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
There are online meal planning resources that can help you make sure you’re getting enough nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
Choosing a Weight Loss Meal Plan
If you want to lose weight, you need to create a calorie deficit by eating fewer calories than your body needs. The number of calories you need to eat each day depends on your size, weight, and activity level.
A woman’s daily calorie intake should be based on her physical activity level, with a minimum of 1,200 calories per day.
The number of calories a man should eat in a day depends on his size and activity level. A man’s ideal daily calorie intake may be higher if he is active, especially if his job requires him to be on his feet most of the time and he also exercises regularly.
The body doesn’t always work like a calculator, and people’s metabolisms adapt to weight loss as it happens. You’ll probably need to adjust your calorie deficit over time to keep seeing results.
Portion Size as an Alternative Method
You can control how many calories you eat by controlling portion sizes. If you’re eating a certain amount now and you’re happy with your weight, cut back a little bit. If that doesn’t help, cut back a bit more.
Free Meal Plan for Weight Loss
You can use the following seven-day meal plan for weight loss, modifying serving sizes and adding snacks as necessary to meet your calorie needs. Note that this is just a sample, and there may be other meals that better fit your dietary preferences and requirements.
, whole-grain baguette The first day’s menu includes granola and Greek yogurt for breakfast, followed by a lunch of chicken breast and greens. For dinner, there is whole grain pasta with turkey and green beans.
After a brief stop at a drive-thru for breakfast, I was on my way to work. I had planned ahead and packed a lunch of egg omelet with mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, grapefruit, toast; chili with beans, cornbread, side green salad; halibut, lemon, green beans, roasted potatoes. I was really looking forward to it. I stopped at a drive-thru for breakfast and then continued on to work. I had packed a lunch of egg omelet with mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, grapefruit, toast; chili with beans, cornbread, side green salad; halibut, lemon, green beans, roasted potatoes. I was really looking forward to it.
, and a glass of red wine The third day involves an egg and ham breakfast burrito with cheese, spinach, and orange juice for breakfast. For lunch, there is a whole wheat sandwich with tuna, Greek yogurt, mayo, arugula, and a side green salad. Dinner is sirloin steak, broccoli, a baked sweet potato, and a glass of red wine.
, side salad, pears Almond flour waffles with peanut butter, banana, and Greek yogurt followed by turkey noodle soup with vegetables and a whole-grain roll for lunch. For dinner, have baked chicken parmesan with green beans and rice pilaf, followed by a side salad and pears.
, 1 cup brown rice On day 5, you’ll have oatmeal with flaxseed, egg white, berries and almond butter for breakfast. For lunch, you’ll have a sirloin steak salad with blue cheese, walnuts, strawberries and a cup of tomato soup. For dinner, you’ll have lean ground beef enchiladas with whole wheat tortilla, lettuce, tomato, hot peppers, broccoli and 1 cup brown rice.
“Protein pancakes, mixed berries, and cottage cheese for day 6. A baked sweet potato filled with shredded chicken, chickpeas, and tahini yogurt sauce. A cucumber and tomato salad. Fish tacos with corn tortillas and cabbage slaw. A side green salad.”
On the seventh day, you can have scrambled eggs with multi-grain toast and sauteed asparagus for breakfast. For lunch, you can have a chicken salad made with Greek yogurt, mayo grapes, slivered almonds, and apple on whole-wheat bread, with a side spinach salad. For dinner, you can have salmon with dill sauce, roasted potatoes, and green beans.
If you want to lose weight, you could choose one of these meal plans that tells you how many calories you can eat each day. Keep in mind that these plans might be too low for you if you’re active, are a larger person, have a lot of muscle, or have other factors. Ask your doctor if a low-calorie diet is right for you.
A 1,200-calorie diet is not appropriate for most males or active people of any gender. Speak to your doctor before beginning any new diet plan.
The best place to start when trying to lose weight is at the grocery store.
If you plan ahead and have a mental image of your shelves and fridge full of healthy food, you may be less likely to add unhealthy options to your 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
If you have a good understanding of what you need and cut out snacks that are high in sugar and fat, grocery shopping will be easier.
Weight Loss and Meal Plans for Vegetarians and Vegans
Whole foods, rather than processed foods, should be included in the diets of vegetarians and vegans who are looking to lose weight. When buying meat substitutes, it is important to check the packaging labels for added sugar and fat content.
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:
- whole grains
Vegan meal plan
Research shows that people who follow a vegan diet tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI) compared to those who include meat and fish in their diets.
A vegan diet involves only eating plant-based foods, so no meat, eggs, or dairy products are included.
A vegan diet doesn’t include any foods that come from animals, so there are no cholesterol, saturated fat, or calorie-dense foods. However, you need to get vitamin B12 from somewhere else, like supplements, fortified plant milk, or cereals.
This is an example of a meal plan for one day on a vegan diet.
If you’re looking for a hearty and filling breakfast, try oatmeal with cooked rolled oats, sliced banana, and peanut butter. Add soy or almond milk to thin it out and make it more resembling traditional oatmeal. This breakfast will keep you full until lunchtime.
For lunch, have a grain bowl with 1 cup of quinoa and 1 cup of mixed vegetables including chickpeas, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli.
This dinner consists of sweet potato tacos with avocado, onion, and tomato.
Snack – hummus with carrot and celery sticks
Vegetarian meal plan
Vegetarians do not eat meat or fish, but they may eat eggs and dairy products.
A vegetarian diet can be an effective way to lose weight, but vegetarians need to be careful about what they eat to make sure they’re getting all the nutrients they need.
The meal plan below provides an example of what a typical day might be like for someone following a vegetarian diet.
, sliced avocado, and whole-wheat toast For breakfast, have two hard-boiled eggs with a dash of hot sauce and salt, sliced avocado, and whole-wheat toast.
Lunch today is a kale salad with raisins, chickpeas, walnuts, and roasted sweet potatoes. This filling and flavorful salad is full of healthy ingredients that will leave you satisfied until dinner time.
I’m having black bean burgers for dinner, with avocado and roasted Brussels sprouts on the side.
Snack – plain yogurt with granola
Weight Loss Meal Plan for People with Diabetes
If you are carrying extra weight, losing even a small amount can improve your health.
The American Diabetes Association suggests that people with diabetes lose weight through a combination of exercise, diet, and portion control. To avoid spikes in blood sugar, they recommend choosing low glycemic index (GI) foods .
If you have type 1 diabetes, you should ask your doctor or dietitian for help making a weight loss plan. You will need to adjust your diet to work with any medications you take to control your blood sugar levels.
Diabetes meal plan
A meal plan for someone with diabetes should include whole foods to help manage blood sugar levels.
The new diet will be based around eating more non-starchy vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach, and green beans. There will be fewer added sugars and refined grains, such as white bread, rice, or pasta.
The following is an example of what one might eat in a day following a diabetes meal plan.
Egg omelets with vegetables and blueberries
Two slices of whole-grain bread, two ounces of canned tuna in water mixed with one tablespoon of lemon juice, and one mashed avocado.
The recipe for tonight’s dinner is 1 cup of cooked lentil penne pasta, 1.5 cups of veggie tomato sauce, and 2 oz of ground lean turkey.
A snack of 15-20 baby carrots with 2 tbsp plain hummus is healthy and filling.
Heart-Healthy Weight Loss and Meal Plan
Dietary choices play a role in obesity and type 2 diabetes, both of which are linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
A heart-healthy meal plan focuses on foods that are good for your heart, like vegetables, whole grains, and oily fish. It also limits red and processed meats, alcohol, and foods that are high in sugar and salt.
There are several heart-healthy diets that can help prevent cardiovascular disease, including 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
and honey Find a recipe for a mixed fruit parfait online. Make the parfait using cantaloupe, strawberries, blueberries, and kiwi. Serve the parfait with a side of whole grain toast and honey.
1 cup of whole grain pasta with mixed vegetables cooked in a skillet with 1 tablespoon of lemon and olive oil.
. This is a dinner that consists of 2 ounces of salmon as the main dish, with a side of green beans.
with a small handful of dried cranberries A snack of 1 cup of mixed nuts, which include almonds, walnuts, and cashews, with a small handful of dried cranberries.
Approaches for other groups
Different people have different dietary requirements. Some approaches to weight loss may work better for some people than others.
A 2017 systematic review investigated the effectiveness of weight loss interventions in men. The review found that the following strategies were the most effective at promoting weight loss:
- a calorie-restricted diet
- physical activity advice
- an activity and behavior-change program
Although this particular review was focused on male-specific strategies, these methods are also effective for females.
This review found that people prefer face-based language and personal feedback. People who prefer this type of support 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
It is not recommended to diet during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. If you are concerned about your weight or fitness levels during these times, you should speak to a doctor or midwife for more advice.
Weight loss and menopause
People who are going through menopause may have more difficulty losing weight, according to a study published in 2019. That study found that fat mass and body weight tend to increase during the menopause transition.
The study found that the women, on average, gained 1-1.7% more fat mass per year during 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:
- vitamin D
- vitamin K
Tips for Meal Planning
To be successful in losing weight, try following some strategies that will make meal prepping easier. When you prep meals ahead of time, you are more likely to make healthy choices and lose weight.
- Schedule time to plan. Set aside 30 minutes each week to plan your meals and create a shopping list. Schedule your meal planning time just like you schedule all other important events in your life. This is also the best time to schedule your workouts so you’re sure that you get enough exercise to lose weight faster.
- Shop and cook. After you’ve planned healthy meals, then it’s time to go shopping. Many people do this immediately after they fill out their meal plan so that they are fully stocked for a week of healthy eating. Then you can organize your refrigerator with diet-friendly foods.
- Post your plan. Your healthy weight loss plan won’t do any good if it’s sitting in a drawer. So once you’ve filled out your plan, post it in a place where you see it every day. It will serve as a reminder of your food choices and your commitment to reaching a healthy weight.
- Prep foods in advance. After dinner, in the evening, lay out the foods you’ll eat for breakfast so they are ready to go when you wake up. Then, pack your lunch and snacks for the next day. Finally, do any meal prep for the next night’s healthy dinner so that it’s easy to throw together.