Low-Carb Diet and Meal Planning: A Formula for Successful Weight Loss

Updated on June 15, 2018
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Dani Alicia is an actress, writer, and entrepreneur. She writes about topics that interest her.


Weight loss is one of the number one concerns when it comes to health these days. Over 36 percent of adults in the United States are obese, and many diseases and conditions are caused by obesity. These statistics have caused a surge in the weight loss and diet industry as well as an explosion of different diet plans that claim to work wonders. With so many diets on the market, it can be hard to choose one. A good suggestion is the low carb diet. It is one of the most widely researched diets and one of the few diets that has been scientifically and medically proven to work.

A low carb diet is one of the most popular diets that is followed in the United States because of its effectiveness. While this may not be the right diet for everyone, it is a diet that has been proven to work for most people, especially in the first few months of the diet. The primary benefit of a low carb diet is weight loss, but this diet can also be beneficial to improve some diseases and conditions such as type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

About the Low-Carb Diet

A low carb diet works by restricting the amount of carbohydrates in your diet. It can also restrict certain types of carbohydrates. The general idea behind a low carb diet is to trick your body into burning fat for fuel instead of glucose. When you eat carbohydrates, the body breaks them down into glucose and then releases insulin to use the glucose as energy. Any extra glucose is stored and later turned into fat. On a low carb diet, since you aren't eating as many carbs, your body doesn't have enough glucose so it begins to burn the extra fat for energy. This is what triggers the weight loss.

Safety First

Safety should always be the first step in any diet plan. Check with your doctor to make sure you are healthy enough to begin a diet program. This is especially important if you have any preexisting conditions. Your doctor can also help you figure out the proper amount of calories you should be consuming each day as well as a healthy weight target for you. After you and your doctor have determined that it is safe for you to go on the diet, the next step (and probably the most important step) is to make a meal plan.


Meal Planning

Before diving into how to meal plan, it is important to know what meal planning is. Meal planning is a process where you plan out all of your meals for an entire week, rather than planning out breakfast or dinner for one day. You can also precook the meals in advance to save time. Note that it is for a week, not for months in advance. You will only frustrate yourself if you plan this far in advance. Chances are that your goals will be slightly different a month later so your eating habits may be different also.

Making a meal plan can be the most difficult part of the diet because you have to cut out a lot of foods that you may be used to eating. This can be frustrating for people as they realize that they don't have a large selection of foods that they like to choose from and being frustrated about food choices is one of the biggest reasons that people don't stick with a diet. Meal planning can help alleviate the frustration, especially for people who lead busy lives and may not have a lot of time to focus on food choices on a daily basis.

Step 1: What do you need from your meal plan?

The first step is to figure out exactly what it is you want from your meal planning process. Are you trying to save time each week? Are you more concerned with staying on track? Do you need meals just for yourself or for your entire family? Are there any special needs? One example of a special need is if you are vegetarian. Another example is if you are diabetic. These need to be taken into account so you can choose the right foods for the conditions. Once you have figured out exactly what you need from the meal planning process, you can move on to searching for recipes.

Recipes can help your meal planning task go a lot smoother. There are hundreds of thousands of recipes online, in magazines, or maybe even your mom's or grandmother's kitchens. There are a lot of recipes tailored to low carb diets. You can simply pick your favorite ones to add to your plan. You can also create your own recipes. If you create your own recipes, you must be careful when choosing ingredients for your meals.

Step 2: Choose Your Recipes

Recipes can help your meal planning task go a lot smoother. There are hundreds of thousands of recipes online, in magazines, or maybe even your mom's or grandmother's kitchens. There are a lot of recipes tailored to low carb diets. You can simply pick your favorite ones to add to your plan. When choosing recipes, remember what it is that you want from your meal plan. Do you want to save time? You may want to choose recipes that take 15 minutes or less to cook. Do you want to save money? Choose recipes that have only a few ingredients or that don't use premium ingredients.

You can also create your own recipes. If you create your own recipes, you must be careful when choosing ingredients for your meals. Here is a list of things that you can't eat on a low carb diet so you can avoid putting them in your recipes:

  • Breads of all types
  • Grains that have gluten
  • Rice
  • Potatoes
  • Sugar
  • Wheat
  • Fruit
  • Beans
  • Seed and vegetable oil
  • Most dairy products
  • Low fat and diet foods
  • Anything else that has carbs

It is very important to read product labels because certain foods may have hidden carbohydrates. Sauces can be big culprits of hidden carbohydrates because many of them are made with sugar. If you aren't sure about the carb content of certain foods, research them to be sure.

Step 3: Time Management

Next you will want to take your lifestyle into consideration. Will you have time to cook every day or do you want to pre-make your meals? Do you have time to shop for groceries each day or do you want to buy them all in advance? A lot of times, people break their diets because of time management issues. They don't have time to cook, or maybe they are out somewhere and need something to eat quickly. If time management is a problem in your life, I suggest that you pre-make your meals for an entire week. You can freeze them and this way when you can just grab and heat when you are in a rush.

Step 4: Time for Grocery Shopping

Once you have figured out what you need from your meal planning, which recipes you will use and any time management concerns that need to be addressed, you are ready to go grocery shopping. When you go grocery shopping, remember to shop smart so you can save time and money.

If you group your grocery list by department, this can save you a lot of time and energy when you go to the grocery store. This way you aren't going around in circles all over the grocery store trying to find what you need. That can be discouraging and tiring. Try to save the frozen foods section for last so that the foods won't thaw out while you are shopping.

If you are a coupon clipper like me, you may have an expanding mini-file with all the relevant coupons ready to go. If not, this doesn't mean that you can't save money. Buying in bulk is one of the best ways to save money. The cost per item (or per pound, unit, or whatever other measurement may be used) is usually less when you buy in bulk. This can also save you time because you won't have to constantly go to the grocery store for more ingredients.

Tupperware and freezer bags are an investment that you may want to consider as you shop. As you prep, prepare, and precook foods, you will need something to store them in. You can even use a marker to write on the containers in order to keep them organized.

Step 6: Time to Prep, Prepare, and Precook

After the grocery shopping is done, it is time to get your meals ready for your week. Choose a day of the week that you usually are not busy and let this be your weekly meal prep day. Sunday is usually a popular day for this. On your meal prep day, all of your dicing and chopping for foods like garlic or onions can be done. They can be stored in the handy Tupperware that you invested in. You can also precook certain things like meats and freeze them. If you are usually short on time during the week, you can cook whole meals and freeze them until you need them. After all of your prepping, preparing, and precooking is done, you are ready to start your low carb diet with peace of mind.

Check out the video below to see an easy way to meal plan and an example of a one week meal plan.

Tips From a Nutritionist

Do you think meal planning makes dieting easier?

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Have you successfully lost weight on a low carb diet?

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2018 Dani Alicia


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