Here are well-balanced options you can eat for days, weeks or even months at a time and feel assured that you’re getting the nutrients you need. Mix and match them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner for variation.
A burger with fries is a go-to favorite meal for many people, so turn it into a healthy choice by swapping out a fatty burger for a soy burger, and roasted or potato fries. Start with a 100-calorie whole grain roll, add your soy burger, and top with lettuce, tomato, low-fat cheese slice, pickles, and a bit of mustard and ketchup. A small baked or sweet potato (the size of your fist) baked whole or cut into six long chunks (Roasted at 400 for 30 minutes, first tossed with one teaspoon of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper) is a fiber-rich starch. Complete your meal with one cup of sliced melon, or fresh fruit of your choice. That’s a 450-calorie meal with heart healthy fat, high-quality protein, and fiber-rich carbs.
An egg is the most digestible protein in nature and an ideal choice to mix with cooked vegetables and low-fat cheese. Enjoy a vegetable frittata by beating two eggs (or egg substitute) and pouring into a non-stick pan then adding one cup of chopped veggies (fresh or frozen) and ¼ cup of shredded low-fat cheese. Cook until eggs are firm, then fold over one edge if you want it omelette-style. Include a fresh green or fruit salad and you’ve got a low-calorie healthy meal you can eat anytime of the day.
Roasted chicken can be a calorie-watcher’s best friend. Whether grilled at home, or cut from a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken, a skinless chicken breast or leg/thigh combination is a perfect source of lean protein. Just add two cups of a bagged salad and a half-cup of cooked instant brown rice to make it a meal. You can alternate one cup of fresh or cooked broccoli or other veggies instead of salad, and swap out your brown rice for half a cup of cooked couscous or a small baked potato (eat the skin for optimal nutrients). You’ve got a 450-calorie lunch or dinner loaded with protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Still hungry? Add a 100-calorie dessert of berries with low-fat topping or small low-fat yogurt or pudding.
Seeking an easy way to control your portions and maintain variety? Try a frozen, low-calorie meal. Look for meals that are “lean”, “healthy”, “light” and “smart” and are high in protein and low in sodium. You can find many in the 300 to 350 calorie range. Add a bag of green beans, a fresh fruit, or frozen berries (eaten frozen or thawed) to boost your nutrient intake, and the complete meal should come in under 450 calories.
When you’re on the go and want a deli lunch, look for low-fat options like Subway’s 6-inch sandwiches with 6 grams of fat or less (on whole- grain bread). Skip the cheese, and load up on fresh veggie toppings like lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, onions, and cucumbers. Use mustard instead of mayonnaise. Add a small bag of baked chips or piece of fruit along with a bottled water or low-calorie soda, and you have a satisfying meal for 450 calories or less. Or try the chain’s kid’s combo, which includes a 4-inch sandwich and a choice of mini-yogurt and fruit, for fewer than 400 calories.
Colorful Veggie Salad with Tuna
You can make this healthy salad yourself, or select it at a serve-yourself salad bar. Start with three cups of dark green mixed greens and add about 4 ounces of water-packed canned tuna. Top with colorful veggies of your choice like tomatoes, carrots, celery, onions, mushrooms, or peppers. Mix up different veggie combos to keep it interesting. Put your dressing on the side and use the “dip and scoop” method of dipping your fork in the dressing first then scooping up salad, or use a calorie-free balsamic vinegar blended with a teaspoon of olive oil. Add a 100-calorie pack of whole wheat crackers and a fresh fruit, and you’ve got yourself a 450-calorie nutrient-dense meal that will keep you satisfied for hours.
Egg and Cheese Sandwich
Who doesn’t love an egg sandwich? Make your own healthy version by starting with a 100-calorie whole-grain English muffin, bagel, or slice of bread. Add one cooked scrambled egg plus 2 egg whites (either use the stove or cook a beaten egg and 2 egg whites in the microwave in a glass cup for 1 minute). Top with a thin slice of 2% low-fat cheddar cheese. The whole grains and protein combo is filling and nutritious, and just 275 calories.
Greek Yogurt with Fruit
A container of plain, low- or non-fat Greek yogurt is a quick and easy breakfast on-the-go. Mix in some sliced fresh fruit, or frozen berries, or take along a whole fruit to add on the side. If you’re drinking coffee or tea, add 1% or skim milk, and if you use a sweetener, stick to one teaspoon of a natural sweetener (honey, brown sugar, cane sugar, etc.), which adds only 15 calories to your coffee. This protein-dense breakfast is about 200 calories.
Waffles with Peanut Butter and Strawberries
If you want to lose weight, fiber-rich carbohydrates are the best way to start the day. Spread one tablespoon of peanut butter on a high-fiber waffle and top it off with three sliced strawberries or a handful of blueberries. Add a small skim milk latte and you have a “grown-up” version of PB and J and milk for just 290 calories.