Changing your diet and cutting calories usually aren’t easy unless you have a solid plan, including daily meal plans and a complete shopping list. A few kitchen tools also come in handy, such as measuring cups, measuring spoons, and a kitchen scale, which you can use to measure portions until you get used to estimating serving sizes.
It’s always a good idea to speak with your healthcare provider before making any major changes to your current diet. This is especially true if you have any health conditions or concerns.
Start by planning your meals and snacks for a few days or maybe a week, depending on how often you go grocery shopping. Compile a shopping list with the ingredients for all of your meals so you can stock your kitchen with the foods you need. Buy the foods that fit your meal plans and avoid the high-calorie foods and treats that can derail your effort.
Pack your lunch if you work or go to school, so you can control what you eat. If you do dine at a restaurant, choose a salad (go easy on the dressing and other high-calorie toppings), vegetable soup, a nourish bowl or wrap made with leafy greens, a turkey or chicken burger, or a grilled salmon bowl, for example.
To plan low-calorie meals, you’ll need to know how many calories are in the foods you eat. There are many diet and nutrition apps that can help.
It’s also important to choose nutrient-dense foods. Since you’re cutting calories, you’ll need to make every calorie count. High-fiber, low-calorie fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat protein sources should make up most of your daily menu.1 In addition to their nutrient values, fiber and protein are filling and satisfying, which is important when you are consuming fewer calories.
Meal planning isn’t all that hard, but it can take a little practice, so here are two 1,700-calorie menu examples to get you started. There are also menus available for 1,200 calorie per day and 1,500 calorie per day eating plans, which may be helpful depending on your calorie needs and intake goals.
1,701-Calorie Meal Plan
This plan contains no non-nutritive sweeteners, but you can add them if you wish. When preparing food, note that fats such as butter or oil add calories (but also satiating fats). Similarly, if you choose full-fat cheese and milk, you increase calorie count, but also may feel more full and could cut calories elsewhere.
- Two eggs, scrambled
- One slice 100% whole-grain toast with one tablespoon 100% fruit spread
- One apple
- Chicken wrap: One whole grain tortilla, one-half cup chopped chicken, three tomato slices, one tablespoon light mayonnaise, lots of lettuce, and one ounce shredded cheese
- One cup milk
- One three-ounce sirloin steak
- One cup cooked green beans
- One medium sweet potato, baked
- One small glass red wine
- Several glasses of water
- Three-fourths cup plain yogurt with one tablespoon honey
- One-half cup raw carrots
- 14 walnut halves
- One cup 100% grapefruit juice
- Calories: 1701
- Fat: 58g (29.6%)
- Saturated fat: 13g
- Protein: 106g (24.3%)
- Carbohydrates: 183g (41.8%)
- Sodium: 1326mg
- Sugar: 118g
- Cholesterol: 551mg
- Fiber: 26g
This menu contains non-nutritive sweeteners, which you can eliminate if you choose (don’t substitute sugar or other sweeteners, like honey, or you will add calories).
- One slice 100% whole-grain toast with one tablespoon peanut butter
- One-half grapefruit with one packet sucralose or stevia sweetener
- One cup non-fat milk
- Salad: Two cups mixed greens, one-half can artichoke hearts, six cucumber slices, three ounces cooked shrimp, one-half cup cherry tomatoes, and two tablespoons balsamic vinegar as a dressing. Include avocado, extra virgin olive oil, or sunflower seeds to add heart-healthy fat.
- One small 100% whole-grain dinner roll
- Diet soda
- Burrito: One-half cup cooked chopped chicken, one-ounce shredded cheddar cheese, one tablespoon sour cream, salsa, and lettuce
- One-half cup brown rice
- One-half cup black beans
- One small glass white wine
- Two cups air-popped popcorn (no butter; try seasoning with garlic and/or onion powder or salt and pepper)
- One-half cup raw carrots
- One serving yogurt
- One orange
- One apple with 20 almonds
- Several glasses of water with slices of lemon or lime
- Calories: 1705
- Fat: 37g (19.6%)
- Saturated fat: 9g
- Protein: 97g (22.7%)
- Carbohydrates: 227g (53.3%)
- Sodium: 1717mg
- Sugar: 78g
- Cholesterol: 260mg
- Fiber: 39g