Big Lunch, Small Dinner Meal Plan

By: Victoria Seaver, M.S., R.D., C.D., Digital Meal Plan Editor

Original reporting in EatingWell Magazine by Sara Haas, R.D.N., L.D.N.

New research shows that eating your biggest meal of the day at lunch instead of at dinner may help you slim down. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, study participants were instructed to follow a 1,500-calorie diet and either eat most of their calories midday and a smaller dinner, or the reverse. After 12 weeks, the participants who had the big lunch lost 3 more pounds, on average. Researchers think more calories at lunch help to keep hunger at bay, which means less afternoon snacking and fewer daily calories overall.

In this 1,500-calorie meal plan (a calorie level most people will lose weight following), we show you what it looks like to follow this bigger lunch, smaller dinner eating plan. Each lunch recipe adds up to be half of your daily calorie needs (750 calories to be exact), and dinner rings in just around 300 calories. We included breakfast and snack ideas to fill out the rest of your day's menu.

It may seem crazy to eat so many calories at lunch, but as long as you're sticking to the 300-calorie dinners and staying close to your daily calorie total, chances are you'll lose some weight. Whether you're trying to lose weight, or perhaps looking to better control afternoon snack attacks, give this big lunch, small dinner plan a try and see the difference this eating strategy can make!

Scroll down past the lunch ideas for on-the-go lunch ideas, and breakfast, dinner, and snack recipes.

Watch How to Make the Best Healthy Salad


Lunch Day 1:

Spring Roll Salad

Spring Roll Salad: All the tastes, color and fun of a spring roll without all the work! This healthy salad recipe is bursting with the colors of rainbow from generous amounts of fresh vegetables, shrimp and whole grains all topped with a peanut dressing for the ultimate satisfying salad.

Serve with: 3/4 cup pineapple chunks and 3 Tablespoons peanuts

745 calories per serving


Lunch Day 2:

Mediterranean Chicken Quinoa Bowl

Mediterranean Chicken Quinoa Bowl: Olives, cucumber, roasted red peppers and spices come together magically in this healthy chicken quinoa bowl recipe.

Serve with: 1 medium orange and 1 small (4-inch) whole-wheat pita round, toasted and drizzled with 2 tsp. olive oil and seasoned with a pinch each of coarse salt and ground pepper.

741 calories per serving


Lunch Day 3:

Collard & Portobello Grilled Cheese

Collard & Portobello Grilled Cheese: Meaty portobello mushrooms and sautéed collards turn this easy grilled cheese recipe into a healthy meal.
Serve with: 2 servings Sweet Potato Chips and 3 cups lightly packed salad greens topped with 1/4 cup grated carrot and 1 Tablespoon each olive oil and red-wine vinegar.

742 calories per serving


Lunch Day 4:

Salmon-Avocado Poke Bowl

Salmon-Avocado Poke Bowl: Poke (pronounced poh-kay), the bite-size marinated fish salad famous in Hawaii, has become the meal-in-a-bowl du jour, served in eateries from Los Angeles to New York. It's just as easy to make at home with this quick recipe. Serving it over a brown rice salad makes it a satisfying meal.
Serve with: 1 1/2 cups Mango & Kiwi with Fresh Lime Zest and 1 1/2 cups steamed broccoli tossed with 1 Tablespoon sesame oil and 1 1/2 Tablespoons sliced almonds

743 calories per serving


Lunch Day 5:

Tomato Sandwiches with Basil-Anchovy Mayo

Tomato Sandwiches with Basil-Anchovy Mayo: This healthy tomato sandwich recipe goes above and beyond with extra layers of veggies and herbs. The anchovy flavor in the basil-anchovy mayo is subtle, but you can leave out the anchovy altogether if you prefer.
Serve with: 1 1/2 cup Squash & Corn Chowder

757 calories per serving


300-Calorie Breakfast Recipes

Creamy Blueberry-Pecan Oatmeal
Egg-in-a-Hole with Spinach & Bacon
Raspberry Yogurt Cereal Bowl
Mango-Coconut Green Smoothie
Fig & Ricotta Oatmeal


300-Calorie Dinner Recipes

One-Pot Italian Sausage & Kale Pasta
Easy Vegetarian Chili
Roasted Swordfish & Broccoli Rabe with Piccata Butter
Quick Beef & Napa Cabbage Pho
Cauliflower Chicken & "Fried" Rice


150-Calorie Snack Ideas:

• 3 Tbsp. almonds
• 1/4 cup hummus + 2 medium carrots
• 2 oz. pistachios
• 1 oz. cheddar cheese + 1/2 cup grapes
• 3/4 cup fresh berries + 1/2 cup Greek yogurt + 1 tsp. honey



Au Bon Pain: Two-Tomato Caprese Sandwich + Chicken & Vegetable Stew (small)
Lyfe Kitchen: BBQ Chicken Flatbread + Roasted Brussels & Squash
Panera Bread: Steak & Srugula Sandwich (half) + Modern Greek Salad with Quinoa (whole)
Starbucks: Hearty Veggie & Brown Rice Salad Bowl + strawberry Greek yogurt parfait + fruit cup

Don't Miss!
Cheap Healthy Lunch Ideas for Work
Filling Low-Calorie Dinner Ideas
7-Day Diet Plan to Lose Weight: 1,200 Calories
7-Day Diet Plan to Lose Weight: 1,500 Calories
7-Day Diet Plan to Lose Weight: 2,000 Calories