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You asked for menu ideas, and this week you’re getting them!
Planning healthy meals is something many people struggle with. You probably know what foods are good for you, and you have a sense for what a healthy meal looks like. But putting that knowledge into practice and planning specific menus every day takes some effort. Maybe that’s why many people take the easy way out and settle for eating the exact same meals day in and day out.
While there’s nothing really wrong with eating the same meals over and over (as long as they’re nutritionally well balanced), there’s the huge risk of boredom setting in. And once that happens, you’re a lot less likely to stick to your plan.
So, I’ve decided to help you out. For the next five days, I will be providing you with specific daily menus: Five days of delicious meals, with no more than 1800 calories each day.
Menu planning is important for several reasons.
First, planning out what you’re going to eat involves more than just making sure that you don’t exceed your daily calorie limit. It’s also about planning out how you’ll spend your calories in order to get the most nutrition you can.
Good meal planning means that you do your best to work in plenty of healthy fruits and vegetables. Also, make sure you get the right amount of lean protein and some whole grains, and that you use healthy fats and sweets sparingly for flavor.
If you plan out your meals ahead of time, you can make your grocery list at the same time to make sure you have everything you need. All the planning in the world isn’t going to help you if you don’t have all the ingredients on hand.
The other thing I like to do when I plan meals is to “cook once, eat twice” as much as possible. Simply put, “cook once, eat twice” means that you cook more of a certain food for one meal, and then incorporate the remainder into a meal over the next day or two. This strategy can save you huge amounts of time when it comes to putting meals together.
Keep in mind that even with the best intentions, plans sometimes fall apart. As much as you may want to stick to your menu plans, there will be times when you don’t eat exactly what you had intended. But if you have all your meals planned out ahead of time, it does make it easier to get yourself back on track if you do slip up.
For each of the next five days, there will be a daily menu for you to follow. These menus are for an 1800 calorie diet. You may need more or fewer calories, but there will be tips for adjusting your calories up or down.
– Each day calls for three meals, two protein-based snacks during the day, and a fruit snack in the evening. Snacking done properly can help you keep your hunger in check. And it gives you more opportunities during the day to work in foods like fruits and veggies.
– The breakfast meal is about 300 calories, the protein snacks are each about 150 calories, the lunch meal is about 500 calories, and the dinner meal (including the fruit snack) is about 700 calories. This means that all the lunches are interchangeable with one another. Same goes for the dinners and snacks. Knowing this, it may help you to plan your own meals beyond the first five days.
– I’ve started each day with a protein-rich meal replacement shake. I like to use protein shakes in the morning because they’re quick to prepare. Plus, I include at least one fruit or vegetable serving, which provides vitamins, minerals and fiber.
– Each day includes at least seven servings of colorful fruits and vegetables. Relative to their calorie count these foods are nutrient-rich, and I’ve tried to include a wide range. If a meal calls for a fruit or vegetable that you don’t like, feel free to substitute.
– Every day there’s a “cook once, eat twice” item. You’ll be cooking extra of that particular food, which will be used in a subsequent meal.
Many of you may choose to follow these menus to the letter, while I hope others will let them be an inspiration for more creative menu planning.
Today’s 1800 calorie menu starts with delicious green smoothie that boasts a serving of fruit and two servings of spinach—and it’s packed with protein to provide staying power.
Enjoy a Greek-inspired green salad tossed with a lemony dressing and topped with grilled chicken. Dinner features ground turkey meatballs in tomato sauce over whole grain penne pasta.
This morning’s shake will satisfy your chocolate craving, and for lunch, a tasty mix of grilled chicken with fruit and veggies stuffed into a whole grain pita pocket for a delicious and satisfying meal.
Welcome to day four of your 1800 calorie meal plan. Try a peach shake, pilaf with chicken then delicious flank steak with broccoli.
Learn how to make a low-cal mocha smoothie for breakfast, whole grain buckwheat soba noodles for lunch, and grilled fish tacos topped with a zesty slaw for dinner.