Eating with awareness is the key to successful weight loss and weight maintenance. If you’ve ever finished eating something and then thought, “Why did I eat that?” you can appreciate the importance of mapping out your meals and snacks ahead of time so that you can more easily stick with a healthy meal plan.
To assist you in creating healthy meals that will help you achieve your weight loss goals, consider these simple lifestyle changes:
- Switch grocery stores. As you adopt a more heart-healthy lifestyle, you may want to consider shopping in a different grocery store or market. Sometimes such a simple change can help break unhealthy food patterns, particularly if you find it difficult to avoid the temptation to buy cookies, chips, and other non-nutritious items that you can easily find at your favorite shop.
- Change the way you shop. When you go food shopping, shop primarily on the perimeter of the grocery store, or “shop the edge.” Most grocery stores are arranged so the fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, meats, poultry, and fish are found along the outside aisles of the store. The interior aisles tend to be stocked with processed foods that I encourage you to avoid. Try shopping the edge for at least several trips and see how it works for you. Awareness is such a big part of your ability to successfully lose weight.
- Add a stop at a health-food store or a farmers market. This is another way to transform your shopping patterns. A health-food store is a great place to stock up on organic produce, nuts, olive oil, and other essential items. If there’s no farmers market in your community, investigate the nearest one and plan a weekend drive to it. The colors and smells at these markets can turn a routine chore into a very pleasant sensory experience. The same is true of a good fish market.
- Have an agenda when you shop. I’m a firm believer in planning meals. The better you plan your meals, the more successful you will be in achieving your weight loss goals. So, know your meal plan before entering the store so that you know what you’re looking for. Then, once inside the store, stay in those aisles where you know you'll find the healthy foods.
Food to Feature in Healthy Meal Plans
Knowing what you are going to eat on a daily basis helps you stick with the plan and will go a long way toward helping you meet your weight loss goals. You may even find it helpful to post your healthy meal plans for weight loss on the refrigerator as a reminder and reinforcement of what you intend to eat each day.
I recommend you keep the following healthy foods on hand so you’ll always have something nutritious to eat, particularly when you come home late and are famished. Add additional items in season, or as needed.
- Canned salmon or tuna packed in water
- Garlic and onions
- Eggs, preferably organic
- Low-glycemic vegetables, including broccoli, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and spinach
- Almonds, walnuts, pine nuts, and macadamia nuts
- Flax seeds and chia seeds
- Olive oil
- Salad ingredients: greens, tomatoes, fresh Parmesan cheese for grating
- Red lentil pasta, spelt, whole oats, quinoa, and brown rice
- Fresh fruits (organic is best), including apples, oranges, pears, plums, and berries
When you eat healthy foods found in the Pan-Asian Modified Mediterranean (PAMM) diet you’ll find they are simple to prepare, appealing to look at, and full of flavor, texture, and color. Most importantly, they are packed with powerful nutrients and essential fats to boost your energy, satisfy your appetite, and enhance your health.
Keep a Food Journal for Weight Loss Meal Plans
A food journal is a good way to provide a snapshot of everything you eat along with your feelings as you eat. This can be helpful because so many of us are unaware of what we’re eating, or how our emotions can trigger us to overeat. You’ll also get a sense of which foods your body likes and doesn’t like by recording your physical and mental state from 30 minutes to a couple of hours after eating a particular food.
If you decide to keep a food journal, be sure to record the food or beverage consumed, the time of day, how you feel emotionally, and how you feel physically.