There are many weight loss meal plans online, and it can be difficult for a person to know which one to follow. However, a diet that is rich in whole foods and limits processed foods is a good starting point.
This article describes how to plan a meal for weight loss and includes a 7-day meal plan for people to try. It also discusses other helpful approaches to weight loss for different groups and those with different dietary requirements.
A person should plan their meals according to their requirements. They should consider:
- how much weight they need to lose
- their activity levels
- any dietary requirements for health conditions
- any personal, cultural, or religious dietary requirements
- how much available time they have for food preparation and shopping
- their level of cooking expertise and the difficulty of recipes
- whether the meal plan needs to include other members of the household
There are resources available online that can help a person plan their meals. However, each plan’s nutrient content can vary greatly, so a person must ensure they are receiving a sufficient amount of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
The section below contains a healthful meal plan for weight loss that a person can adapt as necessary.
The following meal plan provides options for 7 days of meals and snacks. The plan consists of nutrient-dense whole foods.
A person should determine the appropriate portion sizes, according to their weight loss goals, activity levels, and individual requirements.
Dietary requirements will vary between people. There is a range of approaches to weight loss that may benefit different people.
Below are some approaches to achieving weight loss, including options for people with diabetes and those following a plant-based diet.
A 2017 systematic review investigated the effectiveness of weight loss interventions in men. The review found that the following strategies were the most effective at promoting weight loss:
- a calorie-restricted diet
- physical activity advice
- an activity and behavior-change program
However, while this review looked specifically at strategies for males, these approaches work for females too.
The review also notes that participants preferred face-based language and personal feedback. People who prefer this type of help and advice may benefit from using apps such as My Fitness Pal or receiving help from a personal trainer.
Weight loss during pregnancy and breastfeeding
Dieting during pregnancy and breastfeeding may not be appropriate. Anyone concerned about their weight or general fitness during pregnancy or breastfeeding should talk to their doctor or midwife for further advice.
Weight loss and menopause
The study found that the women had an average fat mass increase from 1–1.7% per year of the transition, resulting in a 6% total gain in fat mass over the 3.5 year transition period. The average weight gain among the participants was 1.6 kilograms.
Females who aim to lose weight during menopause should ensure that they consume enough nutrients to support their bone health. Nutrients include:
Weight loss for people with diabetes
Losing weight can help a person with diabetes manage their blood sugar levels and avoid complications.
According to the American Diabetes Association, people with diabetes should lose weight through a combination of exercise, diet, and portion control. Low glycemic index (GI) foods can help someone avoid spikes in blood sugar while they lose weight.
A person who has type 1 diabetes should ask their doctor or dietitian for help devising a weight loss plan. People will need to manage their diet to work alongside any medications they take to control their blood glucose levels.
Weight loss for vegetarians and vegans
When looking to lose weight, vegetarians and vegans should include whole foods and limit refined carbohydrates and processed foods. People should pay particular attention to packaging labels when purchasing meat alternatives, as many of these products contain added sugar and fat.
People who eat a plant-based diet will also need to ensure that their meals contain enough protein. Some good sources of plant protein include:
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), to lose weight successfully and safely, people should aim to lose 1-2 pounds per week for 6 months. A person can achieve this level of weight loss by reducing their calorie intake by 500-1000 calories per day.
However, the body can also make hormonal adaptations when a person cuts down their calories, and their weight loss may plateau as a result.
Many low-calorie diets restrict fats, but fats help a person feel full. As such, some people may not be able to sustain a low-fat diet.
People should also consider that calorie reduction alone may not be sufficient for maintaining weight loss. This is because foods with the same amount of calories can have different effects on a person’s metabolism.
For example, high GI foods could have detrimental effects on a person’s weight loss goals. According to a randomized controlled trial published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, these foods could cause:
- spikes in blood glucose levels and insulin levels
- cravings for high carbohydrate foods
- increased fat storage
Some examples of high GI foods include:
A 2018 review looked at the optimal dietary approach for effective and sustainable weight loss among people who had overweight or obesity. The review concluded that there is no single fit-for-all diet and that the best approach is individualization.
The same review emphasizes the importance of the following approaches for weight loss:
- avoiding added sugars
- limiting processed foods
- consuming whole grain products
- eating more fruit and vegetables
Some additional tips that may help a person lose weight include:
- planning meals and snacks and only purchasing foods that are on the shopping list
- being aware of portion size and the ratios of different macronutrients
- including protein and fiber in every meal
- exploring new herbs and spices to add variety to meals, thereby reducing the need for extra sugar, salt, and fat
- batch-cooking healthful meals for the freezer
- avoiding long periods without food in order to reduce cravings for unhealthful snacks
- maintaining hydration to reduce cravings for sugary drinks
- performing 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most or all days of the week
- partnering up with a diet and exercise buddy
- using the weighing scales no more than once a week and at a consistent time of the day each week
Combining a healthful diet with an active lifestyle can help a person maintain a healthy weight. Planning meals and shopping is essential for successful weight loss.
Counting calories may not be the only useful approach to weight loss. A weight loss program is more successful when a person adapts it to their individual requirements.
A registered dietitian or certified nutrition specialist can work with a person to devise an optimal meal plan and can support the person while they work towards their weight loss goals.