If you’ve managed to work your way through the rest of the content on this site, you’ll have gotten the strong impression by now how important planning is to the success of any fat loss mission. There are any number of ways to design your healthy meal plan and a healthy eating plan.
Following are just some of the options, from which you could pick and choose to come up with something customisable and bespoke to you. I advise you to read this in conjunction with, or after reading the ‘Glossary’ to familiarise yourself with key terms.
How to design your healthy meal plan
Count calories while not cutting out any specific food groups. Many people find this option preferable because it doesn’t feel as restrictive as others. You can eat basically anything you like, as long as you don’t go over your allotted calorie limit.
Obviously there is still counting and tracking involved. How many calories should you eat per day? That depends on your weight and the method you use.
The MyFitnessPal method sets you a calorie limit just above your BMR, which you aim towards, and then you can ‘eat back’ any calories you burn daily during exercise.
The pros of this method are that your eating can vary from day-to-day depending on how much exercise you do, and you feel like you’re being ‘instantly rewarded’ for exercise.
It sets up the idea that exercise should be rewarded with food, instead of being its own reward. It also requires you to be strict about counting calories consumed and burned precisely. As advised here, a kitchen scale and heart rate monitor are essential tools if you’re going to follow this method.
Online calculator method
The other option is to use an online calculator such as this one to estimate your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE), which combines your BMR with the thermic effect of the food you eat, the amount of incidental exercise you do (walking around the shops or to the bus stop for example), and any ‘hard’ planned exercise.
If you then consistently eat approximately 20% less than this TDEE, you will lose weight.
Your average daily intake can be a little higher than the previous method, so you’re less likely to feel hungry and hence deprived like you’re missing out on food.
There’s no TDEE calculator that can be completely precise, and if you’re not separately tracking the calories burned through exercise, you can’t be sure your TDEE stays as consistent as the estimate. So some weeks if you’re less active, you might see a lower, or no, result.
Cut out specific food types
Cut out specific food types but don’t count calories. For example you might decide to eliminate just bread, or just beer if you’re a heavy drinker, or sugar if this is a weakness for you. You will likely see results simply because by cutting out these foods, particularly if you choose carb-heavy foods like bread and pastries, you’ll be consuming fewer calories.
Some people appreciate having one simple rule to follow, and the relative freedom of eating as much of other ‘healthier’ foods as they like in order to not feel hungrier may make the plan easier to stick to.
This may not be sustainable because the law of human nature is that anything ‘banned’ becomes more desirable, and you may inadvertently over-compensate for the restriction by eating your body weight in soft cheese instead.
The choice is yours
My personal preference is to count the calories. It sets you up for better ‘reprogramming’ about the nutritional benefit of food, portion sizes, etc, and ultimately provides both more precision AND more flexibility. But it’s up to you. If cutting out foods works, then go for it!
If you choose to count calories, you’ll likely be eating somewhere between 1500 and 2000 calories per day for a woman (regardless of which counting method you follow), and higher than this for men. Again there are a number of options for how you can divide these calories up.
1500 calorie plan
For example on a 1500 calorie plan you might:
- Have three square meals of 500 calories each if you’re not a snacker.
- Five meals of 300 calories each if you’re a ‘grazer’.
- Three meals of 400 calories each and three 100 calorie snacks.
There are dozens of different meal and snack ideas available online – have fun exploring and designing your own healthy meal plan 🙂