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Menu Plans for Losing Weight

By Nina Makofsky ; Updated July 18, 2017

Losing weight requires that you consume fewer calories than you burn. A few ways to consume fewer calories include controlling your portion sizes, changing your methods of food preparation and switching from high-calorie foods to low-calorie foods. A diverse and flexible menu plan for losing weight incorporates all of these strategies. If you have health concerns, speak with your doctor or a nutritionist about a low-calorie menu plan.

Balanced Diet

The most effective menu plans for losing weight prioritize your daily nutritional requirements. Avoid menus that have you cutting out a healthful food group, such as carbohydrates, or that restrict your consumption of fresh vegetables and fruit. The Mediterranean diet plan features diverse, fresh, whole ingredients from which you can choose to make a meal. Center every meal around fresh fruit, vegetables, a serving of unsweetened whole grain, a serving of plant-based protein, herbs, spices and olive oil. Eat seafood, especially fatty fish, at least two times per week. Restrict your consumption of poultry and dairy products to a moderate portion daily. Avoid red meat and sweets as much as possible.

Caloric Intake

The best menu plans for losing weight allow enough calories for you to lose weight gradually. If you cut 3,500 calories from your weekly diet, you will lose about 5 lbs. per month. Adopt a menu plan that has a minimum of 1,500 daily calories for women of average height and activity level. Men of average height and activity level should consume at least 1,800 calories. Your menu plan should feature plenty of plant-based foods but fewer high-calorie, nutrient-poor snacks and foods, such as sweets, sodas, fast food, deep-fried food, processed meat, refined flour products and snack foods containing trans fat and saturated fat.

Portion Control

You can gain weight even eating only the healthiest foods if you do not exercise restraint. Select a weight-loss food plan that allows ample low-calorie, fiber-filled foods, such as leafy greens, citrus fruit, berries, carrots, unsweetened whole grains and beans. These foods make you feel full, helping you restrict your intake of higher-calorie foods, such as dairy products and fat. The American Heart Association's No-Fad diet recommends healthy adults consume at least 4 1/2 cups of fresh produce every day. Eat at least 7 oz. of seafood every week. Consume 3 oz. of unsweetened whole grains daily. Every week, eat as least four servings of seeds, nuts and legumes. Reduce your sodium intake to less than 1,500 mg per day.


The best weight-loss menu plans have recommendations beyond the foods you consume. They address methods of preparation, such as steaming or grilling foods instead of frying them. They lighten up traditional recipes, using broth, herbs and spices instead of cream or fat in sauces and soups. The menu plans include healthful snacks consisting of fresh produce and whole grains that keep you feeling energized throughout the day. The most effective plans emphasize exercise as a way to burn more calories, maintain weight loss and improve your overall health.

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