Nutrition

NHS Trusted Meal Plan — Lose Weight the Healthy Way

NHS Trusted Meal Plan — Lose Weight the Healthy Way
Have you tried every weight loss diet plan under the sun? Are you torn between swapping meals for diet shakes and following the Paleo diet? Lots of us want to make healthier food choices but don’t know where to start.

Fad diets all claim to be the simple answer to losing weight. Unfortunately, science says that there’s no such thing as a magic diet that results in healthy weight loss.

Conflicting advice makes it difficult to make a realistic, healthy eating plan that fits into your daily life.

Rather than calorie counting, the best way to lose weight is to make lifestyle changes and build healthy habits. Healthy habits could be learning to meal plan, discovering what healthy foods you like or dislike, and, eventually, incorporating various healthy foods into your diet. All of this will make maintaining lifestyle changes and losing weight more achievable.

Low calorie and low-fat diets often leave you feeling deprived and hungry, which is not sustainable in the long term. We digest proteins and fats more slowly than carbs. Due to this, increasing intake of protein and healthy fats can result in feeling fuller for longer, which is helpful for weight management.

At the same time, swapping some carbs for non-starchy vegetables can leave you feeling satisfied while reducing your overall calorie intake. This is the primary rationale for a low-carb diet to lose weight (add a link to low carb diet). A low carb diet also has other health benefits, including for type 2 diabetes.

There’s no need to eliminate food groups entirely. When we create too much restriction in our diet, we’re more likely to ‘fall off the wagon’ and return to our old eating habits. At Second Nature, no foods are off-limits but we follow a lower-carb approach based on its success in long term weight loss.

Second Nature was the first programme to be commissioned by the NHS for long term lifestyle change and weight loss. We’re a tried and tested, NHS approved programme that will support you on your journey to better habits.

Meal ideas

Devised by our registered dietitians and nutritionists, here are five different ideas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that could be part of a satisfying low-carb diet plan.

Remember that the best plan is one that you can stick to, so substitute ingredients you don’t like for others and adjust meals to suit any dietary requirements.

Options suitable for vegetarians are highlighted with a (v). You can access full recipes and instruction videos of example meals by clicking on the meal you want to make.

BREAKFAST IDEAS 200g plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt with berries and sliced almonds (v)

Eggs your way + avocado (slice or mash ¼ of an avocado on 1 slice of wholegrain toast) (v)

Very berry smoothie (v)

2-3 egg mushroom omelette with 30g grated cheese and an optional slice of wholegrain bread (v)

Blueberry oat pancakes (v)

LUNCH IDEAS Courgette frittata slice + green salad (v)

Small jacket potato with a can of tuna + salad

Wholegrain wrap with roast beef/ chicken/ham, mustard and salad or Falafel, yogurt and salad (v)

Leftovers from dinner

Peri Peri chicken and vegetables

DINNER IDEAS Goulash soup

Warm lamb, or falafel (v), salad

Coconut dahl (v)

Meatballs in chilli and tomato sauce + salad

Mediterranean quinoa with 2 tbsp plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt (v)

Blueberry oatmeal pancakes with a spoonful of natural yogurt on top.

 

Example 7-day meal plan

The following week plan is an example of how you could use the meal ideas above to structure your food and successfully begin your weight loss journey. Complete recipes and instruction videos of the example meals are available by clicking on the meal you want to make.

Not all meals in this example plan are suitable for vegetarians, but You can make ingredient swaps or substitutes with meal ideas highlighted with a (v) from above to cater to your requirements. We also have lots more vegan and vegetarian healthy recipes that you could swap in.

This meal plan includes some simple ‘quick prep’ sections throughout the week that shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes. To save time, you can pre-prep the courgette frittata slices and lemon salad dressing (olive oil and lemon juice).

Making a shopping list ahead of time will not only save you time and money, it means you’re less likely to give in to cravings in the shop and end up buying less healthy options.

 

BREAKFAST LUNCH DINNER
MONDAY 200g plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt

(Optional toppings: berries and sliced almonds)

Courgette Frittata slice +

Salad (2x handfuls of baby spinach, 1 tomato, ¼ cucumber, ½ chopped red pepper, pre-prepped lemon salad dressing)

Goulash soup

Quick prep: put one serving of leftover soup in the fridge for lunch tomorrow and the rest in the freezer.

TUESDAY Eggs your way +

Avocado (Slice or mash ¼ of an avocado on 1 slice of wholegrain toast)

Goulash soup (leftover) Mediterranean quinoa

(Optional topping: 2 tbsp Greek yogurt)

Quick prep: put leftover servings into containers for lunch on Thursday.

WEDNESDAY Very berry smoothie

Quick prep: make a salad similar to Monday and put in a container with a serving of Frittata vegetable slice (leftover) for lunch.

Courgette frittata slice (leftover) + Salad Coconut Dahl

(Optional toppings: 2 tbsp Greek yogurt and 2 tbsp roughly chopped parsley)

Quick prep: Put leftover dahl into a container in the fridge for dinner Friday.

THURSDAY Mushroom omelette (2-3 eggs) with 30g grated cheese

(Optional: serve with a slice of wholegrain bread)

Mediterranean quinoa (leftover)

(Optional topping: 2 tbsp Greek yogurt)

Warm lamb salad

Quick prep: Put leftover lamb salad into containers for lunch and prep overnight oats (40g) for tomorrow breakfast.

FRIDAY Pre-prepped overnight oats

(Optional toppings: 200g Greek yogurt, a handful of berries, or a handful of nuts)

Warm lamb salad (leftover) Coconut dahl (leftover)

(Optional toppings: 2 tbsp Greek yogurt)

SATURDAY Blueberry oat pancakes

Quick prep: defrost a serving of goulash soup if you’re eating lunch at home today.

Eating out (opt for a meal with lots of non-starchy vegetables and a good source of protein)

OR

Goulash soup (leftover)

Meatballs in chilli tomato sauce +

Salad

Quick prep: store leftover meatballs in a container in the fridge.

SUNDAY Scrambled eggs (2-3 eggs)

(Optional: 1 grilled tomato, 1 handful baby spinach, 2 rashers of back bacon)

Peri-Peri chicken + vegetables

Quick prep: put any leftovers into containers for quick and easy meals next week. For example, you could add leftover chicken to a salad, or use the leftover vegetables as a basis for another meal.

Meatballs in chilli tomato sauce (leftover)

(Optional: serve in a wholemeal wrap with baby spinach, red onion, and feta cheese)

OPTIONAL SNACKS

100g Greek yogurt with a handful of berries (v)

½ – 1 blueberry oat pancake (v)

½ – 1 courgette frittata slice (v)

Veggie sticks with 60g hummus (v)

1-2 hard-boiled eggs (v)

1-2 meatballs in chilli tomato sauce

Want to make healthy living Second Nature?

Pay what you like for the first 2 weeks of Second Nature and start benefitting from 1:1 expert advice today

How to create your own diet plans

Before you attempt any meal planning, it’s crucial to have a basic understanding of food. Having this will help you to ensure that you have a balanced diet.

Nutrition basics

When we look at the nutritional requirements that our body needs to survive and function, we can broadly break these requirements into macronutrients and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). There are three kinds of macronutrients found in our foods: protein, fat, and carbohydrates.

Most foods contain some of all three macronutrients. However, we usually categorise foods based on their primary macronutrient.

PROTEIN FAT CARBOHYDRATES
Function Helps your body grow, maintain, and repair itself. Helps you to build muscle and stay strong.

Added benefit of helping you to feel full, as it takes longer to digest

Critical for human survival. Used in your body to build the walls of your cells, allowing your brain and nervous system to function and produce hormones.

Added benefit of helping you to feel full, as it takes longer to digest.

Source of energy for your body. Any extra energy that isn’t used straight away is stored and kept as a reserve. (For many of us living sedentary lifestyles, we don’t need much reserve energy!)

Choose complex carbs, which are very high in fibre. Fibre helps food move through our digestive system and helps you to feel full.

Healthy Examples Chicken

Beef

Fish

Lentils

Eggs

Cheese

Tofu

Extra virgin olive oil

Nuts

Seeds

Salmon

Avocado

Olives

Quinoa

Sweet potato

Oats

Wholegrain bread

Wholewheat pasta

Buckwheat

Apples

NON-STARCHY VEGETABLES

These foods technically contain carbohydrates, but are very low in starch/sugar and mostly made up of fibre and water. They also provide vitamins and minerals:

  • Salad (pepper, cucumber, tomato, celery, lettuce, salad leaves, radish)
  • Root vegetables (beetroot, carrot, celeriac, daikon, parsnip, swede, turnip)
  • Broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, cabbage, brussel sprout
  • Leafy greens (spinach, pak choi, swiss chard, kale)
  • Courgette, aubergine, marrow, pumpkin, squash, butternut squash
  • Corn, green/broad/ runner beans, peas, mangetout
  • Mushrooms
  • Onion, leek, garlic, fennel
  • Bamboo shoots and bean sprouts

 

 

Now that you have a basic understanding of the nutritional content of food, let’s put it all together! Aim to eat three balanced meals a day and space them evenly throughout your schedule.

Is there anything to avoid? 

Occasional treats and indulgences are part of a healthy lifestyle. There’s no need to restrict yourself entirely, as research shows this is likely to result in increased cravings and even bingeing on the ‘banned’ food. 

However, certain foods are engineered by the food industry to keep us coming back for me. They override our internal stop signals (which tell us when we’re full and no longer need to eat) which means we’re more likely to overeat and keep coming back for more. 

Examples include ice cream, crisps, biscuits, takeaways, and cakes. Although you can enjoy these occasionally, remember that these foods are designed to be irresistible so enjoy them mindfully and be aware of your portion sizes. 

What about exercise?

Diet is the most critical factor in weight management. But we can increase our chances of weight loss by including regular physical activity in our day. It doesn’t need to be extreme, especially if you’re starting out. But, walking can be a great starting point for your weight loss journey. 

Similarly, incorporating small ‘snacks’ of exercise (such as squats whilst brushing your teeth, or star jumps while waiting for the kettle to boil) can increase your energy expenditure without cutting into your spare time. 

Top 10 tips

Kicking pre-existing unhealthy eating habits can be hard. These 10 top tips can help you overcome unhealthy cravings, or dependence on ultra-processed foods, and effectively create your own healthy meal plans:

  1. Have at least half a plate of vegetables at every meal (e.g. carrots, courgette, peas, peppers)
  2. Add a serving of fats to each meal (e.g. tbsp of extra virgin olive oil or a small handful of nuts)
  3. Include a good source of protein at each meal – a serving that is at least ¼ of your plate (or the size of the palm of your hand)
  4. Swap refined carbohydrates (like white bread and rice) for whole-grain versions (like brown rice and quinoa)
  5. Include fruit as part of your balanced diet. If you’re having fruit as a snack, try pairing it with a source of protein or fat (for example, an apple with nut butter)
  6. Base your meals on whole foods, rather than refined carbohydrates, ultra-processed foods, and foods with added sugar
  7. Cook most of your meals at home – some people find it useful to plan and prepare their meals ahead of time
  8. If you want something sweet, try having a piece of high quality (75%+) dark chocolate and take the time to enjoy it
  9. Drink at least 2 litres (6-8 glasses) of water per day
  10. Swap fruit juice, fizzy drinks (regular and diet), energy drinks, and alcohol for sparkling or still water, or water flavoured with lemon or lime

Infographic of a balanced plate - 1/4 protein, 1/4 carobhydrate, 1/2 non-starchy vegertables

It is worth noting that these top tips provide general information and should not be used to substitute medical advice, especially if you suffer from a medical condition, in which case you should consult a medical professional before attempting a new diet plan.

 

You might also like

Binge Eating Disorder: causes, symptoms, and treatment

Healthy baking: 6 simple low-sugar recipes

Is Salt Bad for You?

Woman holding phone with Second Nature

Become a Second Nature member

Join today and pay what you like for the first 2 weeks.

Write a response