Give me your tiny noms.
May 7, 2011 5:16 PM   Subscribe

I want your mealplans - your SMALL mealplans. Bonus points if they're brown bag, weightloss and special snowflake friendly.

I'm 5'3", 126 lbs, female, and burn an average of 1650 calories a day (according to my FitBit) - which makes losing the five pounds I've put on in the past 12 months a pain in the (slightly larger) ass.

Metafilter, I want your tiny, delicious and filling meal suggestions. I've got breakfast figured out, but need inspiration for 300-600 calorie meals, lunch or dinner. I'll also take any thoughts from other folks who've managed to work through the psychology of needing to average under 400 calories per meal in order to lose a pound a week, 'cause quite frankly, I'm feeling kind of grumbly about it.

Additional notes:
* I'm an omnivore.
* High fat meals are fine.
* High protein meals are better.
* Carbs aren't explicitly restricted.
* High fiber or gas-encouraging foods disagree with my GI tract... so no legumes, raw veggies, apples, etc.
* Lunchtime meal prep equipment includes a microwave, fridge and hot water heater.
* I dislike sandwiches and will always choose hot lunch over cold.
posted by anonymous to Food & Drink (9 answers total) 63 users marked this as a favorite
For dinner lately, I roast a lot of green vegetables - like an entire bundle of asparagus or a big bag of beans. I roast them at 450 degrees for anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the vegetable. I use about a tablespoon of olive oil and some salt; sometimes I use a bit less oil and then add sesame oil, cayenne and garlic for the last five minutes. In general, quite a lot of the oil actually stays in the pan.

With that, I eat a bowl of miso broth and a whole bunch of cubed soft tofu, which is lower-calorie and thus you get a larger volume. Since this doesn't sound precisely like your thing, you could perhaps substitute a vegetable broth with some kind of cubed meat.

I don't actually get too calorie-count-ish on this since it's just vegetables, 100 calories of oil and approximately 100 calories of tofu.

I follow it up with a couple of peppermints since I like a sweet.

For lunches, you could make warm salads - saute some vegetables (I would use red bell peppers and maybe zucchini) at home, microwave them slightly at work and add a dressing. I do this with a lentil spinach mix (which obviously won't work for you) and use a mustard-garlic vinaigrette.

Small-meal-wise, I can't cope without large quantities of cooked vegetables in olive oil or dressing. That's my only strategy. Roasted for preference since they taste richer.
posted by Frowner at 5:27 PM on May 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

I recently signed up for the free Prevention email newsletter. While I can't eat everything on it, I've been pretty pleased with some of the items.
Also, we've found some fabulous recipes in Sunset magazine - a year subscription is $10!
posted by j at 5:50 PM on May 7, 2011

I usually have stir fried veggies with rice. But for a very quick meal. I heat a pita bread in the pan and smear some olive oil (usually tasting or classic), let it toast a little bit with sprinkled seasoning. Finally put a layer of spicy hummus on it and eat. You could try the layer of hummus and the pita and heat it in the microwave. That should give about 250-300 calories. Repeat with variation if necessary.
(it is not revolutionary or anything, but I can make this in less than 5 mins so that helps me save a lot of time especially when I am super hungry.)
posted by ssri at 6:06 PM on May 7, 2011

You might try for their meal planner. I agree with Frowner above that you're going to want to cook up a lot of veggies and have them with protein for dinner and maybe lunch several days a week. Vegetables help you feel full and are nutrient dense instead of calorie dense, so you have to eat a lot of them - which helps with that not feeling deprived that you mentioned. I don't eat meat, so I'll let you look at other sites for specific meals, but 3 oz lean protein like chicken or tuna or pork) with heaps of veggies in a tasty sauce will get you far.

For filling snacks, mix a carb and protein, and it's great if there's a little fat in there. So I'll do a low fat greek yogurt or cottage cheese (high protein! good carbs!) with some frozen fruit that melts by the time I get to that snack later in the day. Or a hard boiled egg and some veggies or fruit, or some whole grain crackers (Kashi TLC's) with hummus or peanut butter - watching serving sizes! Or a lite baby bell cheese with grapes or berries. The combinations help the blood sugar to even out and help you feel full longer.

Lastly, remember that if you add muscle you'll burn more calories - so if you can tone up a little, too, it'll help you more than just cutting calories. Good luck!
posted by ldthomps at 6:06 PM on May 7, 2011

Have you read this book by Taubes re the science behind weight loss? I think you'll find you don't have to restrict calories as much as you have to ditch the carbs to reach your ideal weight (if you don't want to feel like you are starving). If you don't mind going hungry, conventional calorie restriction works, too. Personally, I enjoy feeling full and having healthy skin/hair/blood work. :D

Why We Get Fat

It's a bit lengthy and sometimes dense, but you don't have to have an extensive scientific background to understand the points he is making.

As far as meals go, I take cottage cheese, blueberries, and chopped walnuts to work quite often. I eat stir fries consisting of ground beef and bison + cabbage or broccoli slaw with a variety of veggies and spices to garnish it. Top with cheese and hot sauce for a more filling meal. I've lost a lot of weight doing this. Roasting up a pork butt and making a big batch of pulled pork with a vinegar-based no sugar sauce makes for some great meals. Just distribute it into tupperwarem, reheat, and eat it with a fork. Honestly, keeping a fairly small variety of nutrient dense foods helps me to keep calories and carbs in check. I wish you well on your weight loss journey!
posted by sunnychef88 at 7:47 PM on May 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Heh, this sounds JUST like me. And I lost the final 15 lbs!

For lunches, I actually had luck going to the frozen foods section of my local supermarket and the prepared meals section of Trader Joe's. I was targeting ~300 calories for lunch, and planning on a healthy snack a couple hours later. You'd be surprised how much you can find within range, especially if you're willing to go all the way up to 600 calories.

Much of what the supermarket carries in the frozen food section is crappy-tasting non-food, but I found that my market has a section of better frozen goods. You'll find them by the "organic" label, or by looking for the Amy's Kitchen logo, and checking out what surrounds it too. Some of the options in frozen food are downright good and actually healthy! Bonus: they're all cheaper than the average lunch (at least the ones you can buy around my office), portion control is built in, and they take no effort - just a few minutes to prepare via microwave.

I would always transfer the food to a bowl or plate to make it feel more interesting (worked for me), and sometimes co-workers would actually ask if my yummy-smelling food was left over from last night's dinner. If I'm honest, though, it wasn't so much interesting as it was convenient and cheap, and that was enough to make me stick with it.

Good luck!
posted by nadise at 7:57 PM on May 7, 2011

If you aren't explicitly limiting carbs you might want to do so rather than explicitly limiting calories.

When I was losing the last 5 lb (I've never been overweight, but due to lifestyle changes I slowly gained 10 lb and had to overhaul my diet to return to my ideal weight), I ate one of the following lunches virtually every day:

- Salad of interesting greens (mesclun mix, arugula, spinach, etc), sliced cucumber, shredded carrot, cubed turkey or chicken, fresh bacon, avocado, oil and vinegar, and sometimes a nut like walnuts or sliced almonds. The veg and proteins I'd prepare/buy on Sunday, then in the morning before work I would fry up some bacon, slice up half an avocado, and mix oil and vinegar in a mini tupperware. This is low carb, super filling (due to all the protein and fat), and very interesting texturally and flavor-wise. I ate this for lunch probably 50% of the time when I was dieting.

- "Chili" or "stew": I don't think of this as a great spring or summer option, but you said you prefer hot lunch so I'll throw it out there. Put a big pot on over medium heat; put in olive oil, sliced onion, smashed garlic, and red pepper flakes (if you like spiciness). Let them sit for a little while until your kitchen smells DELICIOUS, then add ground beef that you've pre-browned in small batches, a few cans of whole or diced tomatoes, and non-starchy stew veggies that you enjoy. Good stew veg include: celery, bell peppers, carrots, squash; I recommend against cruciferous veg like broccoli or cauliflower. Cook down to your desired thickness (no need to thicken with cornstarch or flour... let time cook it down!), divide into portions (get at least 3 oz. worth of meat in each portion). Bring half an avocado to work to eat alongside it or slice on top.

- Chicken salad: Poach or boil or bake (in other words, prepare boringly) some chicken. Chop it well. Add "interesting" mix ins according to some kind of flavor profile. For example:
"Greek" - greek yogurt, dill, lemon juice, garlic, chopped olives
"Curried" - curry powder, mayo, sliced grapes, sliced almonds
"Italian" - pesto, cubed fresh mozzarella, sliced cherry tomatoes
Serve on a bed of greens. I know that iceberg lettuce has "no nutritional value" or whatever, but it does give a satisfying crunch, and textural interest can really make a meal feel more satisfying.

But seriously consider limiting carbs instead of calories. I found limiting calories demoralizing and ineffective. After I started actively limiting my carbs I lost all the weight I wanted to within three weeks.
posted by telegraph at 8:13 PM on May 7, 2011 [10 favorites]

Agreeing about some carb restriction, if only because when you do that it suddenly becomes waaaay easier to keep big meals under the calorie limits you're talking about anyway. I've found a helpful general rule of thumb is to think about my meal as being on a plate/pie chart where half the plate's a source or two of protein (say, a shot of meat and then a little cheese or nuts or something, probably in the sauce or dressing for the veggies) and the other half's taken up by two or more different sources of fresh produce, preferably veggies and hopefully different colors/types for variety/covering my vitamin/mineral bases (the easiest way to do that is make a leafy simple salad with a creamy or nutty dressing, then I'm left with just needing another vegetable or fruit, anything). This can be achieved the standard meat n' potatoes cooked veg side + salad way, or in more one-pot or casserole-type meals with some form of protein suspended in a bunch of different yummy mirepoix or sofrito-type veggie bases (onions, peppers, cooked greens, carrots, celery, okra, peas, tomatoes, whatever).

For lunches I heartily agree with the notion of lots of different variations on tofu, tuna, or chicken salad (curry apple yogurt, tangy German potato-type, Asian 5-spice/soy, creamy buttermilk, Nicoise-y, whatever). They're great because you can make them ahead of time and they keep well in the fridge for a few days so all you need to do is scoop some out, pack another veggie or fruit, and you're done. Or you can throw them on a bed of leafy greens and that's a one-step big filling lunch. Since fruit is often pretty portable (hi banana, hi apple) and lunch is typically the time of day one's most active, lunch on the go is usually where I let myself get my fruit in for the day (as opposed to for late-night dessert, say).
posted by ifjuly at 9:56 AM on May 8, 2011

For general satisfaction, don't eat meals with people who require slightly more calories than you do. If a friend needs 1800 calories a day, all of their portions *should* be 10% heavier, but it's harder to portion control when someone right next to you is eating slightly more than you.
posted by talldean at 5:39 AM on May 16, 2011

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