Meal Planning: The Beginning Of A Wonderful Relationship

some appetizing food at banquet table

In 2010, research indicated that the obesity prevalence rate in theUnited Stateswas, on average 30%1. This makes it the highest in the world. The problem seems to result from a combination of several factors. A lack of activity or exercise is one component. Others focus on portion size and the increased intake of energy producing, prepared and over processed meals. One way to avoid this potential serious problem with its related health issues is to reconsider what you eat. One way of addressing this problem is to begin by planning meals around healthy food choices.

Meal Plans

A meal plan must take into consideration various aspects of what comprises a meal. According to the MyPlate and 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans the basics of any meal plan must involve the following2:

  • Count calories but be sure to focus on those that are derived from added sugars and solid fats
  •  Reduce the amount of foods that are over-processed or contain refined grains, solid fats, added sugars and/or sodium.
  • Whenever you can do not fry or bake using fat. Use oils instead.
  • Do not serve large portions or servings
  • Since fruit and vegetables are two areas where Americans fall down in their diet, do your best to increase the amount to at least half of your plate.
  • Instead of whole milk, reduce the amount of fat by switching to low-fat or even fat-free dairy products.
  • Read the labels and compare the amounts of sodium in various prepared and commercial foods. Opt for those products that have the lowest amounts of sodium, sugar and fat
  • Instead of milk, pop, and other sugared drinks, drink water.

Serving sizes

The problem with American portions of food is not simply the content, it is also the size. The size of servings or portions has an effect on how much a person will eat. The American fast food industry understands this very well. Portions are getting larger as are the waistlines of those who continue to eat them.3 This is particularly true for the eating habits and waistlines of children.4

Serve smaller portions. If you include plenty of fiber and healthy, filling food, you will feel full. This will also ensure you are able to expend the amount of energy you eat. 5

Meal Design

It is important you design a meal that addresses all contingencies. For breakfast be sure the choices are not laden with fat and cholesterol. Serve instead whole wheat products as toast, as well as oatmeal in the winter and eggs (without the bacon or sausages). If you do not like any of the light butter solutions, butter the toast lightly. Boil and do not fry eggs unless you do so in light oil – not a saturated fat. For a drink avoid sugary drinks or even too much juice. Juice, well healthy on one hand, has higher calories than the actual fruit it came from. Low- fat milk is a good choice as is soy or rice milk.

Lunch also offers opportunities to eat healthy. While some individuals eat lightly at this meal, eating yogurt or a sandwich, others like larger meals. To decrease the appetite, be sure you include foods that make you feel full. Fresh raw fruit and vegetables with a healthy yoghurt dip can take the edge off an appetite. These can also serve as a snack. A hearty vegetable soup or light broth (check to avoid those heavy with preservatives and unnecessary ingredients) is also a welcome lunchtime meal. Just make sure you include the right balance of protein, nutrients and calories.

Supper or the evening meal is a time for planning a healthy meal for yourself or the family. A stereotypical English meal was two vegetables and a meat. This can be altered to two vegetables, a small portion of meat, poultry, fish or soy, and a slice of bread or yogurt. Milk or water is the ideal drink, although tea or even coffee may be in order. Dessert can be fresh cut fruit in their own juices with a smidgeon of low fat topping. In some diets, dark chocolate is also considered healthy due to its wealth of antioxidants. The quality of the chocolate must be high –dark at 70% cocoa and higher).

Snacks can be eaten during the evening as long as they stop several hours before bedtime. Fruit and vegetables are the common choice. Popcorn if it is air popped and is without added salt or butter is another popular and low calorie choice. Avoid popcorn at the movies. This commercial brand is laden with all sorts of additives and empty calories. Licorice and yoghurt, the right kind of granola bars – not the ones that are like candy bars with oats, and even new products like soy chips are possible snack choices.


The amount of food Americans eat on a daily basis has placed them at the top of the obesity ladder around the world. The increased intake of sweetened beverages and large fast and processed food has resulted in poor diets and growing health risks for hypertension, certain cancers, diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease.6  If you want to prevent this among your family or stop it before it gets out of control, you can. Make the decision to create a meal plan. Be sure to include not only the right type of contents, but also the correct portions. Do not “supersize” anything. Keep a balance of the right nutrients and calories. By adopting this approach, you can soon have in place a lifelong healthy weight loss plan.


1 Flegal, K. M.; Carroll, M. D.; Ogden, C. L; and Curtin, L. R. (2010). “Prevalence and Trends in Obesity Among US Adults, 1999-2008.” Journal of American Medical Association. 303(3):235-241.

2 USDA (2011) “Dietary Guidelines.” Retrieved from www.choosemyplate.gov/guidelines/index.html; USDA (2011). “Choose MyPlate.” Retrieved from www.choosemyplate.gov/.

3 Caballero, B. (2007). “The Global Epidemic of Obesity: An Overview.” Epidemiologic  Reviews. 29 (1): 1-5.

4 Piernas, C. and Popkin B.M. (2011). “Food Portion Patterns and Trends among U.S. Children and the Relationship to Total Eating Occasion Size, 1977-2006.” Journal of Nutrition. 141(6):1159-64.

5 Nelson, J. and Zeratsky, K. (2009). “Portion control – Downsize Portions for Better Weight Control.” Retrieved from www.mayoclinic.com/health/portion-control/MY01101.

Flegal et al. (Piernas, 2011)



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