When it comes to dieting and weight loss, we seem to have a new solution, supplement or miracle food popping up every day. Throughout the years, people have done some crazy things in pursuit of the ‘perfect’ body, including: smoking (yes, popular in the 1920s to help suppress appetite), to going on liquid only diets (think master cleanse) to drastically restricting calories, food and/or food groups.

While the internet has created an avenue for more awareness around these types of weight loss methods, it’s also made the weight loss and nutrition industry all the more confusing. There are thousands of diets, systems, apps, foods and supplements aimed to help you lose weight, but does it really need to be so complicated?

One thing we’ve learned as nutritionists is that having an easy and simple structure with achievable and realistic goals is what tends to stick in the long term.

For us, it’s really all about eating whole, nutrient dense foods, reducing the ‘non-foods’ and the simple art of meal planning. These combined are some of the best, and most important tools for sustainable health and achievable weight loss.

Organizing what you’re going to eat, setting aside time to shop, prepping in advance, and knowing how to design your own success, makes it much easier to reach for healthy grab-and-go food, and easy access snacks. Learning to healthy prep allows cooking to become more of a priority, and prepping eventually becomes effortless. Those nights of quick and simple prepackaged frozen meals, or just calling in a takeout order, seem like a distant memory, or a nice treat for the nights you really just need a break from cooking.

The awesome thing about putting less of an emphasis on crash dieting is that this ‘way of eating’ is never set it stone. You can still have a bite out, change up your meals or pop that frozen burrito in the oven every now and then. The important thing is to have a general plan that works for you, and keep some guidelines in the back of your mind to stick to, so you can find balance, long-term.

We’re not going to lie, getting in the habit of meal prepping and planning takes a bit of effort and dedication, but once you get into it, that extra 30-60 minutes on Sunday will literally change your life, and the way you look at food.

GOOD MEAL PLANNING MUST-HAVES

The most important aspect of any meal plan is that it should be simple, realistic, and enjoyable. Don’t force yourself to eat foods that you don’t like simply because you saw an article claiming that they’re the next miracle food. Also, figure out what works for you and what foods make you smile, so that you know you are going to enjoy the meals you have lined up in the weeks ahead.

In addition, a balanced meal plan is generally made up of:

  • Whole foods containing all your macronutrients: slow release carbohydrates that contain plenty of fiber, healthy fats and good quality protein.
  • Breakfast that is rich in fiber, protein and healthy fats. We also like to have our fruits in the morning.
  • Lunches and dinners containing a ton of veggies (we aim for 1/2 plate of veggies, 1/4 plant or animal based protein and 1/4 slow release carbs).
  • Snacks containing protein + fiber + healthy fats to keep blood sugars stable.
  • Minimally processed foods, free from artificial ingredients and preservatives.
  • Minimal sugar, dairy and animal protein.
  • Permission to allow yourself to enjoy foods and meals you like in moderation and with balance.

WHY CALORIES IN + CALORIES OUT SHOULD NOT BE THE ONLY WAY TO MEASURE WEIGHT LOSS

If you’ve ever counted calories for weight loss, you may have realized that the equation is not as simple as it seems. Often times weight ends up being only maintained, or even gained, despite a drastic decrease in calories and an increase in exercise.

Don’t get us wrong, the equation is absolutely correct and in a setting where all the variables are stable it works perfectly, but we’re not machines. We have our own unique genetics, hormone fluctuations, lifestyles and body processes which can affect the way we absorb and burn calories.

In addition, the quality of calories we consume absolutely matters.

Let’s take white sugar calories vs. spinach calories vs. nuts calories.

Spinach is providing your body with fiber, vitamins, minerals and building blocks for your cells, while white sugar is not only devoid of any nutrients, it uses up your body’s resources, dampens your immune system, strips nutrients, messes with the healthy bacteria in your gut, and on top of it all leaves you craving more. While high calorie foods such as nuts and healthy fats (which used to be feared) help speed up our metabolism and burn more fat as a result.

How? They help in balancing blood sugars, to control cravings and keep us more full.

WHEN CALORIE MANAGEMENT CAN WORK

We don’t always advocate calorie counting, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t understand that calorie management can be beneficial in some situations.

If someone has a drastic amount of weight to lose, or is struggling with emotional overeating and managing portions, then counting and cutting calories is a good place to start. But if obesity isn’t an issue, other forms of weight loss methods, such as minor changes in the diet, is usually a better solution.

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It’s important to remember that just because a food is low in calories, it doesn’t mean that it’s healthy, so strategies on how to choose healthy whole foods should also be incorporated.

Once the initial weight is lost, to make it less stressful and more simple, portion control may be an easier concept than stressing about the numbers. If you’re trying to lose weight and are looking for a proper assessment of your current diet to try and figure out where to start, check out this Diet Review Quiz here.

HOW TO BUILD A WEIGHT LOSS MEAL PLAN BASED ON MANAGING CALORIES

Step 1: Use a Food Diary + Calculate Current Daily Calorie Intake

One of the best tools we’ve found that works with our clients is a Food & Mood Diary. It can not only track your intake of food, but using this diary and assessing how you’re feeling throughout the day both mentally and physically, allows you to see if there are any trends in the foods you are eating, your symptoms and your mood.

Using a Food & Mood Diary also helps creates a visual guide into your life beyond just the food you’re putting in your body.

How it works: Say you have cereal and milk in the morning; you would track it as well as your thoughts and emotions (you could be feeling drained, lethargic, unmotivated, have stomach upset, irritable- anything that comes to mind). You do this with all the food you eat in the day, and at the end of the week you may begin to notice that dairy is causing digestive upset, you always feel irritable 2 hours after your afternoon snack, you’re going back for seconds at dinner time, or you’re snacking too much throughout the day. This is one of the best tools nutritionists use to gather insight into potential food intolerances, blood sugar issues, hormonal imbalances, emotional eating, and other dietary issues that could affect weight loss and weight gain.

You can start by downloading a Blank Food & Mood Diary here.

To calculate your current daily calorie intake: You can then use an App such as My Fitness Pal or SparkPeople to monitor calories based on your meals.

We would recommend calculating your calorie intake for 7 consecutive days (including weekends) and then averaging out the total.  

My Current Average Daily Calorie Intake is: _____________ calories

Step 2: Calculate Your Recommended Daily Calorie Intake based on your weight loss goals

Calculate Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR): this is the energy you need for your organs to function and your body to perform all its processes at rest without moving a finger.

Use this online calculator by My Fitness Pal here to calculate your BMR.

Or, if math was your favourite subject, you can use the formula below:

  • Men BMR = (10 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) – (5 × age in years) + 5
  • Women BMR = (10 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) – (5 × age in years) – 161

My BMR is: ______________ calories

Recommended Daily Calorie Intake for Weight Maintenance: Now, take your BMR and multiply it based on your activity level below. This is your recommended daily calorie intake to maintain your weight.

  • Little to no exercise: Daily kilocalories needed = BMR x 1.2
  • Light exercise (1–3 days per week): Daily kilocalories needed = BMR x 1.375
  • Moderate exercise (3–5 days per week): Daily kilocalories needed = BMR x 1.55
  • Heavy exercise (6–7 days per week): Daily kilocalories needed = BMR x 1.725
  • Very heavy exercise (twice per day, extra heavy workouts): Daily kilocalories needed = BMR x 1.9

My Recommended Daily Calorie Intake for Weight Maintenance is: ____________ calories

Recommended Daily Calorie Intake for Weight Loss: Now to lose weight, take this number and reduce calories by 10-20% but never below your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) requirement.

My Recommended Daily Calorie Intake for Weight Loss is: ____________ calories

Step 3: Choose the meal plan that fits your goals

7-DAY MEAL PLAN (~1,500 CALORIES)

Day 1:

  • Breakfast: 1 Serving of Warm Peanut Butter Oats with 1/4 cup blueberries.
  • Lunch: Chopped salad with 2 cups of spinach, 1/4 cup chick peas, 1.5 oz. goat cheese, 1/4 cucumber, 1/2 red pepper, 1 Tbsp hemp seeds, 2 Tbsp salad dressing (olive oil & lemon or balsamic vinegar).
  • Dinner: 4 oz. Salmon filet with 1 Tbsp tamari, 1/4 cup cooked quinoa and sautéed asparagus (or veggie mix).
  • Snack 1: Cucumber and carrot slices with 3 Tbsp hummus.
  • Snack 2: 1/4 cup mixed raw nuts.

Day 2:

  • Breakfast: 2 eggs scrambled with 1 tsp coconut oil, 1 cup chopped spinach, 1/4 cup tomatoes, garlic and served with half an avocado.
  • Lunch: 1 cup Butternut Squash Soup with 1 serving Mary’s crackers.
  • Dinner: Stuffed chicken breast (1 slice of mozzarella, 1 roasted red pepper, 1 large kale leaf) with 2 Tbsp marinara sauce served with 1 cup green salad with 1/2 Tbsp dressing, 1/4 cup roasted potatoes with 1 tsp olive oil, salt and pepper.
  • Snack 1: 1 brown rice cake with 1 Tbsp natural almond or peanut butter, half a banana.
  • Snack 2: 1/2 cup of berries.

Day 3:

  • Breakfast: Easy Overnight Oats.
  • Lunch: Mashed Chickpea Salad on 1 Gluten-free or Ezekiel toast (leftover for Day 5).
  • Dinner: White Turkey Chili with 1/4 cup organic blue corn tortilla chips (use left over for Day 5).
  • Snack 1: 1 apple.
  • Snack 2: 1 hardboiled egg with a dash of cumin and 1/4 red pepper.

Day 4:

  • Snack 1: 1/2 cup sliced red peppers, 1/3 cup cucumbers with 3 Tbsp hummus.
  • Snack 2: 1/4 cup raw nut and seed blend.

Day 5:

  • Breakfast: Easy Overnight Oats with 1 Tbsp cacao powder or chocolate chips.
  • Lunch: Leftover Mashed Chickpea Salad on 2 cups of spinach with 2 Tbsp salad dressing of choice.
  • Dinner: Loaded Turkey Chili Baked Sweet Potato (leftover chili).
  • Snack 1: 1 cup organic popcorn.
  • Snack 2: 2 dark chocolate squares (70%+).

Day 6:

  • Snack 1: 1 hard boiled egg with sprinkle of cumin 1/2 cup sliced veggies.
  • Snack 2: 1/2 sweet potato with 1/2 Tbsp peanut butter drizzled and a dash of cinnamon.

Day 7:

  • Breakfast: 2 eggs scrambled with 1 tsp coconut oil, 1/4 cup sweet potato, 1 cup spinach and garlic with 1 slice of Ezekiel bread or gluten-free bread.
  • Lunch: Chopped salad with 2 cups of spinach, 1/4 cup chickpeas, 1.5 oz. goat cheese, 1/4 cucumber, 1/2 red pepper, 1 Tbsp hemp seeds, 2 Tbsp salad dressing (olive oil & lemon or balsamic vinegar).
  • Dinner: High Protein Veggie Burger Recipe with Chickpeas and Quinoa with whole grain bun.
  • Snack 1: 2 Energy Bites.
  • Snack 2: 1 apple.

7-DAY MEAL PLAN (~2,000 CALORIES)

Day 1:

  • Breakfast: 1 Serving of Warm Peanut Butter Oats with 1/2 cup blueberries.
  • Lunch: Chopped salad with 2 cups of spinach, 1/4 cup chick peas, 1.5 oz. goat cheese, 1/4 cucumber, 1/2 red pepper, 1 Tbsp hemp seeds, 2 Tbsp salad dressing (olive oil & lemon or balsamic vinegar) and 1/4 avocado.
  • Dinner: 5 oz. Salmon filet with 1 Tbsp tamari, 1/2 cup cooked quinoa and sautéed asparagus (or veggie mix).
  • Snack 1:  Cucumber and carrot slices with 3 Tbsp hummus.
  • Snack 2: 1/4 cup mixed raw nuts.

Day 2:

  • Breakfast: 2 eggs scrambled with 1 Tbsp coconut oil, 1 cup chopped spinach, 1/4 cup tomatoes, garlic and served with half an avocado.
  • Lunch: 1 cup Butternut Squash Soup with 1 serving Mary’s crackers and 2 Tbsp pumpkin seeds.
  • Dinner: Stuffed chicken breast (1 slice of mozzarella, 1 roasted red pepper, 1 large kale leaf) with 2 Tbsp marinara sauce served with 1 cup green salad with 1/2 Tbsp dressing, 1/4 cup roasted potatoes with 1 tsp olive oil, salt and pepper.
  • Snack 1: 1 brown rice cake with 1 Tbsp natural almond or peanut butter, half a banana.
  • Snack 2: 1/2 cup of berries with 1/2 cup full fat Greek yogurt.

Day 3:

  • Breakfast: Easy Overnight Oats.
  • Lunch: Mashed Chickpea Salad on 2 Gluten-free or Ezekiel toasts (leftover for Day 5).
  • Dinner: White Turkey Chili with 1/4 cup organic blue corn tortilla chips (use left over for Day 5).
  • Snack 1: 1 apple with 2 Tbsp almond butter
  • Snack 2: 1 hard boiled egg drizzled with 1 Tbsp olive oil, a dash of cumin, and 1/4 red pepper.

Day 4:

  • Breakfast: Tahini Energy Smoothie (2 Tbsp tahini).
  • Lunch: Roasted Beet Quinoa Salad with 1 Tbsp goat cheese (leftover for day 6).
  • Dinner: Vegan Sweet Potato Chili with 2 Tbsp full fat Greek or coconut yogurt and 1/2 cup cooked brown rice.
  • Snack 1: 1/2 cup sliced red peppers, 1/3 cup cucumbers with 3 Tbsp hummus and half an avocado.
  • Snack 2: 1/4 cup raw nut and seed blend.

Day 5:

  • Breakfast: Easy Overnight Oats with 1 Tbsp cacao powder or chocolate chips.
  • Lunch: Leftover Mashed Chickpea Salad on 2 cups of spinach with 2 Tbsp salad dressing of choice and 1 gluten-free or Ezekiel toast.
  • Dinner: Loaded Turkey Chili Baked Sweet Potato (leftover chili).
  • Snack 1: 1 cup organic blue corn tortilla chips and 1/4 cup guacamole.
  • Snack 2: 4 dark chocolate squares (70%+).

Day 6:

  • Breakfast: Chia Seed & Banana Breakfast Pudding.
  • Lunch: 1 cup Winter Squash Leek and Vegetable Soup with 2 Tbsp pumpkin seeds and 1 serving Mary’s crackers or 1 slice of gluten-free or Ezekiel bread.
  • Dinner: Leftover Roasted Beet Quinoa Salad with optional 1 Tbsp goat cheese.
  • Snack 1: 2 hard boiled eggs with sprinkle of cumin 1/2 cup sliced veggies.
  • Snack 2: 1/2 sweet potato with 1 Tbsp peanut butter drizzled and a dash of cinnamon.

Day 7:

  • Breakfast: 2 eggs scrambled with 1 Tbsp coconut oil, 1 cup chopped spinach, 1/4 cup sweet potato, garlic and served with half an avocado.
  • Lunch: Chopped salad with 2 cups of spinach, 1/4 cup chick peas, 1 oz. goat cheese, 4 oz. chicken breast, 1/4 cucumber, 1/2 red pepper, 1 Tbsp hemp seeds, 2 Tbsp salad dressing (olive oil & lemon or balsamic vinegar).

7-DAY MEAL PLAN (~2,500 CALORIES)

Day 1:

  • Breakfast: 1 Serving of Warm Peanut Butter Oats with 1/2 cup blueberries (with both 1 Tbsp flax & 1 Tbsp hemp seeds).
  • Lunch: Chopped salad with 2 cups of spinach, 1/4 cup chickpeas, 1.5 oz. goat cheese, 4 oz. chicken breast, 1/4 cucumber, 1/2 red pepper, 1 Tbsp hemp seeds, 2 Tbsp salad dressing (olive oil & lemon or balsamic vinegar) and 1/4 avocado.
  • Dinner: 6 oz. Salmon filet with 1 Tbsp tamari, 1/2 cup cooked quinoa and sautéed asparagus (or veggie mix) drizzled with 1 Tbsp olive oil.
  • Snack 1:  Cucumber and carrot slices with 3 Tbsp hummus.
  • Snack 2: 1/4 cup mixed raw nuts.
  • Snack 3: Energy or protein bar (Vega, Genuine Health and Larabar are a few of our favs).

Day 2:

  • Breakfast: 3 eggs scrambled with 1 Tbsp coconut oil, 1 cup chopped spinach, 1/4 cup tomatoes, garlic and served with half an avocado.
  • Lunch: 1.5 cup Butternut Squash Soup with 1 serving Mary’s crackers and 2 Tbsp pumpkin seeds.
  • Dinner: Stuffed chicken breast (1 slice of mozzarella, 1 roasted red pepper, 1 large kale leaf) with 2 Tbsp marinara sauce served with 1 cup green salad with 2 Tbsp dressing, 1/4 cup roasted potatoes with 1 tsp olive oil, salt and pepper.
  • Snack 1: 2 brown rice cakes with 2 Tbsp natural almond or peanut butter, and 1 banana.
  • Snack 2: 1/2 cup of berries with 1/2 cup full fat Greek yogurt.

Day 3:

  • Breakfast: Easy Overnight Oats with 1 banana and 1/4 cup berries.
  • Lunch: Mashed Chickpea Salad on 2 Gluten-free or Ezekiel toasts (leftover for Day 5).
  • Dinner: White Turkey Chili on 1 cup cauliflower rice with 1/2 cup organic blue corn tortilla chips (use left over for Day 5).
  • Snack 1: 1 apple with 2 Tbsp almond butter
  • Snack 2: 2 hardboiled eggs drizzled with 1 Tbsp olive oil, a dash of cumin, with 1/4 red pepper and 1/4 avocado.

Day 4:

  • Dinner: Vegan Sweet Potato Chili with 2 Tbsp full fat Greek or coconut yogurt and 1/2 cup cooked brown rice.
  • Snack 1: 1/2 cup sliced red peppers, 1/3 cup cucumbers with 3 Tbsp hummus and half an avocado.
  • Snack 2: 1/2 cup raw nut and seed blend.

Day 5:

  • Breakfast: Easy Overnight Oats with 1 Tbsp cacao powder or chocolate chips.
  • Lunch: Leftover Mashed Chickpea Salad on 2 cups of spinach with 2 Tbsp salad dressing of choice and 1 gluten-free or Ezekiel toast.
  • Dinner: Loaded Turkey Chili Baked Sweet Potato (leftover chili)
  • Snack 1: 1 cup organic blue corn tortilla chips and 1/2 cup guacamole.
  • Snack 2: 4 dark chocolate squares (70%+).
  • Snack 3: Energy or protein bar (Vega, Genuine Health and Larabar are a few of our favs).

Day 6:

Day 7:

  • Breakfast: 2 eggs scrambled with 1 Tbsp coconut oil, 1 cup chopped spinach, 1/4 cup sweet potato, garlic and served with half an avocado.
  • Lunch: Chopped salad with 2 cups of spinach, 1/4 cup chickpeas, 1.5 oz. goat cheese, 4 oz. chicken breast, 1/4 cucumber, 1/2 red pepper, 1 Tbsp hemp seeds, 2 Tbsp salad dressing (olive oil & lemon or balsamic vinegar) and 1/4 avocado.
  • Dinner: High Protein Veggie Burger Recipe with Chickpeas and Quinoa with whole grain bun and served with a 1/2 cup slaw made with avocado mayo and 1/2 baked sweet potato fries.
  • Snack 1: 3 Energy Bites.
  • Snack 2: 1 apple with 1 Tbsp almond butter.

This amazing guest post was written by Jenni + Mimi, Registered Holistic Nutritionists and founders of Naughty Nutrition. They’re research-lovin’ nutrition mavens that have made it their mission to connect you with the most accurate, up-to-date, science-based health resources alongside simple and delicious recipes. You can download a list of their Top Free Resources here to kick-start your health and make this newfound lifestyle stick, for life.

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Naughty Nutrition
Founders of Naughty Nutrition
Hey there health seeker! We’re Jenni + Mimi, the founders of Naughty Nutrition. We're research-lovin' nutrition mavens, and we've made it our mission to connect you with the most accurate, up-to-date, science-based health resources. We like to show healthy brands plenty of love too! You’ll also find us dishing up simple, delicious & healthy recipes and meal planning ideas - all without any of the BS attached! Naughty Nutrition is...90% nutrition + 10% chocolate + 0% BS
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