If you could design your dream diet, it’d probably include a variety of delicious recipes so meals and snacks never get boring — and plenty of treats. Plus a cheat day. Are we getting warm? Well, we hear you — and we’ve worked all of that into our program.
Follow this easy plan for a month and enjoy real food, your favorite treats, and even a glass of wine. The keys: smaller portions, more protein, and healthier carbs. Just mix and match one breakfast, lunch, and dinner plus two treats for six days of the week — then on day seven enjoy a cheat day.
300 CALORIES PER SERVING
1. Peanut butter and apple quesadilla: 8″ whole-wheat tortilla + 1 Tbsp peanut butter + 1 sliced apple
2. Apricot ricotta breakfast sundae: 1 cup nonfat ricotta cheese + pinch nutmeg + ½ tsp agave nectar + 4 chopped apricots
3. 1 egg scrambled in 1 tsp oil; 1 whole-wheat bagel thin; 1 turkey sausage link; 6 oz low-sodium vegetable juice
4. Strawberry French toast: 1 slice whole-wheat bread dipped in 1 beaten egg and cooked in 1 tsp butter + 1 cup sliced strawberries
5. 1 cup toasted oat cereal + 1 cup 1% milk or soy milk + 2 Tbsp tart dried cherries + 1 Tbsp chopped walnuts
6. Egg sandwich: 1 whole-wheat English muffin + 1 egg fried in 1 tsp olive oil + 1 oz Canadian bacon (about 2 slices) + 1-2 slices tomato
7. Pancakes and bacon: 2 frozen pancakes + 1 tsp honey + ½ sliced banana; 2 slices turkey bacon
8. 1 cup bran flakes + 1 cup 1% milk or soy milk + ¾ cup blueberries
9. Huevos rancheros: 6″ corn tortilla + 3 egg whites fried in 1 tsp olive oil + ½ cup black beans + ¼ cup fresh salsa + ¼ cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
10. Sunflower pear waffle: 1 whole-grain frozen waffle + 1 Tbsp sunflower butter (tastes like sunflower seeds—loaded with protein) or any nut butter + 1 sliced pear
11. Maple almond oatmeal: 1 cup cooked oatmeal + 1 Tbsp almond butter + 2 tsp maple syrup
12. Smoked salmon roll-up: 8″ whole-wheat tortilla + 1 Tbsp whipped cream cheese + 1½ oz smoked salmon + 1 sliced scallion
13. Smoothie! 1 cup nonfat plain yogurt blended with 1 cup frozen peaches + ½ cup calcium-fortified orange juice + ½ banana + 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed + pinch nutmeg
14. Greek yogurt parfait: 8 oz nonfat plain Greek yogurt + 1 diced nectarine + 1 tsp honey + 3 Tbsp sliced almonds
400 CALORIES PER SERVING
15. Veggie Jack burger: Veggie burger + 1-oz slice Monterey Jack cheese + 1 Tbsp barbecue sauce + lettuce and tomato + whole-wheat hamburger bun; 1 cup watermelon cubes
16. Turkey-bacon-avocado pita: 2 oz deli turkey + 2 pieces of thinly sliced avocado + 1 slice bacon + 1 Tbsp honey mustard + lettuce and tomato + 6″ whole-wheat pita; 1 nectarine
17. Blue cheese chicken pita: ½ cup shredded skinless rotisserie chicken breast + ½ cup shredded romaine lettuce + ¼ cup sliced celery + ½ cup shredded carrots + 1 Tbsp light blue cheese dressing + 6″ whole-wheat pita; 1 peach
18. Turkey Swiss burger: 4 oz lean ground turkey patty + 1 thin slice Swiss cheese + 1 Tbsp barbecue sauce + lettuce, tomato and onion slices + whole-wheat hamburger bun; 1 cup cantaloupe cubes
19. Black bean-tomato soup: 1½ cups chilled tomato soup or low-sodium vegetable juice + 2 tsp red wine vinegar + ½ cup black beans + ½ cup corn niblets + ½ yellow bell pepper + 1 tomato + 2 Tbsp red onion; 15 all-natural tortilla chips
20. Grilled shrimp Caesar: 3 cups romaine lettuce + 10 large grilled shrimp + 2 Tbsp Caesar dressing + 1 Tbsp grated Parmesan; 12 whole-wheat pita chips
21. Pasta salad: 2 oz* whole-wheat penne pasta, cooked, then cooled and refrigerated + 5 halved cherry tomatoes + 1 oz part-skim mozzarella, diced + ¼ diced yellow pepper + 2 Tbsp Italian vinaigrette dressing + 2 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
22. Chicken Cheddar sandwich: 3 oz grilled chicken + 1-oz slice reduced-fat Cheddar + lettuce and tomato + 1 Tbsp light mayo + whole-wheat sandwich thin; ¾ cup grapes
23. Takeout! 1 slice cheese pizza; 2 cups tossed salad + 1 Tbsp balsamic vinaigrette
24. Mediterranean tuna wrap: 3 oz water-packed tuna + 3 chopped Kalamata olives + 1 tsp capers + 2 Tbsp chopped onion + 1 tsp olive oil + 1 tsp red wine vinegar + 8″ whole-wheat tortilla; 1 apple
25. Couscous with chickpeas: ⅓ cup* whole-wheat couscous, cooked + ¾ cup chickpeas + ½ cup diced tomato + ½ cup diced cucumber + 1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil + 2 Tbsp crumbled feta
26. Cheese quesadilla: two 8″ whole-wheat tortillas + ¼ cup reduced-fat shredded Cheddar, cooked in nonfat cooking spray; ¼ cup salsa; 2 Tbsp nonfat plain Greek yogurt; 5 grape tomatoes
27. Roast beef horseradish sandwich: 2 slices rye bread + 2 oz lean roast beef + 1 Tbsp reduced-fat canola mayo mixed with ¼ tsp horseradish + lettuce and tomato; ½ cup coleslaw
28. Asian spinach salad: 3 cups baby spinach + ½ cup skinless rotisserie chicken breast + ½ chopped apple + ¼ cup shelled edamame + ½ cup grated carrots + 2 Tbsp Asian vinaigrette
500 CALORIES PER SERVING
29. 4 oz lean sirloin steak; ½ baked potato with 2 Tbsp nonfat plain Greek yogurt; 2 cups mushrooms sautéed in 2 tsp olive oil
30. Lemon pasta with salmon and asparagus: 2 oz grilled salmon + 2 oz whole-wheat penne, cooked and tossed with + 1 Tbsp olive oil + 2 Tbsp lemon juice + 1 clove garlic, sliced + 1 cup chopped asparagus + 1 Tbsp fresh basil
31. Mexican burrito bowl: ⅓ cup* brown rice, cooked + ½ cup pinto beans + ½ cup grilled vegetables cooked with 2 spritzes of olive oil cooking spray + ½ cup shredded lettuce + ¼ cup corn salsa + ¼ cup guacamole
32. Takeout! 3 oz ginger chicken with broccoli + 6 oz brown rice
33. Italian tilapia: 6 oz tilapia baked with 1 cup canned diced tomatoes + 4 chopped green olives + 1 tsp olive oil + pinch Italian seasoning; ⅓ cup whole-wheat couscous, cooked
34. 6 oz roast pork tenderloin; 1 baked sweet potato; 2 cups green beans sautéed in 2 tsp olive oil
35. Chicken stir-fry: 4 oz boneless, skinless chicken breast strips + 2 cups broccoli florets + 1 sliced scallion + 2 tsp peanut oil; ½ cup brown rice, cooked
36. Pasta with cannellini and feta: 2 oz whole-wheat pasta, cooked + ¾ cup cannellini beans + 1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes + 2 tsp olive oil + 1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil + 1 Tbsp crumbled feta
37. Spaghetti and meatballs: 2 oz whole-wheat spaghetti, cooked + 3 turkey meatballs (1 oz each) + ½ cup marinara sauce; 2 cups tossed salad + 1 Tbsp Italian vinaigrette
38. Portobello burger parmigiana: 1 portobello mushroom cap, misted lightly with olive oil spray and broiled or grilled + ¼ cup marinara sauce + 1-oz slice part-skim mozzarella + fresh basil + whole-wheat hamburger bun; ½ romaine lettuce heart + 1 large sliced tomato + 1 Tbsp balsamic vinaigrette
39. 5 oz tuna steak; ½ cup brown rice, cooked; 2 cups broccoli sautéed in 1 tsp peanut oil
40. 1 cup summer chili: ¼ cup chopped onion + 2 oz lean ground turkey breast sautéed in 1 tsp olive oil + ½ cup canned white beans + ½ cup corn niblets + ½ cup canned diced tomatoes + hot sauce to taste; ½ cup brown rice, cooked
41. Pasta with chicken and spinach: 2 oz whole-wheat pasta (or mix 1 oz whole-wheat pasta with 1 oz regular), cooked + ½ cup shredded skinless rotisserie chicken breast + 1 cup baby spinach + 1 clove garlic, sliced and sautéed in 1 Tbsp olive oil + 1 Tbsp Parmesan
42. BBQ! Grill 4 oz skinless chicken breast, then baste with 1 Tbsp barbecue sauce; 1 ear corn; ½ cup potato salad
*Measure this amount of pasta, rice or couscous before cooking
Snacks, sweets, and treats
150 CALORIES PER SERVING
•6-oz container 0% fat fruit-flavored Greek yogurt
•6-oz glass wine
•½ pear + two 1″ Brie cubes
•Three 2½” cinnamon graham cracker squares + 4 Tbsp nonfat ricotta
•1 hard-cooked egg sprinkled with celery salt; ten 1″ whole-grain crackers
•1 sliced bell pepper + ¼ cup hummus
•12 oz beer
•½ banana + 1 Tbsp peanut butter
•¾ cup light chocolate ice cream
•4 cups lowfat microwave popcorn tossed with 1 tsp cocoa + pinch chili powder
•12 oz nonfat latte; 1 Oreo
•1 mini cinnamon raisin bagel + 1 Tbsp soy butter
•½ cup soft-serve vanilla frozen yogurt + 1 cup mixed berries
•1.14-oz bag of pretzel M&M’s
You’ve made smart choices six days in a row—now it’s time to indulge a little. On the seventh day (or another day you choose), relax the rules and do one of the following:
•Add a third treat or snack from the “Snacks, Sweets & Treats” list above.
•Follow the slim-down plan for breakfast and lunch, skip the snacks, and eat whatever you want for dinner.
•Forgo the snacks and have dessert after dinner.
Start your diet on Sunday. Research finds that this guarantees the biggest weight loss success. The worst day to start? Tuesday.
Eat a food that’s a contrasting color to your plate (think pasta marinara on a white plate). It can trim how much food you take (and eat) by 21%.
Use a big fork to eat less. Researchers believe a big fork helps you gauge how much you’ve eaten better than a small one
Turn off the cooking shows. When dieters watch food-related TV programs, they inhale 60% more snacks than nondieters.
Choose one starch (pasta, bread, rice) per meal. Too many carbohydrates can spike your blood sugar, making you hungrier later.
Have whole grains at breakfast (like oats or whole-wheat toast). Their filling fiber curbs midmorning hunger pangs.
Eat every four hours to keep your appetite in check. Wait too long between meals and you’ll end up hungrier and more likely to overeat.
Keep healthy munchies in your glove compartment. Try a granola bar, a single-serving bag of whole-wheat pretzels or a 1-oz bag of nuts.
Stock the fridge with low-fat dairy products. They’ve got whey protein, calcium and vitamin D, which help burn fat and curb hunger.
Eat 15 to 20 grams of protein at every meal (about 2 to 3 oz of meat, chicken or fish). Spacing it out is key to keeping your metabolism revved.
Add produce to meals. Fruits and veggies are the ultimate eat-less tool: They fill you up for fewer calories plus have crucial nutrients.
*Measure this amount of pasta, rice or couscous before cooking.
Train your brain to help
You’ve found a meal plan and penciled in a daily walk on your calendar. Now it’s time to get your mind ready, which is “just as important as throwing out all the junk food in your pantry,” says Melanie Greenberg, PhD, a psychologist in Mill Valley, CA. Three ways to prepare:
Announce your plan to at least three people. Saying out loud that you’re planning to lose weight reinforces that you’re committed to change, and it keeps you more accountable. Tell the few people closest to you—and, if you’re comfortable, spread the word even further. Start a blog or post your progress on Facebook.
Be ready to say no. The best-laid healthy-living plans often fall by the wayside because you feel guilty about turning down invites or plans. So prepare your response in advance: “I would love to , but I’m really trying to make the time to get healthy, so I’m exercising instead. Thanks for the offer—and for your understanding!”
Put your weight loss past to rest … literally. Saying goodbye to past failures in a concrete way can help you focus on succeeding this time. Jot down a list of the reasons you didn’t lose weight in the past, then tear it up and toss it in the trash or bury it in your backyard. A.L.C.
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If you’re struggling to start your healthy eating plan, try making one of these bowls — all of which are under 300 calories.