Whether you want to call it dieting, losing weight, fat loss or anything else, the end result is the same: you want to build more muscle, lose more fat and have a better body definition. We all want to look leaner, be healthier and do the right things, but it’s not easy, especially if you don’t know how to make your own weight loss meal plan.
People always ask what the best meal plan is, but I can’t answer that and neither can anyone else, other than registered dietitians.
However, even if I could tell you what exactly to eat, it won’t do you any good, because it won’t teach you about your body and its needs. Your weight loss journey will be difficult and sometimes painful, but it will help you build character, push through and find out how much you’ve got and how far you’re willing to go.
I can’t tell you that, and if I give you a specific plan of attack, you’ll follow it without ever considering what your body needs.
However, I can tell you what options could work for you, help you figure out what you need to be doing and more. A meal plan isn’t the only thing you need to lose fat and get lean though it can help you on your journey and help keep you at your goal weight once you’ve succeeded.
The plan establishes healthy eating habits and helps eliminate the wrong foods. The goal is primarily to create a calorie deficient, which over time will produce fat losses. It doesn’t matter to me if you choose to do intermittent fasting, eat six small meals a day or eat three large meals a day.
What it boils down to is that your diet should use the types of foods you enjoy eating, in moderation. It will also need to meet your schedule and work with your body’s needs.
Remember, I’m not a dietitian, and my advice shouldn’t be construed as set in stone. You’ll want to talk with your doctor and make sure you get the right nutrients. However, the basics are usually best when it comes to eating, and everyone needs some of every food group.
I’m not here to hurt your feelings or cause you to go on a rant/rave on Facebook or other social media. I’m just telling you what works for most people.
The criteria are as follows:
• 90/10 Principle
• Necessary Supplements
What Does Well-rounded Mean?
When I say that you need a diet that is well-rounded, I mean that you should have a balance of carbs, fat, and protein. Protein is necessary to help rebuild and maintain muscle mass. Men should have about one gram of protein per body-weight pound. If you don’t have enough protein in your diet, the damage inflicted at the gym won’t heal quickly and correctly.
Sugar and fat are necessary for bodily functions. Without both, you can’t recover from hard workouts and perform daily bodily functions. Paleo zealots will squawk and whine that sugar is the worst thing for the body, but it can help you when doing intense cardio or weight training.
It’s an energy source that is necessary, and if you don’t have it, your body will try to convert proteins into sugar, which will cost you more energy and make you feel tired and crappy.
If you don’t have enough dietary protein and sugar in the body, it could turn on you, using the muscle tissues for energy. This is very bad because you want to lose fat, not muscle.
A uniform diet means you eat the same or similar foods consistently each day, month, and year. Of course, there’s going to be times when you want a cheeseburger or a piece of pizza. There’s going to be multiple holidays where you’ll eat different foods. However, on most days, you should be eating the same thing, such as lean protein, fruit, vegetables and a mixture of all.
Ah, this is where most people start to hate me, and I’m not sure why. The short version of the 90/10 principle is that most (90 percent) of your diet is from whole foods, and the other 10 percent is anything else you want to eat. Whole foods mean it came from an animal or the earth.
Most non-Paleos scream at me, telling me that I’m trying to turn them Paleo, but that’s not the goal here. It’s not about clean eating, Mediterranean or South Beach; it’s about eating stuff that’s good for you and not processed. This can include chicken, beef, veggies and fruits. What I like to do is think about my grandparents. If they would have eaten it, I can eat it.
The other 10 percent is whatever you want, so go crazy (in moderation of course). That can include funnel cakes, donuts, potato chips, and all the other unhealthy options out there.
Most weight loss plans don’t give you the most micro-nutrients, which your body needs. Because you’re eating less, you’re getting fewer nutrients. Therefore, you may want to consider loading up on different foods every so often.
For example, eat two or three Brazil nuts a day, which can give you all the selenium you need. Consider eating raw oysters to get more zinc and beef liver can give more Vitamin A.
My idea is that you should rotate foods out of and into your diet to make sure you’re getting the vitamins and minerals you need. I personally hate the taste of raw oysters and liver, but I do try to eat them at least once a week though sometimes I can only get them down once every two weeks.
I generally don’t recommend using supplements, because they can do more harm than good unless you cannot get enough of those nutrients on your own. I’m also against those supplements geared toward pre-workouts and fat loss, which are marketed by the big-name companies. Mainly, it’s because they’re usually unnecessary, expensive, and we can’t be sure what’s in them.
My personal recommendation for pre-workout mixes is not to use them because you’ll save your money and protect your health. I consider supplements to be those that promise all the great things we want to hear, such as reduce hunger and cravings, weight-loss advocate, help burn more fat, etc. They are all schemes, in my opinion, meant to make money, not to keep you healthy and safe.
Multivitamins aren’t the same, at least in my opinion, as supplements and pre-workout powders. Most people don’t receive the necessary and recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals, which are needed to have good health. Talk with your doctor to find out if a supplement could help you. Otherwise, you could overload your body with nutrients it doesn’t need, which can cause problems and can be a waste of money. I don’t know about you, but I like saving money whenever I can.
It can be as simple as getting a few blood tests, which can show what you get enough of and what you don’t. Then, you can use that as a base to include more foods with what you need, or use a supplement to get the recommended amounts.
This is another reason to consider the 90/10 diet, because you’ll get more nutrients you need and not so much of the fat and junk you don’t. This can be even more important when you’re consuming fewer calories, because when your amount of calories go down, so does the vitamin and mineral amounts.
Do you know how easy it is to “forget” what you ate throughout the day? I certainly understand forgetfulness because I do it all the time. Therefore, it’s important to track the calories you consume and the exercise you do. This will help ensure that you aren’t eating more calories than you think, which can thwart your weight loss efforts.
If you want to know how to make your own weight loss meal plan, you’ll need to learn how to track. If you just can’t stand writing everything down and adding it up, there are many calorie/fitness trackers online to help you.
Visit a few of them, play around with them, and learn to like one. Most people have high-speed Internet, so you shouldn’t have a problem getting online. Every time you eat, make sure to note it. I personally like to put in the food and amount first before eating, so I don’t conveniently forget later (which I have done before).
There are also smartphone apps that can help track and those that will track your energy, water intake, fat, protein, minerals, and vitamins.
If you are concerned that you are eating more than one portion, consider buying an inexpensive food scale. Digital scales are only around $10, but can help you keep portion sizes down.
My Typical Meal Plan
I usually get up about 6 AM and immediately have some caffeine, usually in coffee form with a little bit of milk and a teaspoon or so of sugar. This provides my dairy and sugar for part of the day.
Around 9 AM, I get hungry, so I start with a breakfast shake. I do buy the premade ones sometimes and use them, but usually I make my own (honey or fruit, protein powder, ice cream, and milk).
Lunch is usually around noon or 1 PM, depending on what I’m doing that day. I typically have eggs of some sort, such as scrambled or hard boiled eggs, along with some yogurt or cottage cheese, fruit or juice. Sometimes I throw in a salad, to get in some extra veggies, and I’ll cut up my hard-boiled eggs and put them in the salad to mix things up.
I have my training session around 2 PM, which can include cardio, strength, flexibility or a mixture. After that, I have a post-workout meal, which usually includes my version of a creamsicle (equal parts of milk and orange juice). Sometimes, I go a little crazy and add grape or apple juice instead to mix things up a bit.
Dinner for me is between 6 and 7 PM and includes about 250 grams of lean meat, rice or potatoes for starch. I typically like to hit the rest of calories during this time, so this is a large meal for me. If you enjoy snacking, you may want to cut it down a little so you can have an evening snack. Make it healthy or a fave, if you have the calories.
I always rotate my dinners, so I have a variety. Sometimes I have chicken and rice because I love that combination. Other times, I’ll have beef and potatoes or sometimes I’ll mix it up with some grilled salmon and fried rice. It all depends on the mood and what I’m craving.
Setting Up Your Plan
If you are interested in setting up your meal plan for weight loss, you’ll need to do a few things. The first step is to figure out your total caloric intake and the amount you need to lose weight.
There are many calculators online that can help you do this. You’ll input your height, weight, male/female, activity level and how much you want to lose. You’ll be provided a number and can go from there.
If you don’t want to use a calculator, you can start by taking your body weight and multiplying that number by 10 to 13. The number you see should be the amount of deficit you have.
For example, if you weigh 300 pounds, you’d need a deficit of 3,000 calories each day. If you typically eat 5,000 calories, you’d need to reduce that by 3,000 to create a deficit large enough to help you lose weight.
Next, you’ll need to figure out your optimal meal frequency (how many times and when you eat). This step will be different for everyone, but it is an important part of the process. If you typically snack throughout the day and try to go to a three-square meal plan, you’ll fail.
I’m sorry to be so blunt, but it’s important to know your eating habits. I know I can’t handle three meals a day because I’ll go crazy wanting to eat the rest of the time. If you hate in-between snacking, you won’t do well with a five-six meal a day plan.
That’s not to say that you have to eat every day at noon, whether you’re hungry or not. That’s not the point and could cause failure. If I’m a little hungry at 10 AM, I’ll go ahead and eat a little something because otherwise, I’ll drive myself crazy and be unproductive trying to wait until noon.
Remember, as long as you consider the 90/10 principles mentioned above, it doesn’t matter whether you have eight or two meals a day. Just make sure you’re getting your recommended allotment of nutrients, protein and sugar.
The third step: Planning what you’re going to eat for the day (or week) can be extremely helpful. Most people don’t think so, believing that they’ll want to eat more. However, if you plan what you’re going to have first, you won’t have to think about it when hunger strikes.
You’ll be able to go to the fridge and make whatever you’ve chosen.
If you like the convenience of frozen meals, consider taking a weekend and making everything, then freezing it properly. I never, ever recommend using processed frozen meals, but if that’s something you can’t live without, add it for your 10 percent part of the day.
Because you want to practice uniformity, try to eat at the same time each day. My dinners are where I get in my food variance, and the rest stays pretty much the same though I will change it up a little when I get bored.
If you aren’t sure what you need to be eating, some websites can help you plan the right meals for your body. You can choose from various ideologies and input your calorie and macro-nutrient needs. You can even select from various food options in case you are allergic to something or don’t like it.
You can also go it alone, but it can take some math, and most people don’t want to figure out how much they can have or what they should have.
The fourth step includes discipline. You need to stick to your plan, no matter what. Clearly, this is the most difficult part of the plan and may cause some complaints. Most people ask me how I do it or why I do it. The truth is I slip up sometimes and go over on my calories. I’m human, and it’s okay.
I’m not saying you have to be perfect, but just because you couldn’t stay away from that donut doesn’t mean you have to eat the whole box. Take a step back, assess why you ate the poor-choice item and try to do better next time.
If it gets to be too much of a problem, you may need to eliminate those food choices from your pantry altogether.
The point is that you don’t have to do everything all at once. Start by adding a little more movement to your day and then decide to take a “healthy” day, where you forego all your cravings. It can seem drastic at first, but when the day is done, you’ll probably feel better.
The next week, add in two healthy days or near-healthy days. You can still stick to the 90/10 philosophy so that you can have a treat or two.
If that doesn’t work for you, choose which action will mean the most to your success. That could mean counting calories, getting more protein or anything else. Once you’ve determined that one factor, work towards sticking to that for about three to four weeks.
Once you’re consistent with that factor, add in another one and another, until you’re working on them all simultaneously.
My Sample Plan
Remember, I am not a dietitian, and I don’t claim to have all the answers. However, this is what I’d do if I didn’t already have a plan. If you need to stick to 2,000 calories a day and need about 20 percent of your total intake to be from fat, you’ll need 45 grams of fat, 220 grams of carbs and about 180 grams of protein.
Your breakfast should be about 600 calories, and can include 80 grams of dried oats, two boiled eggs, 10 grams of brown sugar (on the oats, and one cup of milk for cooking the oats. You could also drink the milk and cook the oats with water.
Your pre-workout or lunch meal would consist of four servings of cottage cheese, one cup of orange juice and 20 grams of honey or berries. These will be put on the cottage cheese for flavor. You can also mix it all together, including the juice, to create a smoothie.
Your post-workout snack/meal can include one serving of milk protein in the vanilla flavor and a cup of orange juice. Mixing them together will provide a creamsicle taste. You can also use the powder with water. Click here for several examples of healthy post-workout snacks.
Dinner can include 300 grams of potatoes, typically baked or mashed, 250 grams of lean chicken strips or breast, half a tablespoon of coconut oil for cooking (or extra-virgin olive oil if you have a coconut allergy), two cups of a beef broth or chicken broth.
You may want to consider lower-sodium broths as they can be high in sodium. You can turn the meal into a soup-like option or can use the broth to cook the meat.
That sample plan listed above will provide you with about 2,013 calories, giving you 47 grams of fat, 218 grams of carbs and 176 grams of protein. While the macros weren’t perfect, they’re close, which is good enough for me.
It is necessary to remember that my meal plan (the ones I mentioned above) is for me and something I would create based on my body and needs. This is not a meal plan that is meant for you or anyone you know.
You should not follow this plan and expect to see results because I don’t know anything about you.
No To Counting Calories
If you just can’t bring yourself to count calories or use any number of online tools to help you, there is still hope. While counting calories is the best way to go about losing weight, it’s not the only way. Consider Paleo diets, South Beach, and all the other fads.
They work for some people, and that’s good enough for me; I just know they wouldn’t work for me.
Focus more on creating balanced meals that include healthy portions of protein, fibrous vegetables and moderate amounts of starch, fruit, and fat. Try to learn your body’s call of being full but not overly full and try not to skew your ratios, such as eating all the carbs at once.
It’s also important to note that all foods, even protein, will have some neutral aspects, such as fat and carbohydrates. However, chicken has more protein than fat, so it is dominant in the protein aspect. Therefore, consider macro-nutrient foods that are dominant in the ratio you need, whether it be carbs, protein or fat.
That way, you can quickly create a balanced meal by picking food from the category you need and adding vegetables.
For example, if you want some ground turkey as your protein, bread buns as the carb and mayo as your fat, you could make turkey burgers and add a dark-green salad. It is best to use these macros in moderation and count a neutral food towards the macro you need.
For example, a glass of low-fat milk can count towards your protein for the meal.
This is where most people falter because they are used to fast food and overly portioned meals. It’s best to have about one or two servings of protein at each meal though that will depend on how often you eat, your overall goals and your weight. In this instance, it is usually best to overestimate your fat and underestimate your protein, because a little extra protein won’t hurt, but the fat could.
If you don’t have a food scale, determining portions can be tricky. However, 100 or 120 grams of turkey, chicken, lean beef and lamb is roughly the size of a deck of playing cards.
One can of tuna would be one serving of protein, while 100 to 120 grams of mackerel, sardines and salmon is roughly the size of a checkbook. One scoop of casein or whey protein powder is considered a serving and about four whole eggs could be two servings of protein.
However, with the egg option, you’ll also have to count that as two servings of fat. Eight to ten egg whites could be two servings of all protein, and about 250 grams of quark or cottage cheese would also suffice.
One serving of carbs (about 30 to 40 grams) would include 1.5 cups of watermelon or berries, a cup of grapes or mangos, one large apple or any large fruit, one small banana or a small glass of fruit juice (your choice.)
Carbs can also be considered a half-cup of oats (weigh before cooking), 1/4 cup of rice or quinoa (weigh before cooking) or a medium to large sweet or white potato.
One serving of fat (about 10 grams) can be equal to one tablespoon of oil (your choice, though sunflower, olive, and coconut oil are preferred), two tablespoons heavy whipping cream or butter, four tablespoons coconut milk or half a medium avocado.
Most people don’t realize that heavier foods pack more calories into the same amount of food. One cup of blueberries have fewer calories than a cup of rice, but in most cases, the rice will fill you up more because it’s starchy.
If you want to eat more calories (you are hungrier), you should consider focusing less on protein and eating more carbs and fat. For example, you can replace your grilled chicken with glazed, oven-roasted thighs. You could also substitute your green vegetable with roasted butternut squash or use potatoes instead of white rice.
If your focus is to eat fewer calories, you’ll want to focus more on protein and less on fat and carbs. Choose leaner meats and eat more veggies. For example, if you want a breakfast omelet, consider swapping out half the whole eggs with egg whites and adding onions, spinach and peppers to the mix instead of meat.
On those days where you’re going to train hard, you may decide to eat oatmeal after a workout. Those days where you’re resting or not doing such strenuous workouts, you could consider fruit as your carb of choice.
Sticking to a Plan When You’re Busy
Whether you’re spending time in an airport or just on the go all day, you’ll need to think ahead to stay on track. Consider beef jerky, protein bars and having some juice with you. Keeping a small cooler in the trunk can help keep cold beverages and foods cold until you’re ready to eat them.
Just make sure the options you bring are lower in fat and higher in protein. This will mean checking the nutritional label.
If you have to eat out, try to stay away from fast food joints if at all possible. Most sit-down or casual restaurants offer a light menu, which can include turkey and chicken. Ask them to hold the mayo (save your fat) and ask for mustard, instead.
There are no calories in mustard and it can taste pretty good. You can also consider non-fatty fish or grilled breast, with a side of rice or greens.
I tend to travel a lot, so I’m always on the go. It can be extremely easy for me to say I’ll just go off the track until I get back home, but I’ve decided that’s dumb and really hurts my progress. Instead, I don’t ever let myself off the hook to have a free-for-all and instead, always try to stick with my plans.
Ah, the age-old question: Can I eat more one day and eat less the next. Whether you’re going to a birthday party or hanging out with friends at the local bar, there are high-calorie options everywhere. The question I hear most is can I eat more one day and then eat less to compensate the next.
Eh, it can work, I’ll admit because I have done it in the past, but I do NOT recommend it. While eating too much can be good for your metabolism if you do it once a month, most people can’t keep it to that minimum. One day of overeating can easily lead to a whole week or month of overeating without realizing it, so it’s best to stick with your plan.
As a human being, you are always trying to push the limits of everything. Have you ever injured yourself while working out, even slightly? If so, you pushed yourself too hard. Most people do that when they first start out, and then learn to listen to their body and know what’s too much.
The same applies to food.
We look at food as a comfort instead of a way to nourish and provide for our bodies. This means that with one day of overeating, you may “forget” to clock in all the extra calories. The next day, you’ll forget about all those extra cals and do it again. In some cases, you may be able to hold off a few days and then claim you couldn’t help yourself from having that extra slice of birthday cake (why do so many people have birthdays at work!?)
The cycle could become never-ending, meaning you’ll be putting on the weight instead of taking it off.
However, this could be a determining factor as to why you’re diet goes all wonky because it could help you determine why. If you’re depriving yourself of certain foods or refusing to allow yourself to have them, you’ll likely binge on your off-diet day. You may also be using food to keep away the boredom or to help you feel better during stress.
Neither of those options will work for you for long periods, so it’s best to figure out why you’re overeating and how to stop.
If you’re bored, try a new activity, or clean the house. The wife won’t mind though she may look at you like you’re an alien. If you’re stressed out, try to relieve that stress. It could be as simple as lying down for half an hour or you may need to work out a budget, so you’re not worried about paying the bills.
The other problem with compensating is that the next day, you are likely to feel ravenous. I know when I go a little overboard, the next day I want to do so again. If I don’t, my body feels neglected, and I feel like crap. The day after, I want to overeat again to take away the edge.
See what I mean…vicious cycle!
Loose or Close Tracking
Again, many people wonder about low-calorie foods and whether or not they should track them. I think that you should keep track of them loosely, to help you understand how much you’re eating. However, I’m not super careful when tracking them because they barely have anything anyway. One serving of mixed lettuce contains about 15 calories. That’s not going to hurt anyone and will provide you the other nutrients you need.
However, it could be helpful to track carrots, onions and peppers, because they can have more calories per serving.
You’ll also want to consider whether or not to track condiments, such as ketchup and mustard. Unless there are few or zero calories, you should track them. For example hot sauce, mustard and vinegar have few calories. Most sauces and condiments are fatty, such as salad dressings and ranch, or include a lot of sugar, such as relishes and BBQ sauce.
I love parties, and I love indulging in whatever is offered. This usually includes high-calorie, high-fat foods, and alcohol. If I know a week or more in advance, I’ll make sure I stick to my preferred diet completely, without any mistakes. That way, I know I’ll be able to enjoy and nibble my way through the night.
I may also choose to create some space in my meal plan for that day if it’s an impromptu invite. Creating space means that if I know dinner (or evening snacking) is going to be full of booze and fatty foods, I’ll eat lighter, such as having little to no fat and carbohydrates, and only eating one to two meals.
More About Alcohol
Whether you enjoy it socially or want it all the time, alcohol packs a lot of empty calories. Even the light ones can still have almost 100 calories and are full of carbs. I tend to abstain over 99 percent of the time because I don’t necessarily care for it one way or the other. I’m not the type to enjoy a glass of Merlot at dinner, but when I do drink, I go heavy. This is usually only at special events, like parties and weddings.
If I know I’m going to have it, I’ll eat less. I typically like whiskey or vodka, which can pack up to 100 calories in a shot. Therefore, if I know I’ll have three to four shots during the night, I’ll need to cut back 300 to 400 calories, from fat and carbs, not protein.
However, you’ll also have to factor in the other options, such as burgers, fries and wings. If you want those too, you’ll have to cut back up to two meals throughout the rest of the day to indulge.
I hope you’ve found this post useful. If you follow my advice and tips you’ll be well on your way to making your own weight loss meal plan. Remember to combine your meal plan with a solid exercise regimen for faster weight loss.