The Best Meal Plans to Lose Weight

Approximately two-thirds of all American adults are overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity puts you at increased risk of diseases including diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. Losing weight is often difficult, and the variety of weight-loss programs can be overwhelming. Choosing a healthy meal plan can improve your prospects of weight-loss success. Before starting any weight loss plan or diet, discuss your options with your doctor.

Mediterranean Diet

While there is no single prescribed diet called the Mediterranean diet, eating similarly to common Mediterranean dietary patterns can help you lose weight and have better heart health 2. To follow a Mediterranean diet, eat large amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Use olive oil in cooking instead of less-healthy fats, such as butter and margarine. Eat eggs two to four times weekly, as well as small amounts of dairy products. Use red meat minimally. The American Heart Association recommends consuming less fat than the typical Mediterranean diet calls for but agrees with the Mediterranean diet's stance on consuming less saturated fat 2. A typical meal plan for the Mediterranean diet might include eggs with fresh fruit and a small bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, a salad of fresh vegetables tossed with olive oil and vinegar and fresh whole-grain bread for lunch, and broiled chicken breast with a three-bean salad for dinner. Eat fresh fruit, nuts and whole-grain crackers for snacks.

Lifestyle Diet

An effective way to both lose weight and keep it off for the long term is to make small, gradual lifestyle changes that eventually add up to a new way of eating. This type of diet does not end when you reach your weight-loss goal; instead, you keep your new habits for life, enjoying better health and more energy in the process. Begin by making small changes in the way you eat. For example, add a fruit or vegetable to each meal, and reduce your portion sizes of fatty or starchy foods. As time goes on, make more simple dietary changes, such as substituting low-fat or fat-free milk for whole milk and whole-grain carbohydrates for refined white carbs.

Sticking to It

Making too many changes at once may overwhelm you and set you up for failure. Considering certain foods completely off-limits may tempt you to cheat on your diet or get discouraged and drop your new healthy eating plan. Allow yourself to have treats on occasion, and don't get angry if you have setbacks. For example, planning to have a small serving of chocolate a few times per week may make it less likely that you will binge on a large slice of cake and a bowl of ice cream at a birthday party. If you do decide to opt for the cake and ice cream, though, don't beat yourself over it, but strive to make healthier choices in the future. Making reasonable weight-loss goals can also increase your prospects for success. A healthy goal is to lose 1 to 2 lbs. per week.

Exercise Counts, Too

While you are changing your eating habits, begin to add more exercise. Aerobic exercise strengthens your heart and muscles, burns calories and can help you sleep better and feel good about yourself. Strength-training exercise may raise your metabolism and tone your muscles. Both types are important. Experiment to see which types of exercises you like best. Consider joining an aerobics or dance class, jog alone or with a partner or learn to play tennis or volleyball. The more you exercise, the more calories you can consume without gaining weight.