In a cooking rut? How to meal plan for weight loss

  • 3 Minutes Read
Martha M. Henze
Martha M. Henze, MPH, MS, RDN - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Global Public Health Epidemiologist

Same old, same old? Are you in a mealtime rut? Choose a simple system to help you meal plan and progress toward your weight-loss goals by preparing faster and healthier meals.

How to meal plan for weight loss

Are you in a cooking rut? Have your calorie-conscientious meals hit a plateau and incited an "I'm-so-done-with-dinner" attitude from dull repetition? If you're on a particular diet plan that limits the variety of foods, boredom can set in at mealtime and backfire on your diet with tempting little indulgences that sabotage your weight-loss goals. One key to getting out of a cooking rut is meal planning with a weekly menu.

Advantages of making a weekly MENU:

Buy a chalkboard or dry erase board and put it in a common space.

Pick up a chalkboard or weekly calendar board at a thrift or discount store. Writing your meal plan on a public board keeps you accountable and gives everyone in your household meals to look forward to and help plan. When our children were younger, a favorite meal was "breakfast for supper." Everyone wore their pajamas to supper, and I made scrambled eggs with sautéed spinach, onions, and sharp cheddar cheese. Alongside were whole-grain toast and a fruit salad mixed with a combination of low-fat Greek yogurt and coconut yogurt. If something came up and I had to change the menu, our daughters were quite upset because they said they had been dreaming about that meal since morning recess.

Look at your calendar and the evening activities for each day during a given week.

Think about what type of meal, prep, and cooking makes sense based on your activities and what time you will be home.

Late business meeting on the agenda? Slow cooker to the rescue!
When you know it will be a late night at work, a slow-cooker meal is a proactive way to plan a hearty meal. Try slow-cooked chicken in the crockpot with carrots, potatoes, and onions. Buy a bag of a pre-made salad for a side dish. Add a glass of low-fat milk, and you have a complete meal.

Try these healthy slow cooker meals from Pinterest.

Basketball putting a full-court press on healthy eating? Plan on homemade paninis!
The next basketball game is scheduled practically at dinnertime, so you'll need to eat in the car, again. Make paninis in a panini maker with pesto, roasted turkey deli meat, and cheese. Add a thin slice of tomato and avocado before you wrap them in aluminum foil for a warm sandwich on-the-go. Complement your meal by packing such fruits and vegetables as baby carrots, mini-peppers, and an apple. Finish your meal with portable, shelf-safe milk or water.

Two ways to plan your weekly menus

1. Plan around your protein source

If you're the only one in the household who's dieting, no need to suddenly become a short order cook. Build a healthy-eating lifestyle using ideas from ChooseMyPlate. Once you have your protein source figured out, fill in with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy. Start with a few small changes, such as making half of your plate fruits and vegetables. Here are the main protein examples for a week:
Sunday: Beef
Monday: Meatless (beans, tofu, lentils)-Try these 5-ingredient vegetarian recipes.
Tuesday: Chicken
Wednesday: Soup (Double it, so you just reheat on the weekend)
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Fish-Try these 20 superfast fish recipes.
Saturday: Pork

Plan around a cultural theme.

Sunday: Asian-stir fry, rice bowl, chop suey; try these recipes for healthy Asian foods.
Monday: Mexican-burritos, tacos, enchiladas. Make them healthier by increasing chopped vegetables.
Tuesday: Italian-pasta, pizza, calzones. Choose marinara sauces and thin crust pizzas for calorie savings.
Wednesday: Indian-be creative with these simple recipes for healthy Indian foods.
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Americana-grilled hamburgers, meatloaf, or whole-grain macaroni and cheese
Saturday: Meatless-cook's choice
If you are looking for some new healthy recipes, try these 30 delicious dinners from 30 dietitians.

Create your shopping list on your phone

Based on your weekly menu, make your shopping list on your phone and save it by week. This way, you will not lose that little slip of paper called your shopping list, and you can reuse your ideas for future weeks. One of my weight-loss clients told me recently, "The menu board worked so well that I started doubling my recipes so that I had healthy leftovers for lunches the next day. Of course, I had to remember to buy twice the number of ingredients at the grocery store."

As you meal plan for weight loss and healthier living using these tips, you're sure to accomplish a more satisfying dining experience for the whole family.

Happy cooking!

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Updated: May 22, 2020

Meal Planning & Diets->Dinner Meal Planning & Diets->"Plan, Shop, Prep, and Cook"
May 22, 2020

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