A Comprehensive Guide to Meal Planning for Fat Loss
Google “body fat loss” and see how many search results you get. Fat loss is an age-old endeavor. Look at the magazines in the grocery store checkout line and you are guaranteed to see multiple covers claiming the “secrets to success” for fat loss. And you’ve probably heard about the six-billion-dollar diet industry that has infiltrated our country, despite the obesity and diabetes epidemic.
So, what are we missing? What is the secret to shedding body fat?
As with anything health related, every body is different, and your secret may look completely different from his or her secret. That said, there are some general guidelines for both nutrition and lifestyle that most everyone can benefit from. And they don’t involve being enslaved to a scale, a StairMaster, or a calorie-tracking app on your phone.
Here is your play-by-play template for conquering the feat of fat loss today.
Establishing a foundation of good nutrition is the main focus when you are starting. This means overhauling bad habits and replacing them with healthier choices. And by “good nutrition,” I am not talking about “low calorie” or “low fat” options promoted by the FDA. I am talking real, whole foods your body is wired to eat:
- Protein - Organic, free-range poultry; grass-fed beef/bison; wild-caught seafood; pasture-raised eggs.
- Fresh Produce - Veggies and fruits, preferably organic, non-GMO; keeping fruits at one to two servings per day and starchy vegetables to a minimum.
- Essential Fatty Acids - Fish, egg yolks, animal fat from organic sources, avocado, raw nuts and seeds, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, coconut butter, avocado oil, hemp and pumpkin seed oil, etc.
- Lots of Water
Water is one of the most important macronutrients to focus on. Water helps get your metabolism firing to support all your cellular processes and aids in the digestion of the wonderful nutrients you are going to be taking in. You should drink half your body weight in ounces daily at the minimum. In addition, you should include an extra twelve ounces for every eight ounces of diuretics you might be consuming, as well as for exercise and in hot weather.
"You should drink half your body weight in ounces daily at the minimum."
And what you are cutting out of your diet? Sugar. Artificial sweeteners. Grains. Dairy. Alcohol. I know, you’re thinking, “What? Are you crazy?” But don’t get your panties in a wad. Your goal is fat loss, right? If you want to see this happen faster than watching paint dry, cutting out these gut-offending foods will increase your rate of success. On the plus side, you don't have to think about calorie counting, macronutrient counting, stocking up on Lean Cuisines and Diet Cokes, or weighing and measuring your food!
Basic Beginning Meal Plan Template
Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner:
- Protein - 1-2 palm sizes
- Fat - 1-2 thumb sizes for oils and spreads, a closed fistful of nuts/seeds, or a half avocado
- Veggie -1/2 plate, aim for non-starchy sources and lots of greens
As for snacks, incorporate these as needed - perhaps a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack. Make these protein and/or fat-based with minimal intake of carb sources. Maybe some baby carrots or celery sticks with almond butter, or a small piece of fruit or handful of berries with a fistful of unsalted raw nuts.
Some Specific Examples, Please
Are you a black-and-white learner? I am, too! Here are some concrete examples and meal ideas for your basic body fat loss template:
- Example 1: 2-3 pasture raised eggs + spinach and mushrooms + cook in 1 tsp grass-fed butter + 2 slices bacon/turkey bacon
- Example 2: Chicken/turkey sausage patties x 1-2 (nitrate-free) + 1/2 avocado + sautéed greens in 1 tsp coconut oil
- Example 3 Smoothie: 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk or almond milk + 1 serving denatured whey protein or hemp protein + handful frozen blueberries + handful of greens + fat (choice): 1 Tbsp coconut oil, coconut butter, 1oz chia seeds/pumpkin seeds, or nut butter
- Example 1: Mixed greens + roasted asparagus + grilled salmon + 1/2 avocado + 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil & vinegar
- Example 2: Homemade chicken or wild-caught canned tuna salad (make with homemade mayo from avocado-based oil or mashed avocado and Dijon mustard + diced celery + 6-8 raw pecans or cashews) + wrap in Romaine lettuce wrap + small peach or apple
- Example 3: Leftover turkey, bison burger patties or organic chicken thighs + roasted/steamed veggies (Brussels sprouts, zucchini, broccoli, asparagus, summer squash, etc.) + 1-2 Tbsp coconut butter or unsweetened coconut flakes atop veggies
- Example 1: Spaghetti squash + grass-fed beef + homemade marinara sauce + steamed broccoli with 1 tsp grass-fed butter
- Example 2: Pan-fried fish (wild-caught fish of choice) + grilled zucchini and yellow squash drizzled with 1 Tbspextra virgin olive oil + mixed green salad with Balsamic or coconut vinegar as dressing
- Example 3: Turkey or grass-fed burgers + half avocado + lettuce/tomato + small sweet potato (diced and roasted) or homemade carrot fries
- 1-2 hardboiled eggs
- Celery sticks with 1 Tbsp raw almond butter
- Carrot sticks with 1/3 cup guacamole (homemade)
- Leftover protein (chicken, pork chop, small burger patty)
- Nitrate-free deli meat (turkey, ham) rollups
- 1-2 Tbsp coconut butter
- 1-2 Tbsp raw nut butter
- Small fistful raw nuts
- Homemade tuna/chicken salad
- Small piece of fruit with nut butter or raw nuts
- 1 serving high-quality whey protein in water (around workouts is great)
But How Much Do I Eat?
Gauge the total amounts you eat based on your hunger-fullness levels. After all, you can only eat so much chicken breast, broccoli, or nuts in one setting without suffering a stomach ache.
"it takes your brain about twenty minutes after consuming anything to signal your stomach that you are full. So no rushing here, people!"
Practice good digestive practices by chewing your food thoroughly, and consider setting down your fork between bites. It takes your brain about twenty minutes after consuming anything to signal your stomach that you are full. So no rushing here, people! Sip water as needed, but keep the majority of your water consumption around meals, rather than during.
Also you cannot go wrong with adding a high-quality probiotic to your daily supplement regimen. Take one dose in the morning and one in the evening before bed. A few of my favorite brands include Green Pasture’s cod liver oil, Prescript Assist’s formula, and TransFormation’s enzymes probiotic. Probiotics help the promotion of healthy gut flora, and that means improved assimilation and uptake of your nutrients and a healthy intestinal lining. In addition, consider incorporating more probiotic foods into your diet like sauerkraut, fermented foods, kombucha, and even homemade chicken or beef bone broth.
Dealing With Cravings
Often people ask, “What about my cravings? My sweet tooth? What do I do after dinner when I can’t control them?” Here are four steps to controlling cravings effectively:
- Breathe. You can most certainly control what goes into your mouth. Those treats aren’t tying your hands behind your back and forcing their way in.
- Do a mindfulness check. Ask yourself, “Why am I craving this right now? What am I really craving? Am I really hungry?” Perhaps your cravings have just become a habit or ritual, a filler for boredom or loneliness or insecurity. Whatever the reason for the cravings, there is no time like the present to begin replacing these mindsets and habits. Distraction can work wonders. Do something else. Remove yourself from the same old situation (in front of the TV, on the couch with a spoon in hand, etc.).
- You may be surprised. Often our “sugar” cravings are actually signs of blood sugar handling dysfunction and/or fatty acid deficiencies. You may find as you incorporate more essential fatty acids into your diet that your sugar highs and lows, and your cravings, naturally begin to fade. Voila nutrition!
- Find your replacements. Replace old standbys like Ben & Jerry’s or milk and cookies with a healthier, more nourishing alternative:
- Tazo cinnamon tea or other herbal tea
- Grass-fed butter cubes (1 Tbsp) + homemade nut/seed crackers
- Unsweetened almond milk (chocolate or vanilla)
- A spoonful of coconut butter
- A small piece of dark chocolate (80%+ cocoa)
- 1 Tbsp chocolate chips or unsweetened coconut + 1 Tbsp raw nut butter
- Homemade avocado “pudding”
- Homemade coconut-milk ice cream
- Handful frozen berries/cherries
- Chocolate or vanilla protein powder, without sugar/artificial sweeteners
Solid nutrition will get you far in your body fat loss goals. But it is imperative to consider the other lifestyle factors that will either help or hinder your progress. They aren’t sexy, but they are fundamental to seeing success, including:
- Sleep: Lack of sleep raises ghrelin and lowers leptin. In other words, lack of sleep is linked to increased appetite and impaired ability to recognize fullness. Press the restart button for yourself with your new dietary changes, and give yourself permission to sleep seven to nine hours per night.
- Stress: Chances are, if you’ve been struggling with “stubborn body fat” your body is stressed. From former weight loss or body fat loss efforts, underfeeding, overeating, work stress, traffic, endless to-do lists, and more, stress is a part of life. If left unmanaged, it takes a toll through increased cortisol, which impacts our body’s desire, or even ability, to shed body fat. Find ways to decrease stress - like meditation, yoga, social activities, fewer to-dos on your list, or recreational exercise - and you will get closer to your fat-loss goals.
If you have any questions about any aspect of this fat-loss plan, please post them to the comments below.
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