Planning a daily menu isn’t difficult as long as each meal and snack has some protein, fiber, complex carbohydrates, and a little bit of fat.1 Here’s what you need to know about each meal:
Eating breakfast will help you start your day with plenty of energy. Don’t ruin your breakfast with high-fat and high-calorie foods. Choose some protein and fiber for your breakfast; breakfast is also a good time to eat some fresh fruit.
A mid-morning snack is totally optional. If you eat a larger breakfast, you may not feel hungry until lunchtime. However, if you’re feeling a bit hungry and lunch is still two or three hours away, a light mid-morning snack will tide you over without adding a lot of calories.
Lunch is often something you eat at work or school, so it’s a great time to pack a sandwich or leftovers that you can heat and eat. Or, if you buy your lunch, choose a healthy clear soup or fresh veggie salad.
A mid-afternoon snack is also optional. Keep it low in calories and eat just enough to keep you from feeling too hungry because dinner is just a couple of hours away.
Dinner is a time when it’s easy to over-eat, especially if you haven’t eaten much during the day, so watch your portion sizes. Mentally divide your plate into four quarters. One-quarter is for your meat or protein source, one-quarter is for a starch, and the last two-quarters are for green and colorful vegetables or a green salad.
A complex carbohydrate-rich evening snack may help you sleep. Avoid heavy, greasy foods or foods high in refined sugars.
Studying a few examples may make this whole meal planning thing easier, so here’s a full week’s worth. You don’t need to follow the days in order; you can choose any meal plan, skip one, or repeat as you like.
This week’s meal plan was designed for a person who needs about 2,100 to 2,200 calories per day and doesn’t have any dietary restrictions. Your daily calorie goal may vary. Learn what it is below, then make tweaks to the plan to fit your specific needs.
Each day includes three meals and three snacks and has a healthy balance of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. You’ll also get plenty of fiber from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes.
Every plan includes three meals and three snacks to keep you feeling satisfied all day long. Some days even include a glass of beer or wine.
Feel free to add more water, coffee, or herbal tea to any day, but keep in mind that adding cream or sugar also adds calories. It’s OK to swap out similar menu items, but keep cooking methods in mind.
Replacing a sirloin steak with grilled chicken is fine, for instance, but replacing it with chicken-fried steak isn’t going to work because of the breading changes the fat, carb and sodium counts—and the calories. Finally, you can adjust your calorie intake by eliminating snacks if you want to lose weight or eating larger snacks if you want to gain weight.
Today’s meal plan contains about 2,250 calories, with 55% of those calories coming from carbohydrates, 20% from fat, and 25% from protein. It also has about 34 grams of fiber.
Two poached eggs (or fried in a non-stick pan)
Two slices whole-grain toast with one pat of butter each
One cup low-fat milk
One cup of black coffee or herbal tea
(Macronutrients: Approximately 555 calories with 27 grams protein, 63 grams carbohydrates, and 23 grams fat)
One cup plain yogurt with two tablespoons honey
Glass of water
(Macronutrients: 360 calories, 14 grams protein, 78 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fat)
Chicken breast (6-ounce portion), baked or roasted (not breaded or fried)
Large garden salad with tomato and onion with one cup croutons, topped with one tablespoon oil and vinegar (or salad dressing)
Glass of water
(Macronutrients: 425 calories, 44 grams protein, 37 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams fat)
One cup carrot slices
Three tablespoons hummus
One-half piece of pita bread
Glass of water or herbal tea
(Macronutrients: 157 calories, 6 grams protein, 25 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fat)
One cup steamed broccoli
One cup of brown rice
Halibut (four-ounce portion)
Small garden salad with one cup spinach leaves, tomato, and onion topped with two tablespoons oil and vinegar or salad dressing
One glass white wine (regular or dealcoholized)
Sparkling water with lemon or lime slice
(Macronutrients: 646 calories, 42 grams protein, 77 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams fat)
One cup blueberries
Two tablespoons whipped cream (the real stuff—whip your own or buy in a can)
Glass of water
(Macronutrients: Approximately 100 calories, 1 gram protein, 22 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fat)