A 7-Day, 1,200-Calorie Meal Plan
It’s officially ice cream season! That’s why the Good Housekeeping Institute’s Nutrition Lab tested hundreds of pints, bars, pops, sandwiches, and other frozen treats to bring you only the best of the best. All of our picks hit the mark when it came to taste, quality of ingredients, packaging claims, and yes, even nutritional value (because consciously indulging is key to a healthy diet!).
When you’re scanning the aisles at the supermarket, follow these buyer’s tips:
Aim for about 150 to 250 calories per serving: Too low in calories? That’s sometimes a good indicator that it won’t be as filling, which can put you at high risk for whole pint consumption!
Choose single-serve indulgences: The best way to treat yourself is by avoiding «diet» ice creams and opting for single servings of more satisfying desserts instead.
Ignore lame product claims: Ice cream that sounds a little too good to be true is often marketing fluff and not worth the added cost.
Fruit flavors aren’t always the healthiest option: Look for water and fruit as the first ingredients in any pop or bar. Many are made from concentrated forms sugar, a.k.a. juice.
Hydrate before you dive in for seconds: When it’s hot out, we’re extra likely to confuse thirst for hunger — and ice cream is often the number one item we crave when we’re parched. So before you beeline back to the freezer, have a glass of water first.
And now, drumroll, please! Here are our top picks for savoring to the last bite:
What You Should Know About Meal Plans
While 1,200 may be the right number for some people, it can be super restrictive for others, says Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, Nutrition Director at the Good Housekeeping Institute. That’s why we’re using 1,200 as our base, and encourage you to build upon these meal and snack ideas by doubling (or tripling, quadrupling …you get the point!) up on veggies at any opportunity — and adding more fruit at snack time, too. You can also add 1-5 ounces of protein at all meals if at any point you’re feeling like it’s just not enough food to keep you satisfied. The combo of fiber from produce and lean protein makes this an adaptable strategy that’ll help you lose weight safely — one meal (and snack) at a time!
From leafy greens to cruciferous veggies, produce is a little gift from nature to us humans. Filled with crucial immune-boosting antioxidants, fiber, B-vitamins, and minerals, they’re the «real deal» that can make a big impact on your health. The beauty of vegetables? The more you eat of all of them, the better off you are. Countless studies have linked the benefits to greater veggie intake to decreased risk of chronic disease, including heart disease, diabetes, and lifestyle-related cancers. Plus, observational data has linked adequate produce intake (at least five servings per day) to better mood and self-reported feelings of happiness and satisfaction.
Since they contain lots of water, vegetables are also essential for hydration and digestion while also providing fuel for your body’s beneficial bacteria to survive and thrive. The only thing to keep to a minimum? Breading and deep-frying your veggies, which turn a nutritious staple into a vehicle for extra refined carbs and saturated fat. That can add up if you’re preparing them with those methods frequently. Otherwise, choose a variety of veggies to bulk up your meals with nutritious flavor. Cook fresh and frozen produce by steaming, grilling, sautéing, or roasting — or enjoy it raw. If you go the canned route, pick types without added sugar or sodium. Here are a list of our top favorite vegetables, but keep in mind: Any veggie can belong on yourmenu, so choose what you love and use the rest as inspo for future meals and snacks you can enjoy in flavorful ways.
No single food in isolation of everything else you eat is going to make you gain (or lose!) weight. But often, the same barrier stumps so many people when it comes to weight loss and healthier eating: sneaky sources of added sugar or saturated fat lurking throughout the pantry, fridge, or freezer.
Many times these foods are marketed as healthier options, leading you to buy them for their purported benefits — but actually, you might’ve been much more satisfied if you’d chosen the real thing instead. Other times, they’re foods that have replaced the calories coming from one type of nutrient with another. For example, keto snacks swap sugar for high-fat coconut oil or butter; low-fat foods swap fat for added sugar. Read labels carefully — especially anything with a «free,» «low,» or «less» claim — to make sure you’re making a choice that works best for you.
My best tip: Prioritize real, wholesome foods in their closest-to-intended state as often as possible. (The only ingredient in your peanut butter should be peanuts!) The fewer the ingredients, generally the better it is for you. This helps you get super picky about what you’re really in the mood to eat, while helping you determine what choices will maximize your enjoyment and minimize self-sabotage.
Need a quick bite to eat? Many fast food chains have upped their nutrition game in recent years, making good-for-you choices easy. By introducing more veggie-filled meals like salads and bowls, these restaurants have expanded beyond the typical cheeseburger-and-fries fare. From steak to sandwiches, we asked our resident nutritionist, Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, to give us guidance on how to order.
In general, load up on as many vegetables as possible, whether it’s extra peppers on your pizza, mushrooms on your burger, or salsa in your burrito bowl. Ask for apple slices or a side salad with your meal instead of the usual add-ons. Brush up on each chain’s ordering hacks to lighten up your dish even further. For example, request to make your Taco Bell order «fresco» and you’ll nix the calorie-laden dressings, cheese, and sour cream, or go straight to its health-conscious Power Menu. Denny’s dubs its best choices Fit-Fare, Papa John’s calls them Lighter Choices, Dunkin’ uses DDSMART, and so on. Getting the low-down on the best menu items before you step up to the register could help you avoid the extra calories, fat, and sodium found in other choices. The next time you’re on the road or only have five minutes for lunch, go ahead and order with confidence. These breakfast, lunch, and dinner choices all get the thumbs up from a registered dietitian.
Flavor foods with herbs and spices whenever you can. It’ll help you cut back on condiments high in saturated fat while maximizing flavor. Spices and herbs also pack antioxidants, which can help improve cholesterol levels when combined with veggies. Ones we love: basil, cilantro, rosemary, sage, ginger, garlic, tarragon, black and red chili pepper, mint, and oregano.
RELATED: 10 Herbs You Can Grow Indoors Year-Round
Add these heart-healthy picks to your grocery cart to meet your daily quota for potassium, the mineral that keeps your nerves and muscles operating at tip-top shape in addition to helping lower blood pressure. This all-important nutrient is hiding in more places than you think, including vegetables, beans, seafood, and even yogurt.
About the Mediterranean Diet
What makes the Mediterranean diet so great is that it’s a lifestyle, not a traditional weight-loss plan that has you counting calories or measuring portions (snooze). You’ll fill up on tons of veggies, fruit, 100% whole grains, and beans; choose lean protein like seafood and eggs; and enjoy sweets and alcohol (red wine anyone?!) as indulgences. The benefit of eating this way is that it emphasizes real, whole foods and limits ultra-processed ones, which tend to be higher in sodium, saturated fat, and added sugar. Since the Mediterranean eating style prioritizes the fun and enjoyment of your whole dining experience, flavorful ingredients are at the forefront — so you’ll never feel deprived.
Day 6: Lunch
To make a lemony tuna salad, toss half of a 5-ounce can of water-packed lower-sodium tuna with 2 cups chopped romaine, 1/3 cup chopped jicama, 1/4 cup shredded carrots, 1/3 cup canned chickpeas (rinsed and drained), 1/2 cup edamame, 1/4 cup avocado, and 6 cherry tomatoes. For a dressing, add lemon juice to taste.
$15 monthly or $100 annually
Avoid gym burnout by enlisting this audio-based personal training app. With more than 2,500 different workouts, you’ll never have to repeat the same class twice. Certified personal trainers lead you through activities as varied as running, HIIT, rowing, strength training, yoga, and more at the push of a button — i.e. no rushing to the gym for a 6 a.m. class.
DOWNLOAD ON APPLE
DOWNLOAD ON ANDROID
Freshé Gourmet Aztec Ensalada Canned Tuna
Spice up your green salad with a pre-prepped mix of skipjack tuna, red beans, corn, sweet red peppers, and simmered onion. Freshé is also certified by nonprofit Friend of the Sea as sustainably caught seafood.
Roasted Mediterranean Vegetables With Chicken
Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a large bowl, toss 2 red peppers, quartered, 2 green peppers, quartered, 2 red onions, quartered, 2 zucchinis, cut into 4-inch sticks, 2 tomatoes, quartered, 1 medium sweet potato, cut into 1-inch cubes, and 4 cloves of garlic, whole with the peel on. Spread the vegetables onto a large roasting pan. Toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, and 2 teaspoons Italian herb seasoning. Cook 15 minutes. Remove from oven and toss the vegetable mixture. Return to the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and beginning to caramelize. Remove the garlic cloves. Remove the cooked garlic from its skin and mash with a fork. Toss the mashed garlic with the vegetable mixture. Slice 1 (3-ounce) cooked chicken breast and serve with 1/3 of the vegetables and 1 cup of mixed greens. Divide the rest of the vegetable mixture in half. Store half of the mixture in a container for lunch on Day 4. Store the other half in a container for lunch on Day 6.
Health Benefits of Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient for red blood cells, nerve function, and DNA synthesis. It’s basically brain food! «Getting B12 daily is crucial as we age, since a deficiency is linked to cognitive decline and impaired nerve function,» says Jaclyn London, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., Nutrition Director at the Good Housekeeping Institute. «You can think of it as being in all animal products and some fortified grain and bean products.» If you’re concerned about reaching the minimum Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of 2.4 micrograms, talk to your physician about further testing.
When the temperature rises, you’re craving lighter, crisper, fresher fare. We tapped Good Housekeeping Institute’s Nutrition Director, Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, for boost-your-health, good-for-you, yummy picks that’ll make this season your best.
Revamp your takeout order.
You love Chipotle, but you don’t love the fact the average order can top 1,000 calories. Get your Mex-fest fix guilt-free (whether you’re at Taco Bell or home) by ordering up to three soft corn tacos with grilled shrimp, chicken, fish, or steak and loads of veggies. Skip rice too, but go for the beans and as many types as salsas as your heart desires. Top with a spoonful of guac and cheese for a filling, mostly plant-based meal.
Upgrade Your Greens
Yes, we want you to eat more veggies, but it’s okay to experiment a little! Fresh or frozen, more is always more when it comes to veggies. Some colorful suggestions: yellow and orange peppers, purple cabbage, spinach, kale, arugula, eggplant, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts. Your scale will thank you. A six-month study led by Pennsylvania State University researchers showed that people who filled up on produce ate an average of 511 fewer calories each day than those who consumed less.
Day 6: Lunch
Rethink tuna salad and toss half of a 5-ounce can of water-packed lower-sodium tuna with 2 cups chopped romaine, 1/3 cup chopped jicama, 1/4 cup shredded carrots, 1/3 cup canned chickpeas (rinsed and drained), 1/2 cup edamame, 1/4 cup avocado, and 6 cherry tomatoes. For a dressing, add lemon juice to taste.
When Emily Puglielli saw a picture of her 300-pound self at a wedding, the image totally shocked her. «That was my ‘okay, I’ve got to do something’ moment,» she told TODAY. «Something» started off as a low-carb diet, meal prepping, and walking regularly, but she later added running and strength training and lost more than half her bodyweight along the way. «Not only am I able to do more physically, but I’ve gained an enormous amount of confidence,» she told GoodHousekeeping.com.
Thanks to the master batches of veggies, grains, and protein you cooked on Prep Day, these recipes for Dr. Oz’s weight-loss breakthrough will only take you minutes to put together.
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Avocado oil
Eat 2–3 meals per day. If you find yourself hungry in the afternoon, add a 4th meal.