The Best Diet Meal Plan to Help You Reach a Healthy Weight, According to a Nutritionist
Diet meal plan for weight loss
This is not a deprivation diet. This 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.
You don't need to slash calories
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, each breakfast, lunch, and dinner is either vegan or has a vegan option, and is gluten-free and dairy-free. And every meal is chock-full of flavor, in addition to anti-inflammatory, immune-supporting ingredients.
So, out with unsatisfying diet food–and in with nutrient-rich, naturally filling whole foods. And a daily dark chocolate treat to boot!
Breakfast: Chocolate-cherry-chia smoothie
Choose one of the following breakfasts daily:
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.
Breakfast: 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.
Breakfast: 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.
On-the-go breakfast: juice and a 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.
Lunch or dinner: Salmon avocado "tacos"
Choose two of the following options daily for lunch and dinner:
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.
Lunch or dinner: 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.
Lunch or dinner: 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.
Lunch or dinner: 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.
Lunch or dinner: 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.
Lunch or dinner: 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.
On-the-go lunch or dinner: 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.
Snacks and treats
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
RELATED: 22 Healthy Snacks That Burn Fat
Drink plenty of water
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.