Meal Plan: Main Meals and Desserts
Below you can find part two of our suggested meal plan for those of you seeking to tone up your body. It covers light and main meals and dessert. Part one covers breakfast and snacking.
If you are working through the Shape Up and Tone programme then nutrition is key to reaching your goal. So, are desserts off the menu and what should you be eating for main meals?
If your goal is to lose weight remember to try and exercise on an empty stomach. Here are some ideas for three to four hours before you go swimming. Keep your carbohydrate and protein levels high (60:40 ratio) and don’t pig out on simple sugars or high fat meals such as fast foods or fried breakfasts. Here are some good examples:
- Baked potatoes – fill them with beans, sweet corn or chilli – a little cheese is ok and remember eat the skins, it’s the healthiest bit! It provides fibre that helps maintain our blood sugar levels.
- Pasta meals or bakes – again go light on the cheese and, unless you’re planning to swim the channel, there’s no need to pile in too much starchy pasta. Instead throw in plenty of vegetables – tuna is also a great protein source.
- Beans on toast - they may be the signature of a student’s staple diet but they’re actually really good for you – there’s lots of protein in the beans and wholemeal toast provides your complex carbohydrates.
- Remember to go for low-sugar beans or, healthier still, buy some mixed beans and make your own version! If beans aren’t your thing, eggs will do a similar job of providing protein.
- Chilli con carne – kidney beans, lean ground mince, and brown rice – all should set you up perfectly for exercise in a few hours. Cheap, fatty, greasy mince, white rice and salty tortilla chips will not.
Planning is the key. It’s a good idea to plan your main meals at the beginning of the week so you can get the food in and you don’t have to resort to takeaways or microwavable food in the evenings.
There isn’t a single meal that doesn’t ‘go’ with vegetables so throw plenty in. It’s not like there’s not loads of options to choose from, they’re really healthy and you can eat unlimited amounts!
The best way to eat vegetables is raw before they’ve lost any of their nutrients from cooking.But if you’re going to cook them make sure you keep the water because it contains the nutrients, vitamins/antioxidants that they have lost in the boiling/steaming process – it can then be used for stock, gravy, or anything you like!
Research shows that microwaving fresh vegetables is one of the healthiest ways to cook them and retain the maximum amounts of vitamins/antioxidants. PLEASE get out of the habit of frying vegetables – there’s no better way to destroy their nutrients and minerals than with superheated fat that your body will struggle to digest at an optimum rate.
By this point – if you didn’t already – you should know which foods are good for you and which aren’t. If not, refer to our healthy diet page.
So what about meat? Anything fishy - as long as it’s not covered in batter - is great, as are the white meats. Red meats are great as well but go for the lean options and cut off the excess fat.
Finally, go for fibrous carbohydrates over the starchy ones to finish off your dish. These are all the fresh vegetables
- Cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, cabbage, brussels sprouts, peas, carrots, courgettes etc are all great fibrous carbs.
- Starchy carbs include pastas, rices, noodles, couscous, white potatoes – we always tend to over-eat on these so keep portion sizes limited.
There are so many options, you can be as creative as you like and still manage to keep your meal healthy and your diet balanced.
We love them, you love them, there’s hardly a person in the world who doesn’t love something sweet after the main course. But if fat loss is your gain, you need to be careful when you eat sweets and how much you do eat. Here are a few tips.
- Try to leave at least 40 minutes between finishing your main course and eating your sweet. This will allow your body to absorb some of the protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats before the fat-storing sugar-rush of your dessert. In short, the larger your meal, the less will be absorbed and the more will be stored as fat if you have a sweet immediately afterwards – it’s a pretty simple rule to understand.
- There are also levels of healthiness when it comes to desserts, so think about which ingredients you are using.
- Fresh fruit is always going to improve the healthiness of a dessert, whole-wheat flour is readily available and still works for dough of pastry, low-fat yoghurt and low-fat milk are also perfect alternatives to their fatty relations.
And treats are fine – you don’t have to stop eating cake if it’s somebody’s birthday – if the rest of your diet and exercise is making up for it. Use our Calorie Cruncher as a guide.