The Best Ways to Plan Healthy Meals
The word diet often means a temporary and restrictive eating plan that helps you to lose weight, but when you stop the diet, you often gain the weight right back, so I set out to make changes that would stick.
In the past, I threw together whatever convenient and low-calorie meal I could get my hands on, but I quickly learned that I needed to plan well-rounded meals with a good amount of protein, fiber, and healthy fats to satisfy my hunger and keep me full for hours. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you're planning healthy meals.
I needed to change my perspective on my portion sizes. I ate lots of healthy foods, but my portions were often much too large. Using a smaller plate also helped me eat less because the smaller portions make it look fuller. I never feel like I am eating less, and my clothes fit better as well!
Think protein first
When I plan a meal, the first thing I think about is protein. If I eat a balanced meal of whole grains with protein and fat, I tend to snack less and my craving for sweets is practically nonexistent. I aim for at least one serving of protein at each meal, which equates to about five ounces of chicken, five ounces of canned tuna, or a couple of eggs.
Color your meals
Before I reached my Feel Great Weight, I rarely ate vegetables, and I didn’t realize how much they would benefit my appetite until I started to eat more of them. I like to load up my plate with two or more different fruits and/or vegetables in each meal. I typically cover half of my plate with colorful fruits or vegetables and include some lean protein, healthy fats, and whole grains on the other half.
Salads are a great way to pack more nutrients into my diet, but I used to make the same salad day after day, which as you can imagine, ended up boring and unappetizing. Now I experiment with interesting ingredients like truffle oil and truffle salt. The natural flavors lightly pervade my entire salad, so I often don’t need to add dressing.
Some of my other favorite ingredients include: walnuts, roasted Brussels sprouts, chickpeas, fresh berries, crumbled feta, pumpkin seeds, and avocado. With so many different ingredients, my salads never get boring—and I never feel deprived.
On Sundays, I cut up vegetables like peppers, carrots, celery, and broccoli, so they are ready for salads, snacking, or to be tossed in a meal. This helps me stay on track especially during times like when I return home after a run or CrossFit class and I want to eat everything in sight. Instead of snacking on potato chips or cookies, I grab my veggies and hummus and snack on those while I prepare dinner.
Similarly, I'll cook sweet potato wedges and leave them in the refridgerator, which can be eaten as is or easily added to oatmeal or smoothies.
Stock-up on non-perishables
I almost always have rolled oats, peanut butter, canned tuna, canned beans, brown rice, and frozen veggies in the house, so I always have healthy options on hand to make a last-minute snack or meal. This, of course, prevents me from ordering take-out or running out to grab fast food. I have no excuse but to eat healthy when I have tons of options on hand.
Allow yourself to indulge
The more I deprive myself of my favorite foods, the more I want them, so I plan splurges into my diet. I love sweets and eat a small portion almost every day, but I don't let myself go crazy. Usually, I'll enjoy a couple of pieces of dark chocolate or a small cookie after dinner. Because I know that I can have a sweet treat every day, I don't overdo it and keep my healthy eating in check.