Please tell me what to eat!
June 21, 2008 9:24 AM   Subscribe

I make bad food decisions. I would like someone to tell me exactly what to eat for every meal, every day.

After a bad few years, I need to get myself back down to healthy weight but I fail at food. I know all the principles of a healthy diet in theory, but that knowledge does nothing to make me eat better, it just makes me feel guilty.

I am tired of thinking about food. I don't want to try to figure out what to eat, or feel bad about what I do eat, or keep making excuses for why eating a giant bowl of pasta and some chocolate chip cookies is probably not that bad, right?

I've tried a couple diet plans, but they are all so open-ended and full of choices that I find it really, really easy to justify even more bad food decisions.

Are there any people or books or websites or diet plans or anything that will tell me exactly what to eat and how much, in order to lose weight and be more healthy? I don't want 'cheat days' or my choice of dessert or a list of 100 'serves 4!' recipes for me to put together and modify myself. I don't mind spending money or cooking, but I don't like wasting food, so having to buy a head of lettuce or whatever for one meal, one day, and then throwing the rest away wouldn't be good. I'd like the meal plans to make sense in grocery-shopping, weekly-planning way. Does anything like this exist?

(And just to be clear, I'm looking for the type of healthy diet that includes whole foods and common sense, not any fad diets)
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Find a dietitian.
posted by sanko at 9:36 AM on June 21, 2008

This is a question for a dietitian, not the hive mind.
posted by bjork24 at 9:39 AM on June 21, 2008

I haven't used this feature personally, but has a free, optional meal plan that goes along with their calorie tracker.

You could also try a prepared meal service like Diet To Go. A friend of mine used something similar once and she liked it.
posted by amarynth at 9:40 AM on June 21, 2008

There are services that will deliver your food to you, including snacks etc for a fee. You only eat what they give you. I haven't used any myself, perhaps someone else can suggest a providor?
posted by Iteki at 9:40 AM on June 21, 2008

Don't most diet/fitness books have recommended menus?
posted by box at 9:47 AM on June 21, 2008

Follow the menus in Barry Sears' book "A Week In The Zone" exactly and you will not only lose weight but you will feel great and have lots of energy.
posted by Soda-Da at 9:56 AM on June 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you live in Canada and have a store that sells President’s Choice products (Real Canadian Super Store, Loblaws, etc.) you can download weekly menu plans and grocery lists from their website. The following plans are listed (regular and in some cases vegetarian):

1500 calorie plan to lose weight

1800 calorie plan for women to maintain weight

1800 calorie plan suitable for those with diabetes

2100 calorie plan for men to maintain weight
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear at 10:34 AM on June 21, 2008 [2 favorites]

I would recommend three things.

1. Start on one of those diet programmes where you get your meals delivered daily, such as the one amarynth linked to. That'll get you started on healthy eating.

2. At the same time, find a dietician with whom you can discuss your relationship with food, and who will help you develop a healthier attitude towards eating long-term.

3. If you find you're eating large amounts of starchy carbs (pasta, bread, cake, cookies), you may find that you need to eliminate those foods from your diet. Some people (me included) have difficulty restricting that type of food. If I don't taste it, I'm fine, but the first bite can set me off on a bread binge.
posted by essexjan at 10:39 AM on June 21, 2008

I don't know where you live, but if you're near a major university you can just eat at their dining hall every day--they almost always have a different main dish every day, so you won't have to think about an overwhelming selection. If you have even more money, you could just go to a restaurant every day.
posted by Melismata at 10:54 AM on June 21, 2008

Don't most diet/fitness books have recommended menus?

Well, yes, but... Not nearly enough meal plans in my experience. Many diet books have LOTS of recipes, but very limited all-day meal plans.

I was at the library yesterday looking for exactly this. Ended up checking out "The ALLI Diet Plan". It's meant to be used with that new fat-blocking drug. I have NO intention of using this drug, BUT this book has 47 pages of meal plans. Food is very mainstream. No forbidden foods, nothing exotic. Does have a lot of processed foods. And unfortunately, none of the recipes are "serves 1".

For one-serving meals and recipes, I did find e-diets good for this. But didn't want to keep on paying for it.
posted by marsha56 at 11:21 AM on June 21, 2008

If you have some money to lay out, you can
a. do Seattle Sutton or some other plan that brings the food to you and maybe gradually you will get used to having healthy food. I've had friends that have done this.
b. hire a private chef to come to your house and cook meals, but also teach you to make your own meals with a meal plan.
c. I've personally worked as a private shopper, which is cheaper than a or b. I buy my client food for a week and deliver it with a meal plan + recipes. The have exactly what they need and I plan it so the stuff that spoils easily is used first. I use a selection of recipes that I've tried myself, from both cookbooks and the internet. My favorite sources are "cooking for one" blogs and books, though I adapt many recipes myself to serve 1 or 2 people.

But what I do myself is well... I don't buy pasta or chocolate or anything I know I'm going to binge on. I just have learned from experience how to buy and use whole foods.
posted by melissam at 11:54 AM on June 21, 2008

Weight Watchers works for a lot of people. They give some nutritional advice, some basic cognitive therapy, and plenty of support.
posted by RussHy at 12:06 PM on June 21, 2008

To address your other concern that you hate throwing food away, as a single person, I can tell you that you will definitely need to cook differently than a family to achieve this goal. All of these tips should work quite well alongside all the excellent advice that has been posted so far.

1) It will probably be necessary to have the same meal a couple of times nearly in a row. If you buy a head of lettuce, it probably has three or four salads in it. Or, a half-pound of cold-cuts have two to three sandwiches. For many of the weekly meal planning calendars, you might be best off choosing your three favorite breakfasts, lunches and dinners and doubling up on them, rather than cooking 21 unique meals per week.

2) You should get into the habit of throwing half of certain foods into the freezer when you unpack your groceries. For example, if I buy a loaf of bread, I would need to eat three to four slices a day, every day for a week in order to use it up before it goes bad. That's kind of a lot of bread-- especially if you do not like to eat a lot of carbs, or want to throw a little cereal or pasta into the mix for variety. Freezing half of the loaf seems to work much better. Ditto for ground beef, which usually comes in 1.25lb packs at the smallest. Just remember to use up what is in the freezer within the month.

3) Divide your fridge into "categories" in your head, and try not to double up too much within the category. I try to have one leafy green vegetable (kale, rapini, etc), one snacky vegetable, (carrots, celery, or bell pepper), one cooking veg (broccoli, cauliflower ..) and tomatoes and lettuce all the time.

4) As a cooking tip, instead of having lemons on hand, use a bottled lemon juice (that you find in the bottled-juice section, not the produce section) and use diced garlic from a jar. These are almost as good as fresh produce, much cheaper, and will last virtually forever in the fridge.
posted by Maxwell_Smart at 12:26 PM on June 21, 2008 [3 favorites]

Oh, and another good tip is to keep your kitchen stocked with a designated healthy snack-food that delivers in a small portion a wallop of unsaturated fat. Minimal mental effort is required if you have a designated snack on hand. Also, your body has receptors that when they detect fat, will diminish feelings of hunger. The trick is to hit these hard with a tiny portion of a fat-rich food that is also healthy. Examples: a half-cup of peanuts, mixed walnuts and raisins, one slice of wheat toast with avocado smeared on it, celery with peanut-butter, or a small handful of olives.
posted by Maxwell_Smart at 12:47 PM on June 21, 2008

I would second Weight Watchers. It's got a rep as being a place where only the over 50 set go to lose weight, but I have seen people of all ages at meetings. You can look around until you find a meeting you like; some leaders are the rah rah types, some are comedians, but you can keep going to different ones until you find one that's a good fit. The leaders give solid information, both practical and motivational.

The thing I like about WW is that I can eat pretty much anything, as long as I stay within my points. I eat out, occasionally eat fast food, and cook at home. I still have to think about what I eat, but it takes a lot of the stress away.
posted by lemonwheel at 2:49 PM on June 21, 2008

This is what I did, and it took a while - I set up a spreadsheet with the calories and shit, and tracked my food for a long time. I aimed to get under a certain calorie level. After a period of time, I learnt that if I have 2 eggs for breakfast (no oil) boiled, poached, omoletted or frittata-ed, or cereal (not the funky sugary ones), then my breakfast was likely to be healthy, within range and sustain me until lunch. Lunch it turns out for me is soup or salad, pretty much (not home made soup - get real - something in can or a packet that fits within my count) and so. I don't need a lot of different options, I'm a pretty boring eatercook on a daily basis, though I'm adventurous in a restaurant.

But here's the thing - decide on your calorie intake 1500, 1800, 2000? Divide by three (if you're not a snacker, by 4 if you are). Make your ordinary everyday preferred meals fit that. Experience says that things like butter, cream, oil, icecream, rice*, pasta*, bread* are really expensive in terms of calories, so forget that.

* in the quantities I like to eat them.

Okay, finally, the benefit of doing it my way - I actually like what I'm eating, it's convenient and fits in with my lifestyle, I don't end up buying eggplants and rocket and using a teaspoon of each, and throwing out the rest, and it's sustainable - I can do this the rest of my life.
posted by b33j at 4:04 PM on June 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

7 am = banana
10 am = South Beach Cereal Bar
12:30 = South Beach Meal Replacement Bar
3 pm = Yogurt
7:30 = Healthy Choice Dinner or Grilled fish + 1 piece of fruit

lots of water.

Repeat daily.

Amazing results -- no hunger -- and very doable.
posted by peace_love_hope at 7:05 PM on June 21, 2008

I recently ran across a blog post detailing what some diet bloggers actually ate during a normal week. Everyone profiled had pretty good eating habits, and ate things that I'd actually want to see on my plate.

Body For Life has eating plans online, but it's heavy on "on a diet" foods like turkey bacon and low-fat cheese, and encourages the purchase of meal replacement bars and shakes. I'm too picky of an eater to follow BFL, but I have friends who LOVE it.

You don't have to be a strict Macrobiotic eater to enjoy "The Book of Whole Meals" ( There are full, week-long meal plans for every season of the year, and they're all very, very healthy.

Finally, take a look at Vegan Cooking for One. It provides a weekly meal plan and shopping list, and each week tries to use up all the food you buy at the supermarket. It even builds off of leftovers. I cook some of the recipes in that book on a fairly regular basis.

The bad thing about that book is that some of the "meals" are only 200 or 300 calories. That's fine if you're eating four or five meals a day, but the book assumes that you'll be eating three. The good thing is that you're probably not vegan, so you'll have some wiggle room to add some of the non-vegan foods you'd like to eat, such as a chicken breast, some cheese or an egg or two.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 7:49 PM on June 21, 2008

Several people suggest Weight Watchers, but I would suggest Jenny Craig instead, because unlike Weight Watchers, you can buy food from Jenny Craig and work with a consultant one on one (as opposed to Weight Watchers, where they can't provide food and you're working in a group setting).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:42 PM on June 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Someone mentioned Body for Life online, but if you buy/borrow the book there is an entire section where he basically gives very simple basic meal plans that tell you exactly what to eat, and the meals are healthy and balanced. It's very easy to follow, too, and doesn't require any specialized cooking skills.
posted by btkuhn at 10:34 PM on June 21, 2008

If you don't take an active interest in what you eat then you will fail on your weight loss programme. Sorry to be so blunt but that's just the way it is.

Sign up to weightwatchers online and input everything you eat. You'll soon develop a picture of what works for weight loss and what doesn't. You'll be amazed how some food brands carry much more calories than others.

Tracking calorific intake in real time helped me to moderate my eating habits quickly. It doesn't work for some but judging by your post, you're now in the zone and ready to pull off the pounds.
posted by baggymp at 7:57 AM on June 22, 2008

Isn't this NutriSystem? They mail you each and every meal for every day.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 11:35 AM on June 22, 2008

You're not the only one anonymous question asker. I have an awful diet & now appear to lack the basic skills needed in order to buy and prepare meals.

In fact, I just asked almost the same question on metachat. Of course, now everyone thinks I posted this question.

Anyway, via email, someone (I ♥ you someone) pointed me to and I'm giving it a go. Not only does it tell me what to eat, but it also tells me what to buy in my weekly shopping list.
posted by seanyboy at 12:43 PM on June 22, 2008

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