By Amy Gorin, MS, RDN
Looking for a whole-food meal plan that doesn't leave you hungry and hangry? Here's a meal plan template for weight loss that will help you a ton. It's all you'll need!
I've had a lot of you write in recently to ask for more resources on meal planning—in particular plant-based
recipe ideas, grocery list help, and ideas for households where eating styles are mixed. This is one of the most common questions about nutrition I get as a dietitian.
I always want to make you all happy, so I've been working hard over here to get you lots of resources! And I'm so excited to announce that the following resources (including the ultimate meal plan template for weight loss!) are now available.
I can't wait for you to download my new freebie and see if any other new resources are helpful to you. It'll be so easy to plan your meals!
Grab a Meal Template for Weight Loss!
Having a good weight-loss meal plan, even a loose one, helps you save time while grocery shopping and helps make sure that you're eating healthy, balanced meals that will help you meet your goals.
I recently launched an Etsy store full of plant-based meal plans, recipe e-books, and tip sheets! And guess what? Today through Labor Day, my shop is featuring 30% off of everything! If you miss the sale, you can use code 10PERCENT for 10% off anytime.
Here's what's new at Amy Gorin Nutrition:
FREE Plant-Based Meal Plans + Grocery List
Hello, weight loss meal plan with a shopping list! Download these free meal plans for weight loss, and you'll receive a three-day plant-based meal plan–with three different calorie ranges, so your whole family can eat together!–plus a grocery list of everything you need to whip up all the meals.
Mix & Match Breakfast Meal Plan
Get it: Mix & Match Breakfast Plan
Plant-Based Breakfast Recipe E-Book
Get it: Breakfast E-Book
Mix & Match Lunch and Dinner Meal Plan
Mix & Match Snack Meal Plan
I couldn't leave out snack time! You'll get 15+ ideas for snack time in this meal planning template for weight loss. Each snack is 150-200 calories. I have options for flexitarian, vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free eaters!
Get it: Mix & Match Snack Meal Plan
50+ Zero-Calorie Ingredient List
I'm SO excited about this list because all the ideas allow you to add low-cal (almost no-cal) flavor to your food, all day long! I have options for flexitarian, vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free eaters!
Get it: 50+ Zero-Calorie Ingredient List
Ultimate Collection Mix & Match Meal Plans
Tip Sheets for Cutting 100 Calories & More
Download my tip sheets for cutting 100 calories, vegan protein picks, and immunity-boosting foods.
Why Weight Loss Meal Plans are Helpful
I don't believe in providing my clients with a super stringent meal plan for weight loss. So what you will find are meal planning templates that will help you lose weight. Because my templates for meal planning are mix and match, the creative work is left up to you.
That means you have options for what to eat! If you find that it's helpful, you can outline your meals for the week in a weekly meal planner.
I'm always more than receptive to putting together resources for what you're looking for. So if there's something else you'd like me to create, whether it's a downloadable or a blog post, just let me know.
And yes, when it comes to eating healthy you should definitely eat real food! Check out more info about the benefits of an unprocessed food diet.
How a Balanced Diet Can Help You Lose Weight
I don't believe in providing my clients with a super stringent meal plan for weight loss. So what you will find are meal planning templates that will help you lose weight.
Because my templates for meal planning are mix and match, the creative work is left up to you. That means you have options for what to eat!
When it comes to meal planning for weight loss, there are a few important strategies to follow. They include:
1. Lean Protein for Weight Loss
Lean proteins include turkey breast, salmon, hard boiled eggs, low-fat plain Greek yogurt, black bean burgers, and more. I suggest eating these at every meal because they'll help keep you fuller for longer, which will help you eat less! So get this in your head: A meal that includes a lean protein is a good weight-loss meal!
One protein I especially love is pulses, which includes beans and legumes. Definitely include these foods in your weekly meal planning.
Pulses include beans, chickpeas, lentils, and dry peas. If you don’t already love pulses, now is the time to try them. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest swapping in legumes for some of the meat and poultry you may normally consume.
And a meta-analysis review study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that eating pulses may help weight loss along.
The study authors looked at 21 studies, finding that people eating ¾ cup of pulses per day lost about three quarters of a pound over a six-week period, versus people not eating pulses daily. Subjects who lost weight were following either a weight-maintenance or weight-loss diet.
A possible reason for the weight loss is that the protein and fiber provided by pulses may help increase feelings of fullness and satiety. Although the weight loss shown in the study was small, the amount could add up to over 6 pounds over the course of a year!
I like to focus on simple swaps and nutrient-dense additions that you can make without too much effort. In fact, I bet there's at least one easy lifestyle change you can start with today! One of my favorite small changes: I use the runny yolk of a fried egg as my pancake "syrup," instead of using actual syrup or butter.
2. Fiber for Weight Loss
I also advise my clients to include a fruit or vegetable with every eating occasion and a whole grain at most meals. Whole grains include whole-grain bread and pasta, brown rice, and quinoa.
If you prefer starchy vegetables such as a sweet potato, that can serve as both a vegetable and a replacement for a whole grain. These foods contain fiber, which like protein helps to keep you satiated for longer.
Research shows why we should all aim to get more fiber: A study in Annals of Internal Medicine compared the effects of eating a high-fiber diet (30 or more grams per day), versus following the more complex American Heart Association (AHA) diet.
The AHA diet involves taking in the same amount of fiber; reducing calories by eating more fruits, veggies, and whole grains; eating lean proteins; having less sugar and salt; drinking little to no alcohol; and eating less than 7% of estimated daily calories from saturated fat (so about 12 grams of saturated fat per a 1,500-calorie daily diet).
As you can see, the high-fiber recommendation is much simpler to follow than the AHA diet—and promotes a positive action (eating more fiber), rather than a discouraging one (eating/drinking less calories sugar, salt, alcohol, and saturated fat). The researchers had two groups of volunteers test the directives.
After a year, groups following both the fiber plan and the AHA diet lost weight. The high-fiber group lost about 4 ½ pounds, while the AHA group lost about 6 pounds. Both groups saw their blood pressure levels improve, as well as their insulin resistance—which may help prevent heart disease and type 2 diabetes, respectively.
Although the fiber group didn't get instructions on other food choices, researchers saw positive dietary
changes beyond increased fiber intake, such as decreased red-meat consumption. The study authors think this may be a side effect of substituting high-fiber foods for less healthy ones.
The study’s findings show that both small and big changes can have a big impact on health. So don’t feel bad if you embrace one change at a time or get overwhelmed by thinking about doing more. That one change can have a big impact on your health!
Here are some easy ways to up your fiber intake and include fiber-rich foods in your meal planning:
Eat Whole-Wheat Pasta
This will help you take in about 2 grams extra fiber per ½ cup serving, versus using white pasta. If you’re getting used to the nuttier taste of wheat pasta, swap just half for now. You can also try a different whole grain—such as barley, wheat berries or quinoa—for about the same fiber increase.
Have High-Fiber Fruit
Try raspberries or blackberries (about 8 grams fiber per cup), a pear (5.5 grams) or an apple (4.4 grams)—with a snack. Eat an apple or pear’s skin, as it contains most of the fruit's fiber.
Add Fiber Crunch to Your Salad
Get an extra gram or two of fiber by adding crunchy veggies—broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus—that can take the place of croutons. Then add a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds, almonds, or pecans for more fiber.
Make Beans the Center of Your Plate
3. Healthy Fats for Weight Loss
The third piece of advice I give clients who are looking to lose weight is this: Incorporate sources of healthy fats into your diet plan. During each meal is ideal, and you should eat these fats every day of the week!
Mono- and polyunsaturated fats help to keep you fuller for longer, which may help you to eat less. So they're great to include in your menu plan!
And research in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology shows how healthy fats such as olive oil may be beneficial for weight loss. In the study, more than 7,000 older Spanish adults who had type 2 diabetes or high cardiovascular risk ate either a Mediterranean plus extra extra-virgin olive oil, a Mediterranean diet plus extra nuts, or a reduced-fat diet.
After about 5 years, all subjects lost weight—although the Mediterranean plus olive oil group lost the most weight (about 1.9 pounds).
The group eating extra nuts lost about 0.9 pounds, whereas the control group lost about 0.5 pounds. Waist circumference increased in all groups, although least in the group eating additional healthy fats from nuts.
Study authors say that advice to not restrict healthy dietary fat holds to be beneficial—and a diet high in healthy oils and nuts may help weight control.
A typical Mediterranean diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, fish, whole grains and limits unhealthy fats. Other sources of healthy fat include almonds, pistachios, sunflower seeds, olives, and avocado.
4. Eat From a Smaller Plate
Here's one more trick that may help you lose weight. We’ve heard for years that eating off a smaller plate may help you eat less.
A review study in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews—essentially the gold standard in scientific health research—confirms this.
The review also found that the size of the food package you choose, as well as the glass you drink from, may also affect amount of food and beverage consumed.
The study authors reviewed 72 studies, finding that consistently eating from small plates (as well as smaller packaged food items) and drinking from tall, narrow glasses could result in an up to 228-calorie daily decrease. Over the course of the year, this could equal a 20-plus-pound weight loss!
The findings also work in reverse for water: If you're trying to drink more water, drink from a shorter, wider glass or bottle to help increase your intake. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to eat my dinner off a small plate and drink from a short and wide water glass tonight!
If it helps, grab a meal planning template for losing weight, like the ones I have for sale in my online shop!
5. Reward Yourself
If you've met a big or small weight-loss goal, you might be wondering how to keep those pounds off for good. Making smart food choices—like filling up on fiber-packed fruits and veggies, and cutting back on added sugars—is important.
But motivation helps, too, like treating yourself to a new workout class or a spa day when you've logged your meals for three days in a row, met a five-pound weight-loss goal, or simply are feeling really great about your lifestyle choices. These little rewards help remind you that taking care of yourself is essential—and can be fun!
My fave ways to treat myself: a Pilates class or a massage. A little self-care is often the best way to stay on track with your long-term weight-loss and fitness goals. Get more ideas for food-free rewards in my EverydayHealth.com article!
This blog post was updated in September 2020. A version of this content originally appeared on
- 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
- Effects of Dietary Pulse Consumption on Body Weight: a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
- Single-Component Versus Multicomponent Dietary Goals for the Metabolic Syndrome, Annals of Internal Medicine
- Effect of a High-Fat Mediterranean Diet on Bodyweight and Waist Circumference: a Prespecified Secondary Outcomes Analysis of the PREDIMED Randomised Controlled Trial, The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology
- Portion, Package or Tableware Size for Changing Selection and Consumption of Food, Alcohol and Tobacco, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
- How to Design Your Kitchen for Weight-Loss Success, NBCNews.com
- 7 Calorie-Free Ways to Reward Yourself for Weight Loss, EverydayHealth.com
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