There is no single best meal plan for weight loss. However, adopting a diet rich in whole foods and limiting processed foods is a good starting point.
This article explains how to plan a meal for weight loss and includes a 7-day meal plan for people to consider. It also discusses other helpful approaches to weight loss for different groups and those with different dietary requirements.
A person should plan their meals according to their requirements. They should consider:
- how much weight they need to lose
- their activity levels
- any dietary requirements for health conditions
- any personal, cultural, or religious dietary requirements
- how much available time they have for food preparation and shopping
- their level of cooking expertise and the difficulty of recipes
- whether the meal plan needs to include other members of the household
Online resources are available that can help a person plan their meals. However, each plan’s nutrient content can vary greatly, so a person must ensure they receive a sufficient amount of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
The following section contains a healthy meal plan for weight loss that a person can adapt as necessary.
The following meal plan provides options for 7 days of meals and snacks. The plan consists of nutrient-dense whole foods.
A person should determine the appropriate portion sizes, according to their weight loss goals, activity levels, and individual requirements.
|1||scrambled egg with spinach and tomato||tuna salad with lettuce, cucumber, and tomato||bean chili with cauliflower ‘rice’||apple slices and peanut butter|
|2||oatmeal with blueberries, milk, and seeds||hummus and vegetable wrap||sesame salmon, purple sprouting broccoli, and sweet potato mash||tangerine and cashew nuts|
|3||mashed avocado and a fried egg on a slice of rye toast||broccoli quinoa and toasted almonds||chicken stir fry and soba noodles||blueberries and coconut yogurt|
|4||smoothie made with protein powder, berries, and oat milk||chicken salad with lettuce and corn||roasted Mediterranean vegetables, puy lentils, and tahini dressing||whole grain rice cake with nut butter|
|5||buckwheat pancakes with raspberries and Greek yogurt||vegetable soup with two oatcakes||fish tacos with slaw||boiled egg with pita slices|
|6||apple slices with peanut butter||minted pea and feta omelet||baked sweet potato, chicken breast, greens||cocoa protein ball|
|7||breakfast muffin with eggs and vegetables||crispy tofu bowl||lentil Bolognese with zucchini noodles||carrot sticks and hummus|
A weight-loss diet plan can often begin in the grocery store.
Planning ahead can help when it comes to purchasing and eating the right foods. If a person can visualize their shelves and refrigerator full of healthy foods, they may also be less tempted to add unhealthy varieties to their stock.
A person can consider the following tips:
- Creating a meal plan for the week ahead featuring healthy meals and basing a grocery list only on what those meals need. Then, committing to purchase only what is on the list to avoid choosing unhealthy snacks.
- Visualizing the store layout beforehand and avoiding the ice cream and candy aisles to reduce temptation.
- Reducing trips to the grocery store by stocking up on healthy items that are easy to store, such as lentils, oatmeal, quinoa, and rice.
- Ordering groceries for collection to avoid temptation when walking past the baked goods aisle.
Healthy additions to add to any grocery list include:
- canned or dried beans and lentils
- grains, such as brown rice and quinoa
- fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables
- fish and lean meats, including turkey
Understanding exactly what is needed and cutting out snacks high in added sugar and fat can make grocery shopping easier.
When considering ways to lose weight, vegetarians and vegans should include whole foods and limit refined carbohydrates and processed foods. People should pay particular attention to packaging labels when purchasing meat alternatives, as many of these products contain added sugar and fat.
People who eat a plant-based diet will also need to ensure that their meals contain enough protein. Some good sources of plant protein include:
Vegan meal plan
Vegan diets are entirely plant-based, which means they do not include meat, eggs, or dairy products.
Vegan diets eliminate many foods high in fat, cholesterol, calories, and saturated fat. However, since animal diets contain vitamin B12, individuals following a vegan diet will need to find other sources of B12, such as supplements or fortified plant milks and cereals.
The following provides an example of a 1-day vegan meal plan.
|oatmeal with one-quarter cup of cooked rolled oats, a half cup of sliced banana, one-quarter cup of peanut butter, and soy or almond milk||grain bowl with 1 cup of quinoa and 1 cup of mixed vegetables including chick peas, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli||sweet potato tacos with avocado, onion, and tomato||hummus with carrot and celery sticks|
Vegetarian meal plan
Those who follow a vegetarian diet avoid meat and fish but may continue to eat eggs and dairy products.
The below meal plan provides an example of what one day following a vegetarian diet might encompass.
|2 hard-boiled eggs with a dash of hot sauce and salt||kale salad with raisins, chickpeas, walnuts, and roasted sweet potatoes||black bean burgers with avocado and roasted Brussels sprouts on the side||plain yogurt with granola|
Losing weight can help a person with diabetes manage their blood sugar levels and avoid complications.
According to the American Diabetes Association, people with diabetes should lose weight through a combination of exercise, diet, and portion control. Low glycemic index (GI) foods can help someone avoid spikes in blood sugar while they lose weight.
A person who has type 1 diabetes should consult their doctor or dietitian for help devising a weight loss plan. People will need to manage their diet to work alongside any medications they take to control their blood sugar levels.
Diabetes meal plan
For individuals with diabetes, a healthy meal plan should focus on whole foods rather than processed foods to help manage blood sugar levels as much as possible.
It will include non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, and green beans. It will also incorporate fewer added sugars and refined grains, such as white bread, rice, or pasta.
Below is an example of what one day following a diabetes meal plan might entail.
|2-egg omelet with vegetables (spinach, mushrooms, bell pepper, avocado), and 1 cup blueberries on the side||sandwich: 2 regular slices high fiber whole grain bread, 2 oz canned tuna in water mixed with 1 tbsp lemon juice, and 1 mashed avocado||1 cup cooked lentil penne pasta, 1.5 cups veggie tomato sauce (cook garlic, mushrooms, greens, zucchini, and eggplant into it), 2 oz ground lean turkey||15–20 baby carrots with 2 tbsp plain hummus|
A heart-healthy meal plan emphasizes foods that support cardiovascular benefits, such as vegetables, whole grains, and oily fish. It also limits red and processed meats, alcohol, and foods high in sugar and salt.
Examples of heart-healthy diets include the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, the Mediterranean diet, and vegetarian diets.
Below are some meal options for a heart-healthy diet.
Heart-healthy meal plan
|mixed fruit parfait (cantaloupe, strawberries, blueberries, kiwi) with a side of whole grain toast||1 cup whole grain pasta with mixed vegetables (tomato, onion, kale) cooked in a skillet with 1 tbsp lemon and olive oil||2 oz serving of salmon, with a side of green beans||1 cup of mixed nuts — almonds, walnuts, and cashews|
Dietary requirements vary. There is a range of approaches to weight loss that may benefit different people.
- a calorie-restricted diet
- physical activity advice
- an activity and behavior-change program
However, while this review looked specifically at strategies for males, these approaches work for females too.
The review also notes that participants preferred face-based language and personal feedback. People who prefer this type of support and advice may benefit from using apps such as My Fitness Pal or receiving help from a personal trainer or registered dietitian.
Weight loss during pregnancy and breastfeeding
Dieting during pregnancy and breastfeeding may not be appropriate. Anyone concerned about their weight or general fitness during pregnancy or breastfeeding should talk with a doctor or midwife for further advice.
Weight loss and menopause
The study found that the women had an average fat mass increase from 1–1.7% per year of the transition, resulting in a 6% total gain in fat mass over the 3.5 year transition period. The average weight gain among the participants was 1.6 kilograms.
Females who aim to lose weight during menopause should ensure that they consume enough nutrients to support their bone health. Nutrients include:
According to the
However, the body can also make hormonal adaptations when a person cuts their calorie intake, and their weight loss may plateau as a result.
Many low calorie diets restrict fats, but fats help a person feel full. As such, some people may not be able to sustain a low fat diet.
People should also consider that calorie reduction alone may not be sufficient for maintaining weight loss. This is because foods with the same amount of calories can have different effects on a person’s metabolism.
For example, high GI foods could have detrimental effects on a person’s weight loss goals. According to a
- spikes in blood glucose levels and insulin levels
- cravings for high carbohydrate foods
- increased fat storage
Some examples of high GI foods include:
In addition to cutting calories and eating healthy foods, individuals may want to consider incorporating an exercise routine to support their weight loss goals.
A 2020 study comparing diet versus a diet and exercise program for health enhancement and weight loss among overweight women aged 40–60 years found that a combined diet and exercise approach showed the best results.
The same review emphasizes the importance of the following approaches for weight loss:
- avoiding added sugars
- limiting processed foods
- consuming whole grain products
- eating more fruit and vegetables
Alongside meal planning and following a shopping list, some additional tips that may help a person lose weight include:
- being aware of portion size and the ratios of different macronutrients
- including protein and fiber in every meal
- exploring new herbs and spices to add variety to meals and reducing the need for extra sugar, salt, and fat
- batch-cooking healthy meals for the freezer
- avoiding long periods without food to reduce cravings for unhealthy snacks
- maintaining hydration to reduce cravings for sugary drinks
30 minutesof moderate-intensity physical activity on most or all days of the week
- partnering with a diet and exercise buddy
- using weighing scales no more than once a week at a consistent time of the day
Combining a healthy diet with an active lifestyle can help a person maintain a moderate weight. Planning meals and shopping is beneficial for successful weight loss.
Counting calories may not be the only useful approach to weight loss. A weight loss program is more successful when a person adapts it to their individual requirements.
A registered dietitian or certified nutrition specialist can work with a person to devise an optimal meal plan and support the person while working toward their weight loss goals.