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How to Meal Plan for Weight Loss: 5 Crucial Steps

Author: Amanda Cofer, MPH

When we think about losing weight a lot of us might think about meal planning…and then cringe a little. It’s no secret that cooking more at home is tough with our on-the-go jobs, kids, family activities, and other obligations but meal planning can make things go a lot more smoothly for your weight loss goals and it doesn’t have to be boring (for real)! Let’s walk through 5 steps to help you meal plan for weight loss and help make eating more whole foods a snap. 

Why should you meal plan if you’re working towards weight loss goals?

Before we spill our meal planning tips (aka secrets) let’s talk a little about why meal planning can be such a huge help and the philosophy behind it. Meal planning might put in a little more work on the front end, but will save you a world of time on the back end. Especially as you shuttle yourself to and from work and errands or shuttle your kids to soccer and dance class. The idea behind planning is pretty simple and it is what you make it. Meaning there really isn’t a right or wrong way to go about it. Meal planning for weight loss might take on a new meaning. 

Ever heard the saying “chance favors preparation”? This goes pretty well with the idea of meal planning! It helps you prepare, get ready, and take on the week ahead. We know that a big barrier to a lot of healthy habits is time and convenience. Meal planning can help eliminate both of these obstacles in your path to long term weight loss success. Generally, the more prepared your are, the better chance you have of succeeding. Of course, this sounds fantastic but what’s the reality? The reality is that it can be tough to get into the swing of a meal planning routine so here are some steps that you can take to meal plan for your weight loss success. Research has shown that those who plan meals are less likely to report being overweight. 

1) Cook foods and meals in batches

If you’ve ever meal prepped or planned before, you know how frustrating it can be when you run out of something for your lunches mid-week. Cooking in larger batches can be a way to avoid an unexpected grocery store run. You can consider the quality in these meals as well and not just think about how many calories you’re taking in. Often times, focusing on this quality has a direct impact on calories anyway! Making batches of quality food in full meals or a mix and match situation for those who need a bit more freedom, can help you have food ready to go for the week. This might also help you start to break free of the diet mindset and focus on a lifestyle that revolves around some healthy choices. 

2) Keep a menu visible in your kitchen or day planner

Seeing your goals written in your own handwriting can have some powerful effects on your thoughts and actions surrounding them. This will also help you have a visual of what’s going behind the closed doors of your fridge and help you remember what you set out to do that week. Also, sometimes we need to have these meals and goals visible to help them feel more concrete. Sure, it’s real because the time was taken to prep a few items and get to the store, but writing it out is a huge part of the planning process. This menu might also come in handy for others in your household to get ready for the meals ahead and help support you in them. 

3) Spice it up

Meal planning doesn’t have to be the same ol’ grilled chicken and broccoli in a microwavable container every day kind of thing. Feel open to spicing things up to keep from getting bored with your meals and then ending up in a drive thru or with take out. For a lot of us out there, variety is crucial for sticking with meals that are healthy and that we can feel proud of. In fact, one study found that those who plan meals may report more variety in their meals than those who don’t. If you are a lover of all things grilled chicken though, try different seasonings and spices to mix it up. In this variety, play with colors and textures to help make these meals interesting. 

4) Incorporate repurposed leftovers

One of the most common but underrated steps for meal planning just might be incorporating left overs and repurposing them for another meal. You might use them as the same meal or you might take that leftover taco meat and throw it on some salad greens for lunch the next day. The idea here is to keep it as simple as possible. Simple steps count and this one could mean the difference between a hearty, healthy lunch or a greasier option that leaves you feeling sluggish (no, thank you). Taking this one extra step when you clean up the kitchen after dinner could lead to something easy to grab when you hit the ground running the next morning. 

5) Find your community and support system

I’ve saved the very best (and maybe the most important) for last. Finding your community and support network is the last crucial piece to this meal planning for weight loss puzzle. This is where Noom comes in. This process has a lot (and I mean a lot) of trial and correction involved. One of the best ways to get there is to experiment and set gradual goals each week to find what works for you. Also, finding your tribe of fellow Noomers who are walking this journey with you could make all the difference. Bouncing ideas off each other, celebrating success, and learning from each other. With Noom you’ll be encouraged to seek out those positive interactions in your life as well and those that are supportive and encourage your meal planning and weight loss goal every step of the way. Making the process more holistic, makes it stick. 

Meal planning for weight loss: The bottom line

In the end, meal planning takes time, practice, and a little experimentation. Most might see meal planning as something that has to be done in one particular way but there are many different ways to make it exciting. Your meals don’t have to be the same thing everyday (we’d get bored too), you can mix and match, use leftovers from dinner, and choose quality food with flavor and color. While these tips and tricks come in hand when meal planning for weight loss, nothing holds a candle to have a community and support behind you every step of the way. Noom will help you through this meal planning process and help you find meal planning habits that work best for you and your weight loss goals for long-term lifestyle change.