This week of healthy meals and snacks is specially tailored to help you lose weight, while still enjoying those cozy, comfort foods you crave.

Emily Lachtrupp, M.S., R.D., C.D.
January 02, 2021
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When we're trying to lose weight, it's common to feel like it's all or nothing—maybe some of you feel like you need to be eating steamed broccoli with a poached chicken breast for dinner each night to reach your health goals, but that's just not the case. While a super restrictive diet might work short-term, they set us up to fail because they're impossible to maintain. Plus, food should be enjoyed—not serve as a means of punishment or to make us feel guilty for gaining weight or developing some other sort of health condition. In this healthy plan, you get the best of both worlds. We celebrate traditional comfort foods, like spaghetti and casseroles, while making sure to moderate the calories and include plenty of protein and fiber—the nutrients that make us feel full and satisfied, so you can enjoy your family favorites without feeling deprived.

To help with weight loss, we capped the calories at 1,500 calories a day, which is a level most people will lose weight following, and included modifications for 1,200 and 2,000 calories a day, depending on your calorie needs. It's important to note that healthy weight loss is gradual (about 1 to 2 pounds per week), so if you're feeling hungry at 1,500 calories, bump it up till you feel satisfied and slowly taper down to fewer calories over the next few months.

How to Eat Comfort Foods and Still Lose Weight:

1. Include plenty of fiber: Fiber, a type of carbohydrate that helps us feel full, regulates our digestive system and has a ton of health benefits is super important because it prevents us from getting too hungry and overeating. This plan provides at least 30 grams a day from healthy sources like oatmeal, whole grains and fruits and vegetables. Simple swaps like oatmeal instead of a lower fiber cereal and wheat bread or pasta instead of white can make a difference.

2. Focus on protein: Protein is digested a bit slower than simple carbohydrates and, like fiber, it helps us stay full and satisfied in-between meals. Having a protein source, like eggs, nuts, peanut butter, yogurt, fish or meat at most meals and snacks makes it a lot easier to stick to our calorie goals and lose weight.

3. Include vegetables: Nutritious and low-calorie, vegetables help increase the volume of food on our plates without significantly increasing the calories which makes our stomachs feel full and helps with weight loss. In this plan, you'll see a lot of our traditional comfort foods served with a side salad or other veggie dish to help moderate the portions of the higher-calorie dishes.

4. Eat when you're hungry: When it comes to weight loss, regular meals and snacks are key. The idea is to avoid showing up at meals with that starving-can't-get-full feeling because it's easy to take in too many calories when we reach that hunger level.

How to Meal-Prep Your Week of Meals:

  1. Prepare Creamy White Chili with Cream Cheese to have for lunch on Days 2 through 5.
  2. Mix up Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette with Shallots to have throughout the week.
  3. Make Muffin-Tin Omelets with Broccoli, Ham & Cheddar to have throughout the week.

Day 1

Breakfast (340 calories)

A.M. Snack (206 calories)

  • 1/4 cup dry-roasted unsalted almonds

Lunch (360 calories)

P.M. Snack (103 calories)

  • 5-oz. container low-fat plain Greek yogurt

Dinner (477 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,487 calories, 67 g protein, 173 g carbohydrates, 37 g fiber, 67 g fat, 1,250 mg sodium

To Make it 1,200 Calories: Remove the walnuts at breakfast and change the A.M. snack to 1 clementine.

To Make it 2,000 Calories: Increase to 2 servings oatmeal and 3 Tbsp. walnuts breakfast plus add 1 banana with 2 Tbsp. natural peanut butter to P.M. snack.

Day 2

Breakfast (258 calories)

A.M. Snack (206 calories)

  • 1/4 cup dry-roasted unsalted almonds

Lunch (353 calories)

P.M. Snack (210 calories)

  • 1 medium banana
  • 1 Tbsp. creamy natural peanut butter

Dinner (478 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,505 calories, 83 g protein, 142 g carbohydrates, 34 g fiber, 72 g fat, 1,446 mg sodium

To Make it 1,200 Calories: Change the A.M. snack to 1/2 cup sliced cucumber and omit the peanut butter at the P.M. snack.

To Make it 2,000 Calories: Increase to 1/3 cup almonds and add 1 medium apple to A.M. snack, add 1 Tbsp. natural peanut butter to P.M. snack and add 1 serving Guacamole Chopped Salad to dinner.

Day 3

Credit: Jason Donnelly

Breakfast (258 calories)

A.M. Snack (315 calories)

  • 1 medium banana
  • 2 Tbsp. creamy natural peanut butter

Lunch (353 calories)

P.M. Snack (62 calories)

  • 1 medium orange

Dinner (501 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,489 calories, 84 g protein, 166 g carbohydrates, 31 g fiber, 55 g fat, 1,174 mg sodium

To Make it 1,200 Calories: Omit the apple at breakfast and the peanut butter at the A.M. snack.

To Make it 2,000 Calories: Add 30 dry-roasted unsalted almonds to P.M. snack plus add 2 cups mixed greens with 1/2 an avocado and 1 serving Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette with Shallots.

Day 4

Breakfast (340 calories)

A.M. Snack (125 calories)

  • 5-oz. container low-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup blueberries

Lunch (353 calories)

P.M. Snack (206 calories)

  • 1/4 cup dry-roasted unsalted almonds

Dinner (471 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,495 calories, 64 g protein, 176 g carbohydrates, 35 g fiber, 64 g fat, 1,111 mg sodium

To Make it 1,200 Calories: Omit the walnuts at breakfast and change the P.M. snack to 1/2 cup sliced cucumber.

To Make it 2,000 Calories: Increase to 2 servings oatmeal at breakfast, add 1 banana with 2 Tbsp. natural peanut butter to A.M. snack and add 1 clementine to P.M. snack.

Day 5

Breakfast (258 calories)

A.M. Snack (62 calories)

  • 1 medium orange

Lunch (353 calories)

P.M. Snack (231 calories)

  • 30 dry-roasted unsalted almonds

Dinner (576 calories)

Meal-Prep Tip: reserve 2 servings Chicken & Zucchini Casserole to have for lunch on days 6 & 7

Daily Totals: 1,480 calories, 86 g protein, 114 g carbohydrates, 33 g fiber, 81 g fat, 1,384 mg sodium

To Make it 1,200 Calories: Omit the apple at breakfast and change the P.M. snack to 1 clementine.

To Make it 2,000 Calories: Add 5 oz. low-fat plain Greek yogurt with 3 Tbsp. chopped walnuts to A.M. snack, add 1 medium banana to P.M. snack and increase to 1 whole avocado at dinner.

Day 6

Credit:

Breakfast (258 calories)

A.M. Snack (125 calories)

  • 5-oz. container low-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup blueberries

Lunch (368 calories)

P.M. Snack (216 calories)

  • 20 dry-roasted unsalted almonds
  • 1 cup blackberries

Dinner (526 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,493 calories, 100 g protein, 126 g carbohydrates, 33 g fiber, 70 g fat, 1,767 mg sodium

To Make it 1,200 Calories: Omit the almonds at the P.M. snack and the avocado at dinner.

To Make it 2,000 Calories: Add 2 Tbsp. natural peanut butter to pair with the apple at breakfast, increase to 1/3 cup almonds at P.M. snack and increase to 1 whole avocado at dinner.

Day 7

Breakfast (340 calories)

A.M. Snack (206 calories)

  • 1/4 cup dry-roasted unsalted almonds

Lunch (368 calories)

P.M. Snack (62 calories)

  • 1 cup blackberries

Dinner (508 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,484 calories, 87 g protein, 115 g carbohydrates, 32 g fiber, 81 g fat, 983 mg sodium

To Make it 1,200 Calories: Omit the walnuts at breakfast and change the A.M. snack to 1 clementine.

To Make it 2,000 Calories: Increase to 2 servings oatmeal at breakfast, add 1 clementine to A.M. snack and add 1 medium banana with 2 Tbsp. natural peanut butter to P.M. snack.