dietary meal plan

How a Dietary Meal Plan Can Help to Reach Weight Loss Goals

November 23, 2020

The Importance of a Dietary Meal Plan

It is very common for people to ask a dietitian or medical practitioner for a dietary meal plan and express that they need something to follow because this will help them to stay on track. I think it is important to understand that there are more variables than the meal plan, that will help a person to stay engaged and subsequently achieve their goals. A dietary meal plan can be helpful, used as a guide, and an instrumental tool, but it is not the sole reason people are able to lose weight. In this article, I would like to explore what a plan really signifies and how to formulate one to meet your needs.

I always say to clients, if you were building a house what would you do first? Would you run out and buy all the materials and just start building or would you begin with a blueprint? I will go with the latter and say that the same is true for any plan in life and that includes weight loss. All plans must start with a foundation.

I think an individual has to decide on a plan that is right for them and when making that decision consider whether it is a sustainable option.

There are many weight loss plans available and they will all work if followed correctly and indefinitely. Let us explore some of the more common plans that seem to be come up quite often. People are gravitating towards low carb and no carb meal plans and this includes Atkins and the latest Keto craze. And while these meal plans can be effective and result in significant weight loss, they have to be followed appropriately and often with some guidance.

In my practice, I find that people are often disillusioned and feel that they are following these plans because they have cut out bread, pasta and rice. At the same time, they are eating too many high fat foods, not testing for ketones and substituting the foods listed for low carb options like rice cakes, protein chips and also continue to consume alcohol mixed with sugary beverages. Each meal plan comes with a set of directives and a better understanding of that plan is essential before getting started.

Combining Principles From Different Plans

Another common mistake is combining principles from different plans and then not getting desirable results. Let us go back to the keto diet, if a person consumes high fat foods without increased portion control and is not in a state of ketosis then this can actually result in weight gain. These same people then become frustrated and consider the diet a failure when in actuality they were not following a Keto meal plan and were not in a state of ketosis.

So, while a meal plan can be helpful it is important to really understand that plan and follow it closely for optimal results. The best way to learn about the plan is to read and rely on reputable sources and publications or to meet with a Registered Dietitian or practitioner that is well versed in weight loss and the various weight loss plans available. In addition, the professional should gather information about your goals, past weight loss attempts, and lifestyle to help you formulate a reasonable plan.

As a practitioner, specializing in weight loss, I like to focus on teaching people to make the choices that are consistent with their plan. Patients often want a sheet of paper that outlines the foods they can and can’t have and I often find myself saying, this is your plan and you can have anything. That places the control in their hands and allows them to start recognizing their options and making better choices. It is important to educate, counsel, and teach people to navigate their plans.

If I place chicken in a box to eat on a Tuesday, a person should know they can choose an alternate protein like turkey, fish or any lean meat in place of the food I have selected. This will allow them to live in the real world and not inside of a box on a grid that they refer to as a plan. It will teach them to face challenges, choose from menus and make appropriate substitutions.

Tools to Use For a Dietary Meal Plan

So now let’s talk about formulating this plan. I think there are some tools that will help you get started.

  • Choose the direction of your meal plan, seek a professional and or do your research.
  • Get a scale so that you can weigh yourself one time weekly and keep track of your progress. Do not waste time weighing daily and using that as a single measure of success. It takes time to see results.
  • I also recommend getting a food scale and some meal prep containers. The majority of people have trouble with portion control and weighing food can be an eye-opening experience and result in a significant calorie reduction. Meal planning and prepping is half the battle as this will result in staying on track and avoiding impulse purchases. Those 3 tools can be considered the foundation for your plan.
  • Now decide what dietary changes you are going to implement and perhaps make a list of things that reflect your personal goals. Some popular items include increased hydration, cutting out sugary beverages, limiting snacking, increased intake of high fiber foods and reducing their intake of simple carbohydrates and concentrated sweets. Remember each goal requires a plan and steps to set yourself up for success. If you are planning to hydrate more during the day perhaps buying a large insulated water bottle will allow you to have cold water with you throughout the day as well as help with tracking your daily intake.

The objective is to make things easier and allow you to adhere to the plan. Your weight loss plan relies heavily on more than just a piece of paper that outlines what you can eat but rather includes the tools necessary to achieve both short term and long-term goals. Remember it is always a good idea to ask for help as nobody can build a house alone. It takes a team, lots of raw materials and eventually it all comes together and gives you a comfortable and happy place to reside. Think of your weight loss plan in that context; list your goals, gather your tools and create a sustainable plan that allows for weight loss but more importantly weight maintenance.

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Shara Lazar, RD, CDN has spent many years counseling patients with health concerns such as hypertension & diabetes which led her to help people reduce the risk of developing these health issues & improve the quality of their lives. She joined New York Bariatric Group with eight years of bariatric nutrition expertise & is passionate about fitness. She helps patients to integrate nutrition & exercise into their lives with a practical approach and support.

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