This Healthy Diet Plan Will Jumpstart Your Weight Loss Goals, According to a Nutritionist

Forget calorie slashing and deprivation: This healthy diet plan is designed to leave you feeling nourished and energized.

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Photo: Enrique Díaz / 7cero/Getty Images

This is not a deprivation diet. This healthy meal plan is designed to allow you to begin consistently eating nutritious, balanced meals. Rather than focusing on a dated calorie restriction approach, the plan prioritizes clean eating, macro balance, fiber-rich foods, hydration, and portions that support the healthy weight of a typical active woman.

In other words, the meals, snacks, and water included should leave you feeling satisfied and energized. And, if you’ve been eating more than your body needs, the healthy balance should allow your clothes to fit a little better, without leaving you grumpy and undernourished.

01 of 24

You don't need to slash calories

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Photo by Pablo Merchán Montes on Unsplash

The truth is, when you change what you eat, drastic calorie cutting isn’t even necessary in order to transform how you look and feel. One study found that switching from processed foods to whole foods can result in burning 50% more post-meal calories. Other research shows that consuming more fiber, antioxidants, and pulses (including beans, lentils, peas, and chickpeas), is tied to leanness and a smaller waist measurement, even without cutting calories.

In our diet meal plan, every meal is chock-full of flavor, in addition to anti-inflammatory, immune-supporting ingredients, and can be modified to be gluten-free, dairy-free or meat-free.

So, out with unsatisfying diet food–and in with nutrient-rich, naturally filling whole foods. And a daily dark chocolate treat to boot!

02 of 24

Monday: Breakfast

lean-green
IriGri8/Getty Images

Chocolate-cherry-chia smoothie

In a blender combine a handful of fresh spinach, quarter cup of unsweetened unflavored plant protein, one level tablespoon almond butter, one half tablespoon chia seeds, one tablespoon raw or non-Dutched cocoa powder, three quarters cup frozen pitted cherries, one half cup sweetened almond milk, one half cup water, and a one inch cube of fresh ginger root. Blend until smooth.

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Monday: Lunch

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Jeff Giniewicz/Getty Images

Mason jar garden salad

Fill the bottom with a mason jar with half cup of oven-roasted sweet potato. Add layers of dark leafy greens, alternating with sliced grape tomatoes, shredded carrots, and yellow bell pepper; and top with a half cup of cooked red lentils. Just before you’re ready to eat, top the salad with a dressing made from two tablespoons of tahini, thinned with one and a half tablespoons of water, and seasoned with a teaspoon each of fresh lemon juice and minced garlic, and one-eighth teaspoon each of sea salt and cayenne pepper.

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Monday: Dinner

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rilueda/Getty Images

Salmon avocado "tacos"

In a medium bowl, combine a half cup of quartered grape tomatoes with a quarter cup each minced yellow bell pepper and white onion, one teaspoon minced garlic, one-sixteenth teaspoon cayenne pepper, one tablespoon minced fresh cilantro, and two tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice. Toss together and marinate in the fridge for 15 minutes. Fill three outer romaine leaves each with one ounce of canned wild salmon. Top with vegetable mixture, and garnish each with a few slices of sliced avocado. For a plant based option replace salmon with a half cup of black beans.

05 of 24

Tuesday: Breakfast

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Mizina/Getty Images

Spiced high-protein green oats

Combine a quarter cup each dry old-fashioned rolled oats and plain, unsweetened plant-based protein powder. Add hot water to desired consistency. Stir in a teaspoon of pure maple syrup, dash of cinnamon, and a quarter teaspoon of fresh grated ginger root. Fold in a cup of shredded zucchini, one chopped kiwi, and a quarter cup of shelled pistachios. Enjoy warm or chill overnight.

06 of 24

Tuesday: Lunch

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nata_vkusidey/Getty Images

Quinoa pesto egg salad

In a medium bowl combine one cup of chopped veggies (like cucumber, red bell pepper, spinach, and red onion), two chopped hard-boiled, pasture-raised eggs, one tablespoon of dairy-free jarred pesto, and a half cup cooked, chilled quinoa. Toss to coat thoroughly and chill for at least 30 minutes. For a plant-based option omit the egg and replace with a half cup of chickpeas.

07 of 24

Tuesday: Dinner

chicken-stir-fry
Lisovskaya/Getty Images

Gingery chicken almond stir-fry

In a medium pan over low heat, sauté a quarter cup of minced yellow onion in one-third cup of low-sodium vegetable broth until onions are translucent. Add one cup of broccoli and a half cup each of chopped red bell pepper and shredded purple cabbage. Stir in a teaspoon of minced garlic, a quarter teaspoon of fresh grated ginger, one-eighth teaspoon each of crushed red pepper, black pepper, and sea salt, and sauté until veggies are slightly tender. Add three ounces of chopped cooked chicken breast and a quarter cup of cooked brown or wild rice. Stir to heat through. Garnish with a quarter cup of sliced almonds. For a plant based option replace the chicken with a half cup of black eyed peas.

08 of 24

Wednesday: Breakfast

spinach-scramble
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Juice and an energy bar

On crazy mornings when you don't have time to sit and eat, grab a 16-ounce bottle of no-fruit, cold- pressed organic green juice and one Rx bar. For a plant based option replace Rx with a high protein Amrita bar.

09 of 24

Wednesday: Lunch

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Greg DuPree

Moroccan lentil soup

In a medium saucepan over low heat, sauté one quarter cup minced yellow onion in one tablespoon extra virgin oil and two tablespoons organic low-sodium vegetable broth until translucent. Add six tablespoons of additional broth, one half cup cauliflower, cut into small florets, one teaspoon each minced garlic, fresh squeezed lemon juice and Italian herb seasoning, and one-sixteenth teaspoon each ground cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, coriander, and sea salt. Stir for three to four minutes. Add a half cup of water, one half cup fresh baby spinach leaves, and one diced Roma tomato. Bring to a very brief boil and then reduce to a simmer for about ten minutes. Add a half cup of cooked lentils to heat through.

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Wednesday: Dinner

chicken-cacciatore
LauriPatterson/Getty Images

Simple chicken cacciatore

In a medium pan over low heat, sauté a quarter cup minced yellow onion in one tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and a quarter cup low-sodium organic vegetable broth until translucent. Add three-quarters cup sliced grape tomatoes, a quarter cup minced green bell pepper, one teaspoon each minced garlic and Italian herb seasoning, one-eighth teaspoon each ground black pepper and sea salt, and two teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice. Sauté until tomatoes are tender. Add a large handful of chopped spinach, and three ounces of diced cooked chicken breast. Stir to heat through. Serve over one cup of cooked spaghetti squash. For a plant based version replace the chicken with a half cup of white beans.

11 of 24

Thursday: Breakfast

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Greg DuPree

Spinach-quinoa breakfast salad with berries and granola

Whisk together vinegar, maple syrup, mustard, and salt in a small bowl. Slowly drizzle in oil, whisking constantly, until fully emulsified. Spread yogurt evenly on 2 plates. Toss together spinach, quinoa, strawberries, blueberries, and half of the dressing in a medium bowl. Divide salad between plates, on top of yogurt. Drizzle with remaining dressing, and sprinkle with granola.

12 of 24

Thursday: Lunch

best keto fast food fat protein fast food chick oil a mcdonalds dunkin donuts chipotle diet health Panera salad carb carbohydrates sausage egg chicken
chipotle.com

Chipotle salad

No time to cook? Pick up a veggie salad from Chipotle made with romaine lettuce, black beans, fajita veggies, mild salsa, guacamole, and no dressing.

13 of 24

Thursday: Dinner

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Greg DuPree

Chard and mushroom butter noodles

Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss together butternut squash and 1 tablespoon of the oil on a baking sheet; spread in an even layer. Roast until almost tender, about 8 minutes. Set aside.

While squash roasts, stir together hazelnuts, lemon zest, half of the Parmesan, and 1 teaspoon of the thyme in a small bowl; set aside. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high. Add mushrooms; cook, undisturbed, until bottoms start to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and tender, about 8 minutes.

Add chard, garlic, and remaining 1 teaspoon thyme; cook, stirring constantly, until chard wilts, about 2 minutes. Add roasted squash; stir to combine. Remove mixture from heat; stir in lemon juice, butter, salt, and remaining cheese until combined. Divide mixture evenly among 4 bowls; sprinkle with hazelnut mixture. Serve immediately.

Try the recipe: Chard And Mushroom Butternut Noodles

14 of 24

Friday: Breakfast

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High-fiber blackberry banana smoothie

Process blackberries, banana, coconut milk, yogurt, lemon juice, honey, and lemon zest in a blender until smooth. Divide the mixture evenly into 2 chilled glasses, and serve.

15 of 24

Friday: Lunch

lentil and chickpea salad
Sarah Cave

Lentil and chickpea salad

Heat a nonstick skillet over high heat; add 1 tablespoon olive oil to pan. Add onions to pan; sauté until soft, about 8 minutes. Reduce heat to medium; add garlic. Cook until onions are caramelized, about 20 minutes. Add Swiss chard leaves; cook until wilted and tender, about 5 minutes. Place 6 cups water in a pan; bring to a boil. Add lentils to pan. Reduce heat, and simmer; cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Add 2 teaspoons salt; let sit 5 minutes to absorb. Drain lentils; cool on a baking sheet. Combine chickpeas, lentils, chard-and-onion mixture, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 1/8 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.

Try the recipe: How to Make Lentil and Chickpea Salad

16 of 24

Friday: Dinner

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Pappardelle with asparagus and salmon

Season salmon with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Using a mister, spray fish with olive oil. Heat a pan over medium-high heat; sear fish, flesh side down, for 8 minutes or until nearly cooked through. Remove to a plate, skin side down, and cover with foil.

Cook pasta; drain, return to pot, keep warm. Heat oil in pan; sauté shallot and asparagus 2 minutes, until beginning to brighten. Add broth; lower heat to medium, cover, and cook 3 minutes. Add peas, cover, and cook 2 minutes. Stir in sour cream, onions, mint, and dill; lower heat to simmer. Add remaining salt and pepper.

Add sauce to pasta; toss. Remove skin and flake salmon into large chunks; add to pasta and toss gently. Divide among 4 bowls.Garnish with additional herbs and lemon wedges.

Try the recipe: Pappardelle With Asparagus and Salmon

17 of 24

Saturday: Breakfast

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OksanaKiian/Getty Images

Veggie-herb-avocado omelet

Over low heat, sauté one cup of chopped veggies (like mushrooms, tomato, kale, and yellow onion) in one teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil until veggies are slightly tender. Add a quarter teaspoon each of minced garlic and Italian herb seasoning, one eighth teaspoon ground turmeric, and one sixteenth teaspoon each ground black pepper, and sea salt. Add two pasture-raised organic eggs and scramble until cooked through. Serve with half an avocado. For a plant-based option replace eggs with a half cup slightly mashed chickpeas.

18 of 24

Saturday: Lunch

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Westend61/Getty Images

Crisp chickpea slaw

In a medium bowl, stir together the yogurt, vinegar, water, salt, and pepper to taste. Add the chickpeas, cabbage, celery, and carrots; toss to combine. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Transfer slaw to a plastic food-storage bag or 2 portable containers. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving; slaw keeps up to 3 days.

Try the recipe: Crisp Chickpea Slaw

19 of 24

Saturday: Dinner

bbq-turkey-burger
Westend61/Getty Images

BBQ turkey burgers

In a medium bowl, gently mix together turkey, garlic, paprika, and cumin. Form turkey into 4 (4-inch) patties; season with salt and pepper. Heat grill to medium-high; cook, turning once, until burgers are just cooked through (about 7 minutes per side). Serve with desired toppings and buns.

Try the recipe: How to Make a BBQ Turkey Burger

20 of 24

Sunday: Breakfast

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Jobrestful/Getty Images

Black bean and chicken chilaquiles

Preheat oven to 450°. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion; sauté 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add chicken; cook 30 seconds. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl; stir in beans. Add broth and salsa to pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside. Place half of tortilla strips in bottom of an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Layer half of chicken mixture over tortillas; top with remaining tortillas and chicken mixture. Pour broth mixture evenly over chicken mixture. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 450° for 10 minutes or until tortillas are lightly browned and cheese is melted.

Try the recipe: Black Bean and Chicken Chilaquiles

21 of 24

Sunday: Lunch

salmon-pesto-sandwich
Levy Brown (no styling)

Feel-good salmon sandwich

Put spinach, walnuts, garlic clove, Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and a dash of salt into a food processor; pulse, scraping down sides of bowl, until smooth. Transfer the pesto to a bowl; cover and chill.

Combine paprika, dark brown sugar, crushed red pepper, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and black pepper in a small bowl. Pat dry salmon fillets; sprinkle tops with spice mixture. Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium; cook fish 7 minutes on both sides or until golden and cooked through. Split rolls in half; spread 1 tablespoon pesto on each bottom, and top with 1 fillet and 1 radicchio leaf. Add tops of rolls. Serve with extra pesto.

Try the recipe: Feel-Good Salmon Sandwich

22 of 24

Sunday: Dinner

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Greg DuPree

Steakhouse salad

Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss potatoes with 1 tablespoon of the oil and 1/4 teaspoon each of the pepper and salt on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast potatoes until golden and tender, about 20 minutes, stirring halfway through baking.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high. Sprinkle beef with 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Sear beef until browned on all sides and a thermometer registers 130°F to 135°F (for medium-rare), about 3 minutes per side, or to desired degree of doneness. Transfer beef to a plate; let rest 5 minutes before slicing. Return skillet to medium-high. Add mushrooms and garlic, and cook, stirring often, until browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons water and Worcestershire, and cook 1 minute. Remove mushroom mixture. Add tomatoes to skillet; cook, stirring occasionally, until blistered, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat.

Stir together buttermilk, vinegar, 1/2 cup of the blue cheese, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl. Toss spinach in butter milk mixture. Serve spinach topped with potatoes, beef, mushroom mixture, and tomatoes; sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup blue cheese.

Try the recipe: Steakhouse Salad

23 of 24

Snacks and treats

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Juj Winn/Getty Images

Enjoy two 70% dark chocolate squares each day, any time you like, and choose one of the following snacks daily to enjoy during your longest stretch between meals:

1 cup fresh fruit of your choice with ¼ cup nuts out of the shell or ½ cup in the shell

1 cup fresh fruit of your choice with one ounce (¼ cup) pumpkin seeds

1 cup of fresh raw veggies with ¼ cup hummus

24 of 24

Drink plenty of water

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Enrique Díaz / 7cero/Getty Images

Sip 64 ounces of water spread throughout the day. For flavor if needed, add all natural add-ins, like fresh mint or basil leaves, sliced cucumber, fresh ginger root, lemon, lime, or a bit of slightly mashed fresh fruit.

Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health's contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a nutrition consultant for the New York Yankees.

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