Are you ready for a fresh start? Channel that motivation into planning healthy meals and you’re good to go—EatingWell has several calorie-controlled plans that will help you lose up to 8 pounds this month. Why do they work and what, in general, is the secret to losing weight? Well, since I helped develop them, I’ll spill the magic formula.
—Nicci Micco, M.S., EatingWell Content Director
How many calories should you be eating per day if you’re aiming to lose two pounds a week? Use the following equation as a guide: Multiply your weight (in pounds) by 12. The resulting number is the calories needed to maintain your weight. To lose 1 pound a week, cut 500 calories a day. To lose 2 pounds a week, cut 1,000 calories a day. Then pick the menu plan that’s closest to calorie level that you calculated. (Note: If you calculate a number that’s less than 1,200 calories, follow the 1,200 calorie plan. Eating less than that, it’s hard to meet your daily nutrition requirements.)
Research shows that tracking what you eat and, essentially, following a menu plan is like keeping a food diary, in reverse. You track what you’ve eaten (or will eat, rather) before you actually eat it. If you’re someone who uses a plan more as inspiration for healthy eating (i.e., you don’t follow it exactly), it’s a good idea to write down everything you eat in a journal or use an interactive food diary/planner. Try it for one week to see what it’s like with this 7-day diet meal plan to lose weight as a guide.
Eating lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains (think: oats, barley and quinoa) and beans can help jump-start weight loss. Why? They deliver fiber, which helps you to feel full on fewer calories. In a two-year study in the Journal of Nutrition, boosting fiber by 8 grams for every 1,000 calories resulted in losing about 4 1/2 pounds. Get the benefits by making room in your diet for these 7 fiber-rich foods that do the weight-loss work for you.
Research suggests that, gram for gram, protein tends to be more satisfying than carbs or fat. Including a little in every meal or snack will help you feel full longer. If you’re having just a salad for lunch, it should have a protein-supplying food on top. Think: grilled chicken or salmon, baked tofu or beans. Stack your snacks with protein, too—have some peanut butter on your apple or a little cottage cheese with your fruit or serve yourself some yummy hummus with your crudités. Or go for a low-fat yogurt or skinny latte: dairy is a magically satisfying combo of carbs and protein.
No one wants to feel deprived, much less hungry, while trying to lose weight. It’s smart to spread your calories throughout the day to stave off hunger. Including a healthy snack or two will keep you satisfied between meals. For ideas, check out these satisfying 100-calorie snack recipes. If you’re into sweets, it’s also a good idea to budget in a small treat.
Don’t miss: Instant 100-Calorie Chocolate Desserts