you can eat vegetables, legumes, and grains at any time of the day. Limit your consumption of starchy carbs like quinoa, amaranth, rice and other grains to 3 hours post-exercise. ( As per Precisenutrition.com)
How To Estimate Calories?
Calorie estimate is the trickiest part for most weight watchers. Nowadays there are many fitness trackers that show the daily calorie burn but should you trust them? There is a Total Daily Energy Expenditure Calculator which you can use to start with. Later, the body knows how much to consume if you eat mindfully. The estimate from the TDEE ( Total Daily Energy Expenditure Calculator) should be considered as a pointer.
With the above information, check whether it is easy to take out the time from your schedule for meal planning.
Can you lose weight with a meal plan?
There is no specific answer to this question. But if you are diligent with your meal plan and exercise, you are sure to lose weight.
Thoughts about freezing food
In nontropical countries, it is ok to freeze food, but in tropical countries, it is better to make it and consume it quickly to keep its nutrition density intact.
Meal planning is worth every effort if you do it diligently. But it must be done with a little preparation. Meal planning for weight loss is a boon and I am going to plan my meal for this week right away. I have been slacking for a long time. 😊