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7-Day Meal Plan

We take the guesswork out of eating healthy.

A diet might seem limiting to some, time-consuming to others, and downright unappealing (no rice cakes, please!) to the rest of us. But before you pull out one of these excuses, we dare you to try this healthy menu. Yes, you may have to buy new things at the grocery store or get crafty in the kitchen, but if you're really up for losing weight, it's worth the effort.

Lisa MacDonald, nutrition manager at Miraval Life in Balance, a destination spa in Tucson, Arizona, created this menu of nutrient-rich meals, balancing carbs with protein and fat in every bite. The best part: It's flexible. Mix and match as your taste buds see fit (guys, check out the special notes that address your need for bigger portions). And if you love one meal, feel free to eat it seven days a week!

To figure out the right portion size, use these approximations from the American Dietetic Association:

  • 1 teaspoon = the tip of your thumb to the first joint
  • 3 ounces of meat = a deck of cards
  • 1 cup of pasta = a tennis ball
  • 1/2 cup of veggies = a lightbulb
  • 1 1/2 ounces cheese = three dominoes
  • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter = a ping-pong ball

DAY 1

Breakfast: Nutty Toast
2 slices of whole-grain or sprouted-grain bread, toasted and smeared with 1 tablespoon nut butter (almond butter, peanut butter, etc.)
1 large grapefruit or orange

Lunch: Very Veggie Salad
1 cup of spinach
2 cups of mixed veggies
1/2 cup of black-bean-and-corn salsa (bought or homemade)
2 tablespoons of feta cheese
1 small whole-grain roll

Men: Add a couple of ounces of chicken, pork, or beef. Or, if you're not into salads, you can substitute with another lunch choice below.

Snack: Cheese, Please
1 ounce of low-fat cheese (a slice of 2 percent American or a piece of mozzarella string cheese)
1 small handful of whole-grain crackers
1 small piece of fruit

Men: Add 2 more small handfuls of crackers.

Dinner: Perfect Pair -- Spaghetti and Meatballs
1 cup of pasta mixed with tomato sauce or olive oil and garlic
4 ounces of turkey meatballs or another low-fat meatball
1 cup of veggies

Snack: Free Fruit
1 cup of fruit, like melon or berries

Men: Add 1/2 cup of frozen yogurt.

DAY 2

Breakfast: Naner Love
1 cup of whole-grain, high-fiber cereal (like Kashi or Barbara's)
1 banana
1 cup of low-fat milk or yogurt

Lunch: Tuna Sammie
2 slices of whole-grain bread
3/4 cup of tuna (or chicken) salad, made with light mayo
1 cup of sugar snap peas, carrots, and celery (or any veggies other than starchy ones like peas, potatoes, and corn)
1 cup of fruit, like melon or berries

Snack: Trail-mix Fix
2 tablespoons of dried fruit (cranberries, apricots, blueberries)
2 tablespoons of almonds or sunflower seeds

Men: Add another 2 tablespoons of dried fruit.

Dinner: South of the Border Quesadilla
2 corn tortillas (crisped in an oven using small amount of spray oil)
1/2 cup of nonfat vegetarian refried beans
1 ounce of shredded low-fat cheese

Layer each ingredient in between the crisp tortillas and bake the dish in a 360-degree oven for 5 minutes. Top with lettuce or cabbage, tomatoes, onions, pared cucumber, and salsa.

Men: Add a couple of ounces of grilled chicken, pork, or beef.

Snack: Frozen Delight
1/2 cup of fat-free, no-sugar-added frozen yogurt

DAY 3

Breakfast: Berry-meal
1 cup of oatmeal with 1 cup berries
2 tablespoons of nuts or seeds

Lunch: Turkey Roll-up
1 medium tortilla
2 ounces of turkey breast
1 ounce of low-fat cheese
1 cup of lettuce, tomato, cucumber, radish, and celery (or the veggies of your choice) stuffed inside or served on the side, depending on your mood

Snack: Cottage Crunch
1/2 cup of cottage cheese mixed with 3 tablespoons of low-fat granola and 1 cup of fruit

Men: Add a handful more of granola.

Dinner: Couscous Yum-yum
1 cup of couscous pilaf
4 ounces of chicken
1 cup of steamed veggies

Men: Add 2 or 3 more ounces of chicken.

Snack: Fruit Is Your Friend
1 cup of melon or berries

Men: Add 1/2 cup of yogurt or frozen yogurt and 1/2 cup more of fruit.

DAY 4

Breakfast: Perfect Parfait
1/2 cup of granola or Mueslix cereal
1 cup of diced melon, peaches, or apples (your fave fruit)
1 cup of low-fat yogurt or milk

Lunch: Couscous Redo
1 cup of couscous pilaf (left over from night before; served hot or cold)
3 ounces of chicken breast
1 cup of steamed veggies

Men: Add a couple more ounces of chicken.

Snack: Mediterranean Munchies
1/2 of a whole-wheat pita
1/4 cup of hummus (or another bean spread)
1/2 cup of grapes or another fruit

Men: Eat a whole pita.

Dinner: Sensible Salmon
1 medium baked sweet potato or 1 cup of baked new potatoes
3 ounces of grilled salmon
1 cup of steamed veggies

Men: Add 2 or 3 more ounces of salmon.

Snack: Straight-up Chocolate
1 ounce of dark chocolate (the really good stuff)

DAY 5

Breakfast: Egg-cellent Choice
1/4 cup of cooked egg substitute or 1 scrambled egg
1/3 cup of sauteed potatoes

Top with salsa and roll up in a small flour tortilla.

Men: Add another egg.

Lunch: Crunchy Grilled Cheese
2 slices of whole-grain bread
1 ounce of cheese (1 slice); any cheese will do, but try something new, like Gouda, for fun
1 or 2 chipotle chile peppers
1/4 of a tart apple, sliced

Place cheese, chipotle, and apple between the slices of bread. Lightly spread butter substitute on outside of bread and place in a saute pan on low heat until cheese starts melting. Flip after about 2-3 minutes so both sides get browned.

1 cup of carrots, celery, radishes, cucumber, and/or cherry tomatoes on the side

Snack: Go Granola
1 cup of chopped fruit or 1 large piece of fruit
1 cup of low-fat yogurt
3 tablespoons of low-fat granola

Men: Add a few more spoonfuls of granola.

Dinner: Chicken with a Twist
1 cup of cooked brown rice
2 ounces of chicken breast, sliced and stir-fried with 1 cup of veggies
1/2 cup of edamame (fresh soy beans)

Men: Add a couple more ounces of chicken.

Snack: Movie Food
1 1/2 cups of light popcorn (no butter)

DAY 6

Breakfast: Start Simple
1 medium whole-grain pita
1 cup of low-fat cottage cheese
2 tablespoons of dried fruit

Lunch: Asian Chicken Salad
2 cups of shredded lettuce
1/2 cup of mandarin oranges
2 ounces of shredded chicken
2 tablespoons of sliced almonds
1 tablespoon of light salad dressing
1 small whole-grain roll

Men: Add a couple of extra ounces of chicken.

Snack: Go Nuts
1 slice of whole-grain bread
1 tablespoon of nut butter (peanut, almond, etc.)
1 cup of grapes or another fruit, or 1 banana

Men: Eat two slices of bread.

Dinner: Pizza with Pizzazz
2 medium-size slices of homemade thin-crust veggie pizza (use whole-wheat dough or an English muffin, and top with 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce and 1 ounce of low-fat cheese)
1 cup of spinach or mixed greens salad
2 teaspoons of a light vinaigrette

Snack: Pick a Fruit, Any Fruit
1 cup of melon or berries or 1/2 cup of another fruit

Men: Add 1/2 cup of yogurt or frozen yogurt.

DAY 7

Breakfast: The Tasty Trio
2 slices of whole-grain or sprouted-grain bread
2 scrambled eggs or 1/2 cup of egg substitute
1 cup of berries or melon

Lunch: Tofu Sandwich (don't knock it til you've tried it)
1 medium whole-grain pita
3 ounces of tofu (or 1/4 cup of hummus)
1 cup of sliced radish, cucumber, onion, lettuce, and carrot
1 cup of melon or berries or 1/2 cup of other fruit

Snack: Trail Mix
2 tablespoons of dried fruit
2 tablespoons of nuts or seeds

Men: Add another 2 tablespoons of dried fruit.

Dinner: Choose Your Protein
1 cup of barley apple salad (1 cup of cooked barley or any other whole grain, mixed with 1/2 of a diced apple)
4 ounces of grilled chicken, fish, beef, or pork tenderloin
1 cup of steamed veggies

Snack: Cookie (Moderation) Monster
2 small cookies

-- Grace Jidoun

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