Meal prep is a simple and easy way to track your food intake. Whether you just want to stay away from over-processed foods and eat healthy to build muscle, lose weight, or simply feel better, meal prep is a great idea. Prepping all, or at least most your meals, ahead of time makes cooking and eating healthy, nutritious food easier and quicker than ordering take out or grabbing some fast food on the go.
The plan promotes long-lasting, sustainable changes, and undoubtedly a bounty of research backs this up. In fact, one December 2013 study in the American Journal of Medicine shows that people following Weight Watchers were close to nine times more likely to lose 10 percent of their body weight, compared to people following a self-help diet plan. (20)
First things first – planning. Before you start to prep your meals, you need a nice, solid plan. Coming up with a meal plan may sound overwhelming at first, but it’s not as bad as it may seem. Just take it one step at a time and start with one, simple meal you love and that you know is healthy, and then work your way up. Soon, you’ll be prepping all your meals! Watch out – it gets addicting!
To reach your get-lean goal, you must also follow a get-lean diet, filled with the best foods to burn fat. Why? Even if you work out hard for an hour every day, that still leaves 23 more hours for you to wreck all your hard work in the gym with just one slip-up: a measly handful of chips, a beer with the guys, or a burger at lunch. Diet is a huge, so to speak, part of the fat-loss equation. It's the backbone of your entire plan, the foundation of a hard body.
Keep stocked in your refrigerator or freezer a box of veggie burgers (look for low-sodium varieties). Veggie burgers are a much better choice for your waistline and heart than ground meat. Veggie patties have only about half the calories of regular red meat patties, and zero heart-hurting saturated fat. Plus, they’re so easy to cook – just one or two minutes in the microwave. While toasting your whole-wheat bun, take from your pantry a jar of roasted red bell peppers and top your veggie patty with a couple of luscious slices. Smear your bun with a little low-sodium Dijon mustard.
Choose Liquid Calories Wisely. Sweetened drinks pile on the calories, but don't reduce hunger like solid foods do. Satisfy your thirst with water, sparkling water with citrus, skim or low-fat milk, or small portions of 100% fruit juice. Try a glass of nutritious and low-calorie vegetable juice to hold you over if you get hungry between meals. Be careful of alcohol calories, which add up quickly. If you tend to drink a glass or two of wine or a cocktail on most days, limiting alcohol to the weekends can be a huge calorie saver.
So how does this work? A quick run-through: The first tip was to eat low carb. This is because a low-carb diet lowers your levels of the fat-storing hormone insulin, allowing your fat deposits to shrink and release their stored energy. This tends to cause you to want to consume fewer calories than you expend – without hunger – and lose weight. Several of the tips mentioned above are about fine-tuning your diet to better this effect.
It could be beneficial for your health and your weight loss goals to drink more water and less alcohol. Dr. Bazilian says that alcohol doesn’t have to necessarily be avoided altogether. but you should think if and where alcohol fits in the context of your overall health goals. “Aside from calories, alcohol doesn’t offer much by way of nutrition, so it’s at minimum an important decision to have going into any weight-loss program for yourself whether, how often, what type and how much may or may not fit in your timeline and goals,” she says. Alcohol also reduces inhibitions sometimes making it more challenging to make healthy eating choices, according to Dr. Bazilian. And alcohol may negatively impact sleep which plays a role in healthy metabolism, she adds. 

The final possible culprit behind stubborn weight issues may be the stress hormone, cortisol. Too much cortisol will increase hunger levels, bringing along subsequent weight gain. The most common cause of elevated cortisol is chronic stress and lack of sleep (see tip #10), or cortisone medication (tip #9). It’s a good idea to try your best to do something about this.
Glassman suggests starting with a calorie baseline: If you're trying to lose weight, she recommends a meal plan that contains (roughly) 1,500 calories, with 40 percent coming from whole, fiber-rich carbs, 30 percent from protein, and 30 percent from healthy fats. That balance is ideal for keeping energy levels up and helping you build lean muscle while squashing hunger and the cravings that come with it, she says.
The researchers hypothesize that participants who abstained from animal products dropped significantly more pounds since plant-based foods include loads of filling fiber and slow-to-digest complex carbs. Though more research is needed to confirm these results, the study authors write, "Vegetarian diets appeared to have significant benefits on weight reduction compared to non-vegetarian diets."
Directions: Rinse 1 cup of quinoa in cold water. In a medium saucepan, combine quinoa with 1 tablespoon curry powder and 1 teaspoon turmeric. Add 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until the water is absorbed—about 15 minutes. Stir in 1 cup shredded carrots and 1 cup cubed firm tofu. Makes about 4 one-cup servings. Refrigerate remaining servings for an easy, healthy snack or meal later in the week.
Even if you do meet your goal, it's nearly impossible to keep off the weight over the long term: "The amount of restriction required [to maintain that number] will make you so hungry that you’ll eat everything in sight—it’s survival instinct," Dr. Seltzer says. And since calorie restriction gradually slows your metabolism, your body will be less prepared to burn the foods you binge on, he adds. That could mean gaining more pounds than you lost in the first place.
Hi there, it’s Lacey! I’m the editor and main writer for A Sweet Pea Chef. I'm a food blogger, photographer, videographer, clean eating expert, and mommy of four. I also run the awesome free Take Back Your Health Community, am the healthy and clean weekly meal planner behind No-Fail Meals, and a little bit in love with Clean Eating. Be sure to check out my free beginner’s guide to eating clean and follow me on YouTube and Instagram to get my latest recipes and healthy eating inspiration.

You may be tempted to skip meals like breakfast when you're trying to lose an extreme amount of weight, but those who succeed at weight loss make breakfast a priority. Try a poached egg on a slice of whole-wheat toast covered in one-eighth of an avocado and served with 1 cup of sliced strawberries and a 6-ounce container of nonfat Greek yogurt for 420 calories. A 1/2-cup serving of low-fat cottage cheese with a sliced banana and an English muffin with 2 teaspoons of peanut butter also makes a good breakfast option on your weight-loss diet. That option contains 440 calories. Or enjoy a breakfast smoothie by blending 12 ounces of nonfat Greek yogurt with 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds, 3/4 cup of blueberries, 1 cup of raspberries and ice for 400 calories.
It might seem like swapping regular products for “sugar-free,” “fat-free,” or “diet foods” is an easy fix. But they could do more harm than good. In fact, artificial sweeteners they could even cause weight gain, according to research published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. As for fat-free foods, choosing the full-fat option will keep you fuller longer, according to Pashko. Steering clear of ravenous hunger will ensure you don’t overeat later.
A diet plan is one step towards achieving a healthy lifestyle. Fitness and health guidelines give information on how exercise and living an active lifestyle could complement the benefits of eating healthy. Be sure to check important guides such as eating out, lifestyle tips, portion control guides, clinical research and exercise tips to achieve the maximum benefits of enrolling in a diet program.
If you want to lose weight you should start by avoiding sugar and starch (like bread, pasta and potatoes). This is an old idea: For 150 years or more there have been a huge number of weight-loss diets based on eating fewer carbs. What’s new is that dozens of modern scientific studies have proven that, yes, low carb is the most effective way to lose weight.
By planning your meals and logging what you eat and drink, you will start memorizing how many calories are in your favorite meals and ingredients. Best of all you will learn your own eating habits and cravings, so over time you can better plan your meals to suit your cravings. After a couple weeks if you see you consistently have a 3:00 pm craving for carbs, you can head off that craving in advance with a skinny sandwich at lunch. Or, a sweet craving at 10:00 am can be managed with a sweet oatmeal breakfast.
"Anytime you’re stressed, you probably go for food," Dr. Seltzer says. (Have we met?!) That’s because cortisol, the stress hormone, stokes your appetite for sugary, fatty foods. No wonder it’s associated with higher body weight, according to a 2007 Obesity study that quantified chronic stress exposure by looking at cortisol concentrations in more than 2,000 adults’ hair.
This high-protein, fat-rich plan claims you will lose up to 15 pounds in two weeks, but the unhealthy fat content drops the diet’s ranking. Similar to the ketogenic diet, the idea is that by severely restricting your carb intake, your body will have to burn fat for energy. Atkins has a decent amount of short-term research to support the premise, but the results are mixed. The American Heart Association links saturated fats—prevalent in this plan—to heart disease. Other negatives for Atkins are that it’s tough to sustain, and you’ll miss out on fiber and other nutrients in complex carbohydrates like whole grains. Check out the 15 best Atkins diet foods you can get at the grocery store.
Dr. Bazilian says one of the worst things she sees as a dietitian are people who have an “all or nothing” approach to nutrition. Instead of setting rigid rules that could discourage you, Dr. Bazilian suggests applying gentler guidelines along with positive reinforcement can help. “If you’re trying to shift your habits around an afternoon snack that consists of sugary baked good or cookie or candy and a coffee, perhaps build in room for a day (one!) where this may happen either spontaneously or during a planned instance,” she says. “Then navigate the rest of the week keeping in mind that you’ve built in some flexibility and you’re not depriving yourself.” Next, check out these ways to lose weight without a lick of exercise. 
Combine onions and vinegar in bowl and marinate for 5 minutes. Drain the onions and set aside. Spray a large skillet with non-stick cooking spray, and heat over medium heat. Add onions, and cook until onions have softened, about 5-7 min. Transfer to bowl and set aside. Place tortillas in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat (they will overlap). Warm for about 45 seconds on each side.
For weight loss, you need to find the right balance of calories so that you lose at a rate of 1 to 2 pounds a week. Starvation diets that severely restrict caloric intake may help you lose weight faster, but you're losing water and muscle, not fat. Plus, when you eat too few calories, your body may hold onto fat as a means of protection against the starvation. This change in metabolism makes it even harder for you to lose the unwanted pounds.
The best diet for losing weight is Weight Watchers, according to the experts who rated the diets below for U.S. News. Volumetrics came in second, and Jenny Craig and the vegan diet were third on this overall weight loss ranking list, which takes into account short-term and long-term weight loss scores. Some other diets performed as well or better in our rankings for enabling fast weight loss, but long-term weight loss is more important for your health.

Nuts. It’s very easy to eat until the nuts are gone, regardless of how full you are. A tip: According to science, salted nuts are harder to stop eating than unsalted nuts. Salted nuts tempt you to more overeating. Good to know. Another tip: Avoid bringing the entire bag to the couch, preferably choose a small bowl instead. I often eat all the nuts in front of me, whether I’m hungry or not.
Consuming protein in the morning will stabilize blood sugar, Sharon Collison, RD, sports dietitian and clinical instructor at the University of Delaware says. “Make sure to have an excellent source of protein with every breakfast such as Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, or two to three eggs,” she says. Eating more protein earlier in the day could also help reduce sugar cravings in the late afternoon, Collison adds.
A diet plan is one step towards achieving a healthy lifestyle. Fitness and health guidelines give information on how exercise and living an active lifestyle could complement the benefits of eating healthy. Be sure to check important guides such as eating out, lifestyle tips, portion control guides, clinical research and exercise tips to achieve the maximum benefits of enrolling in a diet program.
Have Protein at Every Meal and Snack. Adding a source of lean or low-fat protein to each meal and snack will help keep you feeling full longer so you're less likely to overeat. Try low-fat yogurt, small portion of nuts, peanut butter, eggs, beans, or lean meats. Experts also recommend eating small, frequent meals and snacks (every 3-4 hours), to keep your blood sugar levels steady and to avoid overindulging.
The Mayo Clinic health experts designed this plan to produce long-lasting behavior change—and lasting weight loss. You can lose six to ten pounds in the Lose It phase by adding healthy habits and ditching unhealthy ones. Food choices are built around the Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid and bulky, low-calorie foods that fill you up fast—an idea that scores well in studies. The Live It phase teaches more advanced weight-loss skills to help make it stick. This diet plan’s main restrictions are to eat out less, not expect overnight weight loss, and seek your healthcare professional’s approval before starting. Don’t miss these 13 weight-loss foods that will help you shed pounds fast.

Nuts. It’s very easy to eat until the nuts are gone, regardless of how full you are. A tip: According to science, salted nuts are harder to stop eating than unsalted nuts. Salted nuts tempt you to more overeating. Good to know. Another tip: Avoid bringing the entire bag to the couch, preferably choose a small bowl instead. I often eat all the nuts in front of me, whether I’m hungry or not.

Enjoy the rich flavor of sweet potatoes? While home on Sundays, cook up a batch. Wrap each one in foil and bake for about an hour at 425 degrees F, or until their luscious, sweet juices start to ooze out into the foil. At work the following week, just pop one in the microwave for a quick warm-up. They’re loaded with taste, so they don’t need any extra toppings. If you want a little zest, swirl in a teaspoon or two of no-salt-added Dijon mustard or a quarter cup of plain nonfat Greek yogurt.

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