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Lose Weight Safely With a Healthy Diet Plan

Patti is a Certified Dietary Manager and Certified Restaurant Manager. Her knowledge is based on her nutritional training and experiences.


What is a Healthy Diet Plan?

A healthy diet plan is a guide that includes foods rich in nutrients to fuel your body while staying within your daily caloric intake for weight loss or maintenance. It can also help lower your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and other health-related conditions.

A healthy eating plan:

  • Emphasizes filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables
  • Includes whole grains and fat-free or low-fat dairy products
  • Incorporates lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts
  • Limits saturated fats and trans fats
  • Reduces sodium and added sugars
  • Controls portion sizes

According to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans:

  • The recommended calorie intake for adult women ranges from 1,600 to 2,400 calories per day.
  • The recommended calorie intake for adult men ranges from 2,200 to 3,200 calories per day.

If you are elderly or sedentary, your calorie needs may be more towards the lower range. If you lead an active lifestyle, your calorie needs may be in the higher range.


How Many Calories?

Recommended dietary guidelines help Americans maintain proper nutrition and healthy body weight. Since calorie needs do vary from person to person depending on height, weight, age, sex, and activity level, the best way to determine how many calories you need is by completing an individual nutritional/dietary assessment.

If you are unable to complete a nutritional assessment, a simple rule of thumb to follow to help you maintain, lose, or gain weight according to your weight goals:

  • To maintain weight, the calories you consume must equal the calories you burn.
  • To lose weight, you must burn more calories than you take in.
  • To gain weight, you must consume more calories than you burn.

Low-calorie diets typically range from 800 to 2,000 calories per day. The lowest calorie deficit diet the average person can consume without harming their health is a 1,200-calorie diet. While adhering to a low-calorie diet may help you lose weight relatively quickly, it’s not viable for long periods or good for overall health. You should only follow a low-calorie diet under the supervision of a licensed physician or registered dietitian.


How to Create Healthy Diet Plans

  1. Use a variety of foods from each of the different food groups in the Food Pyramid Guide.
  2. Balance your meals against each other. If you have one heavy meal, the other meals should be on the lighter side.
  3. Use portion control. Too much food can cause you to gain weight.
  4. Strive for variety day to day, especially for lunch and dinner meals.
  5. Don't treat each meal separately. Instead, treat the whole day as a unit.
  6. Plan meals with a variety of colors and textures.
  7. Except for bread, butter, and beverages, you shouldn't use the same food twice in one day without varying its form.
  8. Do not use the same foods in the same meal, even in different forms.
  9. Use fruit in the breakfast meal and also for dessert.
  10. If you get hungry before your next meal, eat a light, healthy snack in-between meals.
  11. Reuse your monthly meal plans.

What 2,000 Calories Looks Like in a Day

A 2,000-calorie diet is often considered a standard diet for most healthy Americans. This particular number of calories is based on the estimated nutritional needs of most adults and used for meal-planning purposes. Also used as a benchmark for recommendations on nutrition labels on most foods, all nutrition labels include the phrase, “Percent of Daily Values based on a 2,000-calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your caloric needs.”

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Breakfast on a 2,000-Calorie Meal Plan

Your morning meal should include no more than 400 to 450 calories. A sample breakfast with a total of 448 calories may include:

Breakfast is so versatile and a great meal to use up leftovers. For instance, add your favorite vegetables to the eggs and use whatever fruit you have on hand. Perhaps you have some leftover ham; throw that in there if you want. You could have cold cereal or oatmeal topped with a variety of fruit. Maybe you're not a coffee drinker; drink water, 100% juice, plain tea, or low-fat/fat-free milk instead. The choices and combinations are endless.

*Please see Meal Planning Resources and Tools – Nutritional values for common foods and products


Morning Snack

Try to keep snacks between 150 and 200 calories. A sample morning snack with a total of 191 calories may include:

  • 1 medium apple, sliced (95 calories)
  • 1 Tbsp. peanut butter (96 calories)*
  • 1 bottle water (0 calories)*

*Please see Meal Planning Resources and Tools – Nutritional values for common foods and products


Lunch on a 2,000-Calorie Meal Plan

Aim to keep lunch at 450 to 500 calories. A sample lunch with a total of 479 to 497 calories may include:

  • 6 oz. cream of tomato soup (99 calories)*
  • Turkey, corn & sun-dried tomato wrap (321 calories)
  • 4 oz. orange juice (54 calories), or 1 orange (72 calories)*
  • 1 cup choice of beverage such as coffee or tea (5 calories)*

Wraps are also great for using up leftovers, and you can also have a different soup with each wrap to change it up a bit.

*Please see Meal Planning Resources and Tools – Nutritional values for common foods and products

Afternoon Snack

You can use your afternoon snack to cover the rest of the day's calories.

Fruit yogurt parfaits are a great refreshing snack or perfect for a quick and light breakfast. You can use your favorite fruits and nuts, and remember to use low-fat yogurt for fewer calories.


Dinner on a 2,000-Calorie Meal Plan

Dinner should include between 550 and 650 calories. A sample dinner with a total of 643 calories may include:

  • Round Steak Italiano (357 calories)
  • 1/2 cup carrots, glazed (72 calories)*
  • 1 slice wheat bread (79 calories)*
  • 1 tsp. margarine (37 calories)*
  • 10 watermelon balls (37 calories)*
  • 1/2 cup 2% milk (61 calories)*

*Please see Meal Planning Resources and Tools – Nutritional values for common foods and products


Evening Snack

  • 10 - 4" strips celery (6 calories)*
  • 2 Tbsp. hummus, flavored (78 calories)*
  • 1 bottle water (0 calories)*

If you get hungry between meals, you can always eat some fresh fruit or yogurt to help hold you over until your next meal.

If you don't like a particular food item in the menu plan, you can always substitute it with a similar food item. For instance, let's say you don't like au gratin potatoes. You can always substitute it with mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, etc.

*Please see Meal Planning Resources and Tools – Nutritional values for common foods and products

Healthy Monthly Meal Plan


An easy way to create a monthly meal plan for you and your family is to start one day at a time. Once you get to day 28, you can repeat that month every month after that. Of course, you may want to make a few changes for added variety. You will have a guide to follow for the following months making menu planning a lot easier.


Meal Planning Tools and Resources

Weight Loss Program

One Last Note


Moderation is the Key

The only way to lose weight properly is by eating a well-balanced diet, which includes several servings from each of the food groups every day. The key is moderation. Simply put, you can eat anything you want as long as you do it in moderation. Moderation is basically portion control. By controlling the portion of each food group, you will lose weight safely with a healthy diet plan and keep it off. When you eat a well-balanced diet that meets your individual dietary needs, you will not only lose weight but be able to maintain a healthy weight for your body and maintain a healthy lifestyle with proper nutrition.

This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2011 Patti Davis


coffeealera on May 03, 2012:

Great hub and recipes, thanks.

Patti Davis (author) from Rock Falls, Illinois on May 01, 2011:

Thank you. I believe everyone should have a diet plan for proper nutrition and better health. Adding fitness to your diet plan also helps in having a healthy lifestyle.

Liam Hallam from Nottingham UK on May 01, 2011:

nice hub

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