A 3-Day Weight Loss Meal Plan (and Why It Works)

A 3-Day Weight Loss Meal Plan (and Why It Works)

Between swiping right for a date, having a driver that arrives at the press of a button, and placing a coffee order ahead of time so you can skip the line at Starbucks, let’s face it: We’ve become an on-demand culture and we want what we want when we want it.

That desire extends to our food habits too, leaving us all too ready to satiate last-minute cravings — whether that means raiding the fridge, or picking up the phone for delivery (via an app of course).

So when researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pennsylvania did a study on the health benefits of pre-planning meals, registered dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner tuned in. The study found that when people planned for their meals by ordering in advance, they ended up eating less calories (compared to ordering on the fly), and eating less calories consistently over time, could lead to weight loss.

“What the study is ultimately saying is that when we are pre-deciding, we’re going to naturally make much better choices than when we’re deciding in the moment — when we’re hungry and faced with decision fatigue,” she says. “And that’s what meal planning is all about — you’re making a conscientious choice to not pay attention to peer pressure, other people’s choices, or the demands of your schedule. You’re meal planning with your best self in mind.”

The payoff can be big, Jackson Blatner notes, and here are four reasons why.

 

4 Reasons Meal Planning Can Help You Lose Weight

 

1. When you’re not distracted, craft your plan.

If you have a plan in place before you begin the act of shopping, you’ll be faced with fewer distractions that could lead to impulsive choices. “It’s a lot easier to make better decisions when you don’t have a ton of distractions around,” says Jackson Blatner.

2. You’re in a position to make sound decisions.

“Planning your meals ahead of time slows you down, so you’re making choices in a very mindful and thoughtful way,” says Jackson Blatner. “As opposed to when you’re hungry and trying to make eating choices in the heat of the moment — we [can] all make horrible decisions when we’re hungry.”

3. When healthy is convenient, we might actually consider it.

“Whether or not we want to believe it, we are all people who just want it easy,” says Jackson Blatner. “No matter how well-intentioned you are, when you’re in a rush or time-pressured, you’re probably going to grab whatever is easiest. But if you already have something healthy that’s packed up and ready to go, you can grab that. Rather than fight it, it’s important for us to lean into the fact that it’s human nature to want the easy way out, but to also ensure we’re making healthy options the easy ones.”

4. With repetition comes reward.

“There’s of course the physical aspect to meal planning, but it can pack emotional benefits, too,” notes Jackson Blatner. “The concept of doing something repeatedly, becoming good at it, and seeing results from it can have the power to boost confidence and make you want to stick with it. When you are sticking to the plan and feeling good about it, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy — it’s that momentum that can turn someone on to doing this long-term.”

So… are you convinced? Are you ready to give meal planning a try? We created a 3-day meal plan — complete with a shopping list — to get you started.

Day 1 — Weight Loss Meal Plan Menu

 

Breakfast: Peaches and Oatmeal with Greek Yogurt Parfait

(1 Fruit & Vegetable, 1 Protein, 1 Other Carbohydrate)

Lunch: Lentil and Salmon Kale Salad

(2 Fruits & Vegetables, 1 Protein, 1 Fat, 1 Other Carbohydrate)

Snack: Almonds and Dried Fruit

(1 Fruit & Vegetable, 1 Fat)

Dinner: Sheet Pan Chicken and Veggies

(2 Fruits & Vegetables, 2 Protein, 1 Fat)

 

Day 2 — Weight Loss Meal Plan Menu

Breakfast: Breakfast Sandwich with Blueberries

(1/2 Fruit & Vegetable, 1 Protein, 1 Fat, 2 Other Carbohydrates)

Lunch: Turkey Burger with Sweet Potato Fries

(2 1/2 Fruit & Vegetables, 1 Protein, 1 Fat)

Snack: Cottage Cheese and Tangerines

(1 Fruit & Vegetable, 1 Protein)

Dinner: Chicken and Veggie “Rice” Bowl

(2 Fruits & Vegetables, 1 Protein, 1 Fat)

Day 3 — Weight Loss Meal Plan Menu

Breakfast: Tropical Berry Yogurt

(1 Fruit & Vegetables, 1 Protein, 1 Fat)

Lunch: Smoked Salmon and Brown Rice Bowl

(2 Fruits & Vegetables, 2 Protein, 2 Other Carbohydrates)

Snack: Banana and Nut Butter

(1 Fruit & Vegetables, 1 Fat)

Dinner: Chicken Tenders with Vegetable Medley

(2 Fruits & Vegetables, 1 Protein, 1 Fat)

Day 1 Recipes

Peaches and Oatmeal with Greek Yogurt Parfait

  • 1/2 cup cooked old-fashioned oats
  • 3/4 cup Greek yogurt (plain, 2%)
  • 1 cup sliced peaches

 

Lentil and Salmon Kale Salad

  • 2 cups chopped kale
  • 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 cup sliced cucumbers
  • 3-ounce cooked salmon fillet (skin and bones removed)
  • 1/3 cup cooked lentils
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil based vinaigrette

 

Almonds and Dried Fruit

  • 6 whole dry-roasted almonds
  • 3 tablespoons dried fruit

 

Sheet Pan Chicken and Veggies 

  • 10 brussel sprouts, quartered
  • 1/2 purple potato, cubed
  • 8 ounces raw chicken breast
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

Preparation Tips:

  1. Preheat oven to 425° Coat a parchment lined baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. Toss brussels sprouts, sweet potato, and chicken together with oil in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper (if desired). Lay out in an even layer on prepared sheet pan.
  3. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until sweet potato is fork tender and a thermometer inserted in the chicken reads an internal temperature of 165°
  4. Serve immediately, or store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Day 2 Recipes

Breakfast Sandwich with Blueberries

  • 2 scrambled eggs
  • 1 toasted English muffin (whole-grain)
  • 1/2 ounce sliced cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup blueberries

 

Turkey Burger with Sweet Potato Fries 

  • 3 ounces cooked turkey burger patty
  • 3/4 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup sliced radishes
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 1/8 avocado
  • 1/2 cup sweet potato oven fries

Preparation Tips:

  1. Preheat oven to 425° Coat a parchment lined baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. Lay sweet potato in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Lightly coat with cooking spray.
  3. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until sweet potato is fork tender and edges are slightly colored.
  4. Toss together arugula, tomatoes, and radishes. Set aside.
  5. For the burger, form ground turkey into a round patty shape. Season with salt and pepper (if desired). Set aside.
  6. Heat a nonstick skillet over high heat; coat with cooking spray. Cook turkey burger for 3 minutes, then flip and cook 3 minutes on the other side, or until a thermometer reads 165° F inserted in the center. Let burger rest for 1 minute.
  7. Serve burger and fries immediately with salad, or store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

 

Cottage Cheese and Tangerines

  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese
  • 2 tangerines

 

Chicken and Veggie Burrito Bowl

  • 3 ounces cooked ground chicken
  • 2 cups cauliflower rice
  • 1 medium bell pepper, chopped
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

 

Day 3 Recipes

Tropical Berry Yogurt 

  • 3/4 cup Greek yogurt (plain, 2%)
  • 1 1/4 cups fresh berries
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut

Preparation Tips:

  1. Place yogurt in a serving bowl.
  2. Top yogurt with berries and coconut.
  3. Serve immediately, or store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 day.

 

Smoked Salmon Poke Bowl

  • 6 ounces smoked salmon, cold
  • 2 cups sliced cucumbers and radishes
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 2/3 cup cooked brown rice, cold

 

Banana and Nut Butter
  • 1 small banana
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon nut butter

 

Chicken Tenders with Mixed Vegetables
  • 3 ounces cooked chicken tenders
  • 1 cup mushrooms
  • 10 spears asparagus
  • 2 cups spinach, cooked
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

3-Day Weight Loss Meal Plan Shopping List

Proteins

  • 2 eggs
  • 1.5 cups Greek yogurt (plain, 2%)
  • 4 ounces raw salmon fillet (boneless, skinless)
  • 4 ounces raw chicken breast
  • 4 ounces ground turkey patty (93% lean)
  • 4 ounces ground chicken
  • 6 ounces package smoked salmon
  • 4 ounces raw chicken tenders

Fruits

  • 1 fresh, large peach
  • 2 ounces dried fruit (of your choice)
  • 12 ounces fresh berries (raspberries, strawberries, blueberries)
  • 2 tangerines
  • 1 small banana

Vegetables

  • 2 cups chopped kale
  • 12 ounces cherry tomatoes
  • 1 medium cucumber
  • 10 medium brussels sprouts
  • 1 medium purple potato
  • 1, 8-ounce bag radishes
  • 4 cups arugula
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1, 8-ounce bag cauliflower rice
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 1 large white onion
  • 1, 4-ounce container white mushrooms
  • 10 large asparagus spears
  • 1, 10-ounce bag raw spinach

Fats

  • 1 tablespoon oil-based vinaigrette
  • 1 ounce dry roasted almonds
  • 1 ounce cheddar cheese slice
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 ounce nut butter

Other Carbohydrates

  • 2 ounces dry old-fashioned oats
  • 2 ounces dry lentils
  • 1 whole-grain English muffins
  • 2 ounces uncooked brown rice

Pantry/Spices

  • 1 small bottle extra-virgin olive oil
Nicole Schnitzler

About

Nicole Schnitzler is a freelance writer who covers travel, food, drink, lifestyle, and culture. When she is not planning her next adventure, she can be found exploring bakeries, record shops, and drink lists in her Chicago neighborhood — or at home attempting to learn the harmonica. She is most comfortable with a pen in one hand and a fork in the other. Follow her on Twitter.

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