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Post-Quarantine Meal Plan to Get Back to Healthy Habits & Lose Weight

By Emily Lachtrupp, MS, CD, RD | June 25, 2020 | EatingWell

In this healthy meal plan, we help you get back into the swing of things by mapping out a week of delicious meals and snacks that will help you lose weight and refocus on your health.

While social media may lead us to believe that most people spent their time self isolating at home effortlessly baking loaves of sourdough or learning a new language (apart from the essential workers—thank you!) the reality is that most of us were just trying to get through another day of quarantine. Between suddenly working from home, school cancellations, stress and a massive change in routine, many of us were reaching for more comfort foods to cope (FYI it's totally natural to do this when stressed), while saying goodbye to our regular routines. And honestly—that's okay!

Between all the stressful changes and not being able to swing by the grocery store as often to load up on our regular hauls, many people's normal day of eating have been a little higher in calories. One of the results? Our pants (or sweatpants, if we're being honest) might be feeling a little tighter these days.

In this healthy meal plan, we aim to help you get back on track by mapping out a week of easy-to-make (seriously) meals and snacks. We capped the calories at 1,500 calories a day, which is a claorie level most people will lose weight following, and also included modifications for 1,200 and 2,000 calories a day, depending on your calorie needs. It's important to note that healthy weight loss is gradual weight loss (about 1 to 2 pounds per week), so if you're feeling hungry at 1,500 calories, bump it up till you feel satisfied and slowly taper down to fewer calories over the next few months.

And if you can, try to incorporate some exercise into your routine like walking or online videos workout videos if that's what works for you. Research shows it can boost our moods and reduce stress—a welcomed perk during this unprecedented time!

How to Lose Weight the Healthy Way

Losing weight can be overwhelming. Making changes that are unsustainable, too extreme or that cut out entire food groups often lead to a constant dieting cycle of weight loss and gain. Instead, try to focus on the long game by making small changes every 1 or 2 weeks. Changes might include switching to water instead of sweetened drinks, walking every day (or even every other day!) or trying not to eat in front of the television as often, so you can better focus on hunger and fullness cues.

Instead of focusing on foods we should cut out, shift the focus to foods we should eat more of, like plenty of vegetables and fruit, high-fiber whole grains, satisfying protein and healthy fats. Although many of us are at home more often now, creating routine around meal times can be extremely helpful. We tend to eat healthier when we're more mindful about our meals, plus having a plan for dinner means we're less likely to order last-minute takeout.

The reality is that many of us will have to scale back our expectations of what we are able to take on right now. Whether you follow this plan exactly or use it as recipe inspiration, the idea is to help establish some healthy habits and try to get back to some of the healthy habits that help us feel our best. If you're eating healthy and exercising regularly and still wondering "why can't I lost weight?" stress might be the culprit. While there's no magic way to make stress go away, try find ways to destress as much as possible and don't forget to be kind to yourself if things don't go perfectly as planned.

Foods to Eat More of to Lose Weight:

Foods that help you lose weight are foods help keep you full for longer, like those high in fiber and protein.

  • Vegetables: leafy greens, broccoli, cucumber, bell peppers and so on. Fresh or frozen vegetables are great options
  • Fruit: the higher in fiber the better so choose high-fiber fruits like berries, pears and apples often
  • Protein: especially lean proteins, like chicken or turkey, eggs and fish
  • Legumes: high in fiber and protein, beans and lentils will help keep you full
  • Dairy: aim for high protein dairy, like Greek yogurt
  • Healthy Fats: nuts, seeds and avocado are satisfying and filling
  • Whole Grains: choose high fiber whole grains like oatmeal, quinoa, wheat bread or brown rice

How to Meal-Prep Your Week of Meals:

  1. Whip up Citrus Vinaigrette to have throughout the week
  2. Prepare Sweet Potato, Kale & Chicken Salad with Peanut Dressing to have for lunch on days 2 through 5.
  3. Make Parmesan & Vegetable Muffin-Tin Omelets to have for breakfast on days 2, 4 and 7.
  4. Make a a batch of Strawberry Chocolate Greek Yogurt Bark. This is a healthy, satisfying (and delicious!) treat that you can make your own with this easy formula.

Day 1

Sheet pan of the Rosemary Roasted Salmon with Asparagus & Potatoes recipe

Breakfast (255 calories)

A.M. Snack (305 calories)

  • 1 medium apple
  • 2 tablespoons creamy natural peanut butter

Lunch (384 calories)

P.M. Snack (141 calories)

  • 1/2 cup plain low fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 medium peach, sliced

Dinner (400 calories)

Evening Snack (34 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,519 calories, 73 g protein, 167 g carbohydrates, 34 g fiber, 68 g fat, 1,258 mg sodium

To Make it 1,200 Calories: Omit the peanut butter at the A.M. snack and the yogurt at the P.M. snack

To Make it 2,000 Calories: Add 1 whole-wheat English muffin with 2 Tbsp. natural peanut butter to breakfast and add 20 dry-roasted unsalted almonds to P.M. snack

Day 2

Grilled Chicken with Red Pepper-Pecan Romesco Sauce

Breakfast (277 calories)

A.M. Snack (247 calories)

  • 1 large pear
  • 15 dry-roasted unsalted almonds

Lunch (393 calories)

P.M. Snack (174 calories)

  • 1 medium bell pepper
  • 1/3 cup hummus

Dinner (412 calories)

Meal-Prep Tip: Double the Basic Quinoa recipe to have leftovers for dinner tomorrow

Daily Totals: 1,502 calories, 88 g protein, 136 g carbohydrates, 32 g fiber, 71 g fat, 1,820 mg sodium

To Make it 1,200 Calories: Swap in 1 medium orange for the pears and almonds at the A.M. snack and omit the hummus at the P.M. snack.

To Make it 2,000 Calories: Add 1 whole-wheat English muffin with 1 tsp. unsalted butter to breakfast, increase to 1/3 cup almonds at A.M. snack, add 1 whole-wheat dinner roll to lunch and increase to 2 servings Basic Quinoa at dinner.

Day 3

Sheet-Pan Balsamic-Parmesan Roasted Chickpeas & Vegetables

Breakfast (293 calories)

A.M. Snack (101 calories)

  • 1 medium pear

Lunch (393 calories)

P.M. Snack (206 calories)

  • 1/4 cup dry-roasted unsalted almonds

Dinner (504 calories)

Evening Snack (34 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,531 calories, 67 g protein, 144 g carbohydrates, 31 g fiber, 78 g fat, 1,216 mg sodium

To Make it 1,200 Calories: Change the A.M. snack to 1/4 cup blueberries and the P.M. snack to 1/4 cup sliced cucumbers.

To Make it 2,000 Calories: Add 1 serving Strawberry-Pineapple Smoothie to breakfast and at A.M. snack - increase to a large pear plus add 1/4 cup dry-roasted unsalted almonds.

Day 4

Easy Shrimp Scampi with Zucchini Noodles

Breakfast (258 calories)

A.M. Snack (131 calories)

  • 1 large pear

Lunch (393 calories)

P.M. Snack (233 calories)

  • 1 medium apple
  • 18 dry-roasted unsalted almonds

Dinner (498 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,513 calories, 73 g protein, 123 g carbohydrates, 30 g fiber, 85 g fat, 1,816 mg sodium

To Make it 1,200 Calories: Change the A.M. snack to 1 clementine and the P.M. snack to 1/4 cup blueberries.

To Make it 2,000 Calories: Add 1 whole-wheat English muffin with 2 Tbsp. natural peanut butter to A.M. snack, add 1 medium orange to lunch and increase to 1/4 cup almonds at P.M. snack.

Day 5

Chili-Rubbed Chicken with Coconut Rice & Mango Salsa

Breakfast (255 calories)

A.M. Snack (305 calories)

  • 1 medium apple
  • 2 Tbsp. natural creamy peanut butter

Lunch (393 calories)

P.M. Snack (62 calories)

  • 1 medium orange

Dinner (478 calories)

Evening Snack (34 calories)

Meal-Prep Tip: Reserve two servings Tabbouleh with Pan-Seared Chicken to have for lunch on days 6 & 7

Daily Totals: 1,526 calories, 76 g protein, 172 g carbohydrates, 29 g fiber, 62 g fat, 1,395 mg sodium

To Make it 1,200 Calories: Change the A.M. snack to 1/4 cup sliced cucumbers.

To Make it 2,000 Calories: Add 1 whole-wheat English muffin with 2 Tbsp. natural peanut butter to breakfast and add 20 dry-roasted unsalted almonds to P.M. snack.

Day 6

Grilled Flank Steak with Tomato Salad

Breakfast (293 calories)

A.M. Snack (101 calories)

  • 1 medium pear

Lunch (486 calories)

P.M. Snack (206 calories)

  • 1/4 cup dry-roasted unsalted almonds

Dinner (420 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,508 calories, 74 g protein, 117 g carbohydrates, 30 g fiber, 86 g fat, 1,478 mg sodium

To Make it 1,200 Calories: Change the A.M. snack to 1/4 cup sliced cucumbers and the P.M. snack to 1/4 cup blueberries.

To Make it 2,000 Calories: Add 1 serving Strawberry-Pineapple Smoothie to breakfast and 30 dry-roasted unsalted almonds to A.M. snack.

Day 7

Vegetarian Sushi Grain Bowl

Breakfast (277 calories)

A.M. Snack (206 calories)

  • 1/4 cup dry-roasted unsalted almonds

Lunch (486 calories)

P.M. Snack (18 calories)

  • 1/4 cup raspberries

Dinner (506 calories)

Evening Snack (34 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,525 calories, 65 g protein, 121 g carbohydrates, 34 g fiber, 93 g fat, 1,780 mg sodium

To Make it 1,200 Calories: Change the A.M. snack to 1 clementine and omit the hummus at lunch.

To Make it 2,000 Calories: Add 1/4 cup dry-roasted unsalted almonds to P.M. snack and add whole avocado, sliced, to dinner.

This article was written by Emily Lachtrupp, MS, CD, RD from EatingWell and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Emily Lachtrupp, MS, CD, RD
EatingWell