How to Plan Your Meals For Weight Loss

Planning your meals each week can seem difficult at first. But I’m going to break it down into simple actionable steps that will make the process seem effortless.

As a note, before we begin, for long-term success, you must include your favorite foods into your diet regularly. 

If you start cutting out foods you think are “bad” you’ll start to lose your progress every time you are tempted to eat one of them. 

By looking at food simply as food, some with more nutrition and some with less, you’ll start to realize that you can enjoy your favorite foods without the stress about worrying whether or not you are “ruining your diet.” 

Meal planning can seem like a hassle and just another thing added to your list, but if you want to make it work for you, it must be something that is built into your schedule. Spend a few minutes each evening planning your meals for the next day. The more intentional and consistent you are with this, the easier it will become.  


Meal Frequency

There is no magic number to how many meals you should be eating when it comes to fat loss. I’m sure you’ve heard of eating 6 small meals a day to “stoke the fire” and keep your metabolism burning calories throughout the day. The truth is, whether you eat 6 meals a day or one large meal each day, it doesn’t matter as long as your calories are in check. Decide what works best for you and go from there. 

I enjoy 2-3 regular meals throughout the day and a couple of snacks built in between those. I’ve never been a huge breakfast eater so that meal is pretty small for me. I then have a snack before my workout and a protein shake afterward. Then I enjoy a relatively bigger lunch and dinner with room for an evening snack as well. 

This works for me, but it may not work for you. I recommend sticking to the times you currently eat when planning your meals. You can always add/subtract things later, but if you don’t fit this into your lifestyle, it will be much more difficult to stick to. 


What You’re Going to Eat 

Staying in a calorie deficit is what will allow you to lose weight. But you want to make sure that the calories that you are consuming are well divided up between carbs, fats, and protein. Remember, protein is going to help you build muscle, but carbs and fats will allow you to optimize your health and improve your overall mood and energy. 

To start your meal planning and to track your food accurately, you’ll need to use a free food tracker, such as a MyFitnessPal account, and a digital food scale, which you can pick up at your local grocery store. 


How Many Calories You Should Be Eating 

There are many different calculators and formulas to figure out how many calories you should be eating. To make it very simple, you’re going to take your goal weight and multiply that by 12, and that will be your calorie target. For example: If your goal weight is 180 lbs, you multiply that by 12 and you’ll see that your calorie target is 2,160. 

Now to start planning your meals! 


Step 1: Add Protein to Each Meal

No matter your fitness goals, protein is the most important macronutrient. It’s going to allow you to maintain muscle when you are losing weight and it’s going to help you build muscle when trying to gain weight. It can also help with your immune system as well and help keep you full throughout the day, which is extremely important when you already are eating fewer calories than you are used to. 

Due to those reasons, it’s important to plan your protein first.

You want to shoot for about about 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight. For weight loss purposes, you’ll use your goal weight. So using the information from above for a weight loss goal of 180 lbs, you’ll take 180 and multiply that by 0.8 and end up with a target of 144 grams of protein per day.

Let’s say you enjoy eating three meals a day and a few snacks. When importing your protein into your daily meals may look something like this: 


Breakfast: Eggs

Morning Snack: Greek Yogurt

Lunch: Chicken Sandwich

Afternoon Snack: Cheesesticks 

Dinner: Strip Steak


Now obviously this is not all you’re going to eat and there are no portion sizes added just yet. Once you add all of your carb and fat sources, we can then adjust the individual foods to hit your daily targets.   


Step 2: Add Carbs to Each Meal

Carbs are essential to helping you have great energy throughout the day. They are also extremely beneficial in helping you build and maintain muscle.  Eating enough carbs also ensures that you are getting enough fiber throughout the day to aid in digestion and help keep you full. Make sure to include fruits and vegetables in your meals each day. 

Let’s continue creating our meal from above: 


Breakfast: Eggs, Oatmeal

Morning Snack: Greek Yogurt, Mixed Berries

Lunch: Chicken Sandwich, Sweet Potato, White Rice

Afternoon Snack: Cheesesticks, Banana

Dinner: Strip Steak, Asparagus, Homemade French Fries


Step 3: Add Fats as Necessary

Many of the foods you eat contain more than one macronutrient, so you may not need to add much fat at all once you’ve completed adding your protein and carbs. Many foods that contain protein, also have fat as well. 

Once you have everything added, you can adjust the portion sizes of each meal to reach your daily calorie and protein goals. 

Use the “Nutrition” tab on MyFitnessPal to check how many grams of each macronutrient you have after adjusting your portions to your actual meals. 

If you have hit both your calorie and protein goals and you have some room to add some fats, you can add some dressings to your foods or potentially olive oil to your foods as you wish. Be careful though, as it is very easy to overdue condiments, and you must be tracking your condiments and any cooking sprays you use as well. 

Note: Cooking sprays say they are 0 calories. They are not! Foods that contain less than 5 calories per serving can legally be listed as 0 calories. So your olive oil spray may have 4 calories per serving and if you used 10 sprays, that would be an additional 40 calories you’re eating and not accounting for! 


Step 4: Add Dessert! 

If you have calories left over at the end of the day, by all means, indulge in some dessert! Try your best to follow the 80/20 rule: 80% of the foods you eat come from whole foods and 20% are from more “fun” sources. 


Accurate Portion Sizes

Now that you’ve created your meals, you’ll need to utilize your digital scale to make sure that your portion sizes are correct.

One of the biggest mistakes people make is that they try to guess how much of something they are actually eating. Eventually, you will get better at this, but from someone who learned this the hard way, guesstimating your calories is a highly discouraged practice.   

Without tracking your food correctly, you will never know what’s actually going on. 


Time to Take Action 

Don’t worry if creating your meals and tracking your food seems difficult at first. You will get better!

Just as with anything, the more you practice, the better you will get.

Once you track your food consistently for 30 days, you will know exactly what you can eat each day without losing progress and without having to track your food so meticulously. 

Let me know in the comments what questions I can answer for you!


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