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  • Jennifer Bradford

How to start meal planning effectively for weight loss

Ok, you're taking the plunge! You want to start to get a handle on your nutrition and you've decided that meal planning is the way you want to go



Well, now what?

Get out your pencil and paper, kids, (or I guess you can use whichever electronic device you prefer) and start brainstorming

First, pick a day of the week that's pretty low key to where you're going to have the time to actually sit down and design your meals

Take a look at your macros and use it as your blueprint to guide how much total calories you need to aim for in the day and also how much protein you'll need to get. Carbs and fats fill in the blanks after you reach your calorie and protein goals. You might need to adjust foods or portions as you plan and that's ok

Think about which days are similar in their flow for your breakfast, lunch, and snacks. Dinner is a bit special, so we'll talk about that one on its own

So maybe you work on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 0900 and your mornings on these days are pretty much the same. I'd plan to have the same breakfast on these days for simplicity's sake. The same goes for the other days. If your Tuesday and Thursday have the same morning routine, then make the same thing for these days

You don't have to do it this way and can easy have the same thing for breakfast daily if you like. You can also have different things each day, but it makes planning harder and might take a bit more time, but it is doable

Lunch can follow a similar pattern. If you are at work Monday through Friday and have a standard lunch routine these days, go ahead and have the same thing for lunch these days especially if you are going to cook a big batch of something ahead of time and spilt it over the course of the week

For snacks, I would plan them at intervals where you know you're going to be hungry and be able to eat. If you're having lunch at 11:30 AM and you know you won't be eating dinner until 7:00 PM, then please have a snack somewhere in between to keep yourself happy and satisfied until dinner (ideally with a good amount of protein to help satiety)

For dinner, if you live with others or are not the sole preparer of the dinner time meal this might get dicey. This is where effective communication between you and your spouse, roommate, friend, etc can help tremendously. Ask them ahead of time what they are probably going to be preparing in the coming week, or if this will be all on you, decide ahead of time what you'll be making for yourself. If you know you will be eating out one night, take a look at my blog post on eating out for help on how to do that without ruining your fitness progress. It's possible, you just have to prepare. Even if you are not fully prepared and it is a spur of the moment get together with friends, there are still ways you can eat smartly and enjoy your time out

couple eating out

When you are planning your individual meals, start out each meal with it's protein source. You should be getting at least a solid 20-30 grams of protein at each meal (including snacks). This will also help you get your protein in throughout the day and meet your protein goal. For example, at breakfast, let's have Greek yogurt with berries and chia seeds, scrambled egg, toast and peanut butter, and turkey sausage. Or, maybe you have oatmeal with a scoop of protein powder, berries, flax and a yogurt drink on the go. Or you have a protein bar, banana, and cup of coffee. Possibilities are endless. Just set out what you can the night before and you'll be ready to go in the AM.

For lunch, you can meal-prep these (most do this on Sunday, but whichever day works best for you is just fine) ahead of time and freeze for the week. Maybe you're in the mood for chicken parm. Cook a few chicken breasts. Cook some chick pea pasta. Heat some sauce or make your own. Grate some mozzarella. Get your individual containers and add about equal amounts of pasta, then your chicken breast, then your sauce, and then your cheese and freeze each individual meal. Before you leave in the morning (if you commute to work), grab your meal out of the freezer and you're just a short microwave-time away from a lunch that you know will be tasty but also is in line with your goals and you won't be tempted to order out

At dinner, you might not be able to plan ahead what this is going to be depending upon the day and that's ok. Try to leave adequate calories available for dinner if you're not really sure what the meal will entail. If it is going to be out at a restaurant, try to get a majority of your protein in during the day and leave a decent amount of fat and carb for dinner as most restaurant food is usually higher in these macros. You don't need to hit your calorie target perfectly and some days you might go over and some you might go under. Just try to be as consistent as possible

The following week you can see what worked and what didn't. Of course, you can switch up your meals as you like. You might find ones that you stick to more often that are just easier to prepare or that you just look forward to

Questions about meal planning? Email me at and I'll help

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