By now, you probably know that there are no miracle weight-loss solutions. The only way to shed some pounds and keep them off is to change your eating habits by having healthy, balanced meals and cutting down on fat, sugar, simple carbs, and junk food.
We know; that's easier said than done.
Here are nine meal ideas to help you lose weight. We've also been kind enough to provide you with examples for your three main meals of the day (breakfast, lunch and dinner).
You've probably heard this a thousand times: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. According to The National Weight Control Registry, breakfast is one of the key factors to long-term weight control. In fact, studies published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition show that people who skip breakfast tend to be heavier than those who eat a healthy morning meal.
Eating within the first hour after you wake up helps to maintain your blood sugar and hormone levels, which keeps your energy level high throughout the morning and ensures that you don't overeat at lunchtime. It also kick-starts your metabolism, which will actually burn more calories throughout the day.
However, choose wisely since lots of typical breakfast foods are comprised of simple carbohydrates, such as white bread, many breakfast cereals (particularly brands for kids) and regular bagels. Because they are very easily digested, simple carbs send your blood sugar shooting up. When it comes back down, you'll feel ravenous. When looking at breakfast meal ideas to help you lose weight, choose complex carbs and protein instead.
3 healthy breakfast ideas
1. 2 slices of whole-wheat toast with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter or apple butter (apple puree that tastes great but does not contain any actual butter and has very little fat) and 1 medium apple.
2. ½ cup of granola or high-fiber cereal (which will keep you feeling full) mixed into 1 cup fat-free fruit yogurt.
3. 1 small whole-wheat bagel with 1 tablespoon of light cream cheese and 1 tablespoon of light strawberry jam.
What to avoid:
-- Buttered toast
Lunch is almost as important as breakfast in terms of avoiding a mid-afternoon dip in energy, which can result in a high-sugar, high-fat snack binge. If possible, bring your own lunch to work rather than eat out; even seemingly "safe" salads can be diet nightmares if drenched in fatty dressing. The fact is you never know what you're getting unless you make it yourself. If you must eat out, pick items that are grilled, steamed or poached and ask for dressings and sauces on the side.
A great side dish to any lunch might be ½ cup of baby carrots, 1 medium piece of fruit, 1 cup fat-free yogurt, or 1 low-fat granola bar.
3 healthy lunch ideas:
1. Turkey wrap: 1 flour tortilla, 1 teaspoon light mayonnaise, 2 to 3 thin slices of deli turkey, ½ cup of shredded lettuce, 2 slices of tomato, 1 tablespoon of shredded cheese, and salt & pepper to taste.
2. Grilled chicken salad: 2 cups of romaine lettuce, 3 ounces of grilled and seasoned chicken, 2 tablespoons of green or red peppers, 3 wedges of tomato, 6 slices of cucumber, 4 baby corns, and 2 tablespoons of low-fat dressing of your choice.
3. Maine crab rolls: 6 ounces of cooked jumbo lump crab meat, 1 teaspoon of light mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon of sweet pickle relish, ½ scallion (thinly sliced), 1 pinch ground pepper, and 2 hot dog buns.
What to avoid:
-- Caesar salad (its dressing is packed with fat)
-- Breaded or battered chicken
-- French fries (as a side order)
Avoid having a huge dinner since you likely won't be doing any exercise afterward and are less likely to burn off the calories you ingest. But make sure to have a satisfying meal including protein, complex carbs and veggies in order to avoid snacking in front of the TV all night.
Once again, feel free to end your meal with a healthy dessert, such as 1 cup of fruit salad, 1 cup of fat-free yogurt, or ½ cup of frozen yogurt or sorbet.
3 healthy dinner ideas:
1. 4 ounces of baked or grilled seasoned chicken or 4 ounces of broiled filet of fish (sole, flounder, salmon, etc.), 1 small baked potato with 1 tablespoon of low-fat sour cream, ½ cup of steamed broccoli, and 1 teaspoon margarine.
2. Fajitas: 1 flour tortilla, 3 ounces of grilled chicken or steak, ½ cup grilled onions and green peppers, ¼ cup salsa and 1 tablespoon low-fat sour cream.
3. Pasta Primavera: ½ cup of cooked bow tie pasta, 1 cup of steamed broccoli, carrots, and zucchini, ¼ cup of marinara sauce, and 1 tablespoon of parmesan cheese.
What to avoid:
-- Creamy high-fat sauces
-- Huge portions
-- High-calorie, high-fat desserts
Eat Well, Feel Well
Keep in mind that eating a variety of foods is key to losing weight and getting all your essential vitamins and nutrients. So don't eat the same thing every day — you'll get bored and go back to your unhealthy eating habits.
You can drop those pounds if you put your mind to it; it's all about making small changes to your eating habits. If you cut out those fries at lunchtime, use hot mustard on your sandwiches instead of mayo, have fruit for dessert instead of chocolate cake, you'll be shedding your extra weight in no time.
But don't forget to indulge in a reasonable portion of your favorite dessert or snack food every so often — if you don't, you'll end up feeling deprived and fall back into your old habits.
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