Healthy meals that help you lose weight (and myths to dispel)

Healthy meals to lose weight

If you want to lose weight effectively, physical exercise is not always necessary, and for sure, it isn’t sufficient to achieve this goal. Our health necessarily passes through what we eat, and changing our eating habits must be the first step to be able to lose weight without making sacrifices.

In this post, you will find many ideas to prepare nutritious and balanced meals, able to satisfy your appetite and give you all the necessary energy to work or study, and, also, will help you lose weight.

You will be able to lose weight by slightly changing your eating habits and your lifestyle, and you will be amazed to know that many things that you took for granted about your diet are incorrect or are not as essential as you think.

In the first part of this text, I will deal with “unveiling” some common misconceptions regarding nutrition, and I will give you useful tips to better organize your day. Many are surprised when they discover that there are many small things that we can change in our diet, and that provide enormous benefits to our health.

Let’s begin!

Here are two nutrition myths that I bet will leave you astonished!

Myth no. 1: you need five meals a day

healthy meals to lose weight

I bet that for many years you have been told to eat five times a day: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snacks.

And you always have. Breakfast, a mid-morning snack, then lunch, a snack at five, and then dinner.

And what if I told you that eating five times a day is not engraved in the stone? Often eating five times a day is counterproductive and will only make you gain weight.

The ideal is to eat when your hunger is real and to try not to do it out of boredom or just for a nervous stimulus. If you eat when you are hungry, it means that your body needs food. If you eat only to give yourself a treat or for boredom, it means that that energy not vital and, therefore, will not be burned immediately.

And here’s how you’ll end up with those extra pounds that you now want to get rid of.

Eat only when your hunger is real, and not when you are bored. You can, therefore, only eat three meals a day, and not necessarily five.

Myth no. 2: You absolutely must have breakfast

healthy meals to lose weight

Not necessarily.

Breakfast is indeed essential to start the morning with a lot of energy, but it is not carved in stone that you have to have it as soon as you wake up, especially if you are not hungry. Some people prefer not to have breakfast and choose instead to eat only when they feel hungry. Those who force themselves to eat unwillingly in the morning, often end up having a quick breakfast eating processed foods, which are not the best health-wise.

Having breakfast (at home or the cafeteria) is not compulsory, so if you don’t feel like having it, you don’t have to eat. It is much better only to drink a glass of water and then eat during the morning, preferably a fruit and not an industrial baked product. The important thing is to get organized, so if you know that you will be hungry around 10, bring a sugar-free yogurt, some dried fruit, or fresh or dehydrated (unsweetened) fruit.

Always stock up on fruit, vegetables, legumes, and dried fruit

One of the reasons you end up eating “crap” is the fact that it is the only thing you have available. In general, it is best to keep in the pantry (and maybe even in the office) a good supply of fresh fruit and veg, legumes, dried fruit, and nuts (nuts, almonds, hazelnuts). The latter are often very salty; if you don’t like natural ones, you can toast them on the grill, as I do.

You can buy dried legumes and dried fruit monthly because they have a long shelf life. Instead, fruits and vegetables are highly perishable, and you must consume them quickly. You can’t buy a monthly stock, but you can buy frozen vegetables and keep them in the freezer. Fruit can be cut into small pieces and frozen. You can use it to prepare sorbets by merely blending it. Try to buy only fruits and vegetables that you can eat before the next shopping, so you don’t have to throw it away. It is, aside from a gesture of respect for those who aren’t as lucky as you are, also the best way to avoid throwing money away.

When shopping, resist the urge to buy more food than necessary, especially sweet and savory snacks and pretzels. Keeping them at home is a powerful temptation that you have to fight, especially when you get episodes of stress-eating (where you eat not because of hunger, but out of boredom or stress). Knowing that you have a mega pack of chocolate chip cookies waiting for you in the pantry is a thought that can get you into trouble if you want to lose weight and have a case of stress-eating.

So never buy anything that isn’t strictly necessary. The chance to eat a dessert will happen sooner or later anyway, for example, at a birthday party.

As you can see, there are some things that you thought were true but which are not, and I can assure you that the list is longer than you think, but this is not the point of this article.

The article aims to give you the best information to create nutritious and non-fattening meals. Always try to cook your meals, avoiding pre-cooked or frozen foods. The food you cook will be better and more balanced, and it will also be fun to prepare it.

Pasti che fanno dimagrire

Ideas for a healthy breakfast

Breakfast is an important meal, even if, as already mentioned, you don’t have to feel obliged to do it as soon as you wake up if you don’t have an appetite. However, this doesn’t mean settling for a pre-packaged snack and a glass of milk.

There are many ideas for a healthy and nutritious breakfast, which can give a lot of energy to face the day in the best way. I can suggest you wake up a few minutes earlier to prepare an excellent nutritious breakfast (perhaps eating less in the evening, so to have more appetite in the morning, as well as to promote evening digestion) and suitable for your diet.

Forget industrial products like croissants or muffins, because there are many other ways to make excellent nutritious breakfasts.

Here are all my tips for preparing a nutritious and tasty breakfast:

  • A cup of tea is perfect in every variant, from black to green tea, or even decaffeinated tea. Coffee (either regular and decaffeinated), or herbal teas are possible alternatives. You can also drink cow’s milk or vegetable milk, such as soy milk or rice milk (you can easily find them in the supermarket) as long as you choose vegetable milk with no added sugar.
  • You can also drink a juice or a centrifuge of fresh seasonal fruit. Try not to drink industrial fruit juices, but blend fresh fruit instead. It is much healthier, and with a blender, you can prepare a drink that can be drunk all day long.
  • Instead of snacks and sugar-rich biscuits, try eating fresh fruit or dried fruit (nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, peanuts, etc.).
  • You can also try eating dehydrated fruit without sugar.
  • If you want to eat cereals, make sure they are whole, or choose oat flakes or muesli.
  • You can also eat cereal fitness bars.
  • If you choose to eat yogurt, eat the low-fat type or low-fat Greek yogurt.
  • If you like pancakes, prepare them with chickpea flour and fill them with a sugar-free jam or 100% almond or hazelnut cream; do not use spreadable chocolate.

If you prefer to have a savory breakfast, which I like very much, here is a series of ideas for you:

  • If you eat eggs, you can eat them scrambled, hard-boiled, or soft-boiled.
  • Another idea is toast (with measure) with salmon or avocado.
  • A slice of toast with flaky cheese, and a hint of jam is the end of the world!
  • Grilled vegetables are also a good idea. You can also use chickpea hummus on toast.
  • Avoid cold cuts and processed meat in the morning.

If you plan on having a mid-morning snack, then you don’t need to have a big breakfast. If not, you can eat something extra without going overboard. When I travel, I always have a hearty, savory breakfast in the hotel, and then I am no longer hungry until dinner, I just need a snack in the middle of the day. Try, it’s a great way to avoid eating the food you can buy when you’re out and about, which is often the unhealthiest.

Healthy meals to lose weight

Ideas for healthy lunches and dinners

Lunch and dinner are the two primary meals of the day. I always suggest to balance them at best and too often vary the dishes you eat. Try to eat at home or in a restaurant that offers healthy options, to limit the consumption of sandwiches and cold cuts.

In summer you can also eat much more fruit or rice salads and vary much more than in winter.

These are some ideas for healthy lunches and dinners that I prescribe in my diets. As you will see, they are very varied and can easily adapt to everyone’s lifestyle.

Examples of healthy lunches

Lunch idea #1

• A dish of meat or fish, cooked healthily. The latter does not include frying. Fried foods are delicious, I can’t deny it, but it’s not the best for your health; therefore, I suggest using it as little as possible. The ideal cooking method is steaming. I recommend white and non-red meat.

• 80 grams of bread (about a couple of slices), possibly wholemeal bread.

• Seasonal fruit (150 grams).

• Seasonal vegetable side dish (200 grams).

• To season, use extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, or lemon juice.

Lunch idea # 2

In this meal, instead, I focus on pasta and a legume side dish. It may be a “heavier” lunch than the previous one, but it is excellent for those who need to prepare for an afternoon of work and physical activity.

Since you have pasta, you don’t need bread.

Here is what this meal consists of:

• 50-80 grams of pasta (if best if wholegrain) or rice, seasoned with a light sauce such as pesto or a simple tomato sauce. Sauces that are too oily or heavy, like a sausage ragout, are not recommendable. You can also eat pasta seasoned with extra virgin olive oil and parmesan.

• 100 grams of legumes of your choice (remember that a drained can lose about half the weight). Legumes also represent a healthy choice; you can also cook them together with pasta (for example, pasta, and beans).

• 150 grams of seasonal fruit.

• 200 grams of mixed vegetables.

• To season, use extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, or lemon juice.

Healthy meals to lose weight

Examples of healthy dinners

Many people tend to overeat at dinner. Especially those who work full-time, this is the time of day where they can eat more (especially those who just have a sandwich on the go at lunch). Therefore, it is easy to overdue with portions.

Overeating is terrible, especially if you have already eaten several times during the day (if you had breakfast + snack + lunch + a second snack). In this case, it is better to prefer a light dinner over an overly large meal. If you are still hungry, you can eat something after dinner.

Dinner idea # 1

A nutritious and very satiating dinner that does not require much effort in the kitchen.

• 150 grams of gnocchi (ideal would be homemade ones, but fresh ones are fine), seasoned with a spoonful of pesto.

• Side dish of 200 grams of seasonal vegetables.

• 150 grams of seasonal fruit.

• To season, use extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, or lemon juice.

Dinner idea # 2

This time you are going to have some fish and get some healthy omega-3 fats.

• Salmon croquettes (contact me if you want the recipe). Cook them in the oven, meaning they’ll be therefore healthier and lighter than fried.

• 200 grams of baked potatoes.

• 200 grams of seasonal vegetables as a side dish.

• 150 grams of seasonal fruit.

• To season, use extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, or lemon juice.

These dinners (and lunches) are interchangeable with each other.

Healthy meals to lose weight

Ideas for healthy snacks

A snack doesn’t have to be a meal replacement; it’s just got the function of letting you get to lunch (or dinner) without starving, which could lead you to make several mistakes like eating too fast or ordering more food than necessary.

We have all eaten, at least once in our life, an unhealthy snack. Pre-packaged snacks, fried food, ice cream, biscuits, chocolate, fried pizzas, or stuffed focaccias are all rich in calories, salt, or sugar. These foods are undeniably tasty, cheap, but they are also rich in sugar, fat and often made with refined flours; therefore, they are not ideal for those who want to eat well and lose weight.

If you want to eat these products, eat one of the above foods not more than once a week, as a cheat meal, obviously without exaggerating.

A piece of fruit is the healthiest snack you can have.

Below you will find a short list of snacks that are perfect at any time of the day, and that will help you reach the next meal without too much appetite.

Here it is:

• A piece of fruit or a handful of unsweetened dried fruit.

• A creamy vegetable soup that you can also have a cold.

• Oat porridge.

• A fruit and vegetable smoothie.

• A hard-boiled egg.

• A melba cake or a rice cake with 100% almond or hazelnut cream.

• A small piece of hard cheese.

• A handful of unsalted dried fruit (nuts, almonds, peanuts, pistachios, etc.).

• Low fat or whole white yogurt.

• Vegetables.

• Lupines.

•A glass of milk.

• A cereal bar with no added sugar.

As you can see, there are no sugary sweets or snacks in the list above. You can vary these snacks if you don’t always want to eat the same things. You can bring one of these snacks to work preparing them at home if necessary (e.g., a hard-boiled egg).

I want to encourage you to eat mainly fresh fruit or dried fruit, trying to abandon bread, pizza, and sandwiches. Try to limit the consumption of carbohydrates for lunch and dinner, while for the snack, it is better to choose something that you can eat quickly, and that gives you energy without being hard to digest.

If you fancy a sweet snack, you can eat a piece of dark chocolate from time to time.

Almonds

Ideas for sandwiches and salads

One of the tips I give more often is to try to cook your meals as often as possible, both to save money and because it is the easiest way to eat authentic and fresh food. But I know that many people work far from home and don’t have time to cook their lunch. Time is a very scarce resource, and many people end up eating quickly and unhealthily.

If you recognize yourself in the above situation, you are probably often forced to bring a sandwich or a salad to work, and to follow a healthy diet becomes more difficult, am I right?

Not necessarily.

In this post, you will find some of my best recipes to prepare tasty and healthy sandwiches and salads!

Avoid meat and cured meats in your sandwiches since you should eat these foods with moderation (especially processed meat). Try to avoid high-fat cold cuts and eat them only once in a while.

As for bread, I prefer whole wheat or rye bread. I don’t like pre-packaged and pre-sliced bread, but you can use it now and then if you don’t have any alternatives available.

Here’s how you can stuff a delicious sandwich without cold cuts!

Avocado spread on bread, with the addition of shrimps and vegetables.

• Avocado, red or green pepper (not too much, it is a covering flavor), spreadable cheese, and a pinch of black pepper.

• Grilled aubergines, mushroom sauce (to be placed on top of the aubergines,) and a few fresh lettuce leaves.

• Sliced olives and vegetable paté.

• Legumes, seasoned with some lemon juice and olive oil.

• Salmon and cream cheese.

• Anchovy paste, mozzarella, and grilled courgettes.

• Chickpea hummus and cherry tomatoes (or tomato puree).

• Tofu and cucumbers.

• One sliced boiled egg, tomatoes, lettuce.

• A classic tomato and mozzarella sandwich, maybe topped with some lettuce.

• Chickpea pancake with tomatoes.

• Bean burger.

• Gorgonzola, ricotta, and roasted chopped almonds or walnuts.

As you can see, it is possible to make excellent sandwiches without meat using vegetables, fish, and cheese. Eating healthy without many sacrifices is possible; you just need to be willing to experiment in the kitchen and try new combinations. I was also skeptical about the results of some of the above sandwiches, but then I tried them, and I was surprised by the result.

Try to come up with some creative ideas for healthy sandwiches and let me know how it goes!

If you prefer a mixed salad instead of a sandwich, you are spoiled for choice.

The best thing is that they are straightforward to prepare, they are inexpensive, and they go well with everything. You can prepare a salad in the morning before going to work and eat it for lunch or as a snack throughout the day. As a base, you can use green or mixed salad. Try to buy it fresh or buy the bagged ones in the supermarket, being always careful to read the expiry date. Try not to buy products too close to the expiry date.

Over time I have made a list of ideas for healthy and tasty salads using many different ingredients. These are my favorites, and if you are interested in recipes, do not hesitate to contact me.

• Greek salad with feta cheese, black olives, tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers.

• Salad with mushrooms and shrimps.

• Tuna and bean salad.

• Salad with tuna and mozzarella.

• Salad with quinoa, walnuts, and avocado.

• Salad with salmon, spinach, and fennel.

• Salad with shrimp, corn, and vegetables.

• Green salad with parmesan flakes and cherry tomatoes.

• Salad with tuna, chickpeas, and mixed vegetables.

• Green salad with boiled eggs, almonds, and anchovies.

• Salad with boiled eggs, croutons, and almonds.

• Salad with rice, ginger, and saffron. You can also add some chicken breast.

• Salad with mango, avocado, and carrots.

• Caesar salad: grilled chicken, parmesan flakes, croutons, romaine lettuce.

Alternatively, if you are not a fan of salads, you can use rice as a base and season it with whatever you like, for example:

•Tomato and mozzarella.

• Legumes in oil.

• Pesto, cherry tomatoes, and salmon.

• Venere black rice and shrimp.

• Cantonese style rice (peas, egg, ham, and rice).

• Salmon and courgettes.

• Mozzarella, courgettes, and tuna.

• Tuna and boiled eggs.

• Avocado and salmon.

• Tuna, courgettes, and lemon juice.

• Tuna, beans, and tomatoes.

• Salmon and rucola.

The dishes above are all perfect during summertime. You can prepare them in the evening and take them with you the morning after and eat them at lunch or during the day.

Healthy sandwiches

Have a salad at the beginning of each meal

Why?

In my opinion, having a salad at the beginning of each meal is not only a way to get more fiber, but also one of the most effective ways to eat less and not gaining weight.

One of the biggest problems, when you have lunch or dinner, is that when it is time to eat, you are super hungry, and this pushes you to eat way more than necessary.

Having a salad at the beginning of each meal helps you fill the stomach with healthy and low-calorie food. It allows you to consume less of other foods higher in calories.

What salad should you choose?

If you are not used to having a salad at each meal, a simple green salad is already a good step forward. However, I recommend you add some crunchy seeds and vegetables (such as raw peppers, fennel) as well. The latter will make you chew more, and this will help you feel full earlier. If you eat at the office, you can take your salad with you from home or order it as a starter if you have lunch at the canteen or restaurant.

Vegetables should be part of your diet regularly, as they are very nutritious and a real blessing for your health.

Healthy meals to lose weight

Are you gluten intolerant?

In the last years, a lot of attention has developed towards people who are affected by gluten intolerance.

It is a problem that affects 1% of the world’s population, who can’t tolerate the gluten contained in many foods, even though they are not celiac. To date, no effective cure exists for this problem, and the only thing to do is to avoid eating all the foods that contain it.

But which foods contain gluten?

You will be surprised to know that there are many.

• Wheat

• Kamut

• Spelt/Farro

• Barley

• Semola

• Couscous

• Potato dumplings (not for the potato, but the flour)

• Beer

• Stock

• Canned stock

• Bread Croutons (prepared with wheat flour)

• Breadcrumbs (I suggest for those who are celiac to replace it with dried chickpea crumbs)

• Fried foods

• Candies

• Potato chips and savory snacks

• Salad dressings

• Soy sauce

As you can see, many foods contain gluten. Most of the foods in the list above contain wheat or wheat flour, which is a problem for people who are intolerant to gluten.

In general, there are three categories of gluten intolerance:

Classic: This is the most common intolerance, which usually causes weight loss, attacks of diarrhea every time you eat something that contains gluten, malabsorption of vitamins that need to be obtained from supplements.

Atypical: This type of gluten intolerance is asymptomatic (or only minimal symptoms characterize it), but it is hazardous because it causes anemia, arthritis, an increased risk of infertility, and neurological symptoms in the long-term.

Asymptomatic: You suffer from intolerance but do not experience any symptoms. It can only be identified by careful screening.

Gluten intolerance can be hereditary, so I recommend that you undertake some analysis if you have a parent, sibling, or a close relative who is intolerant to gluten.

Currently, science has not managed to find a solution to overcome gluten intolerance; therefore, at least until they can develop an effective cure, the only thing to do is to avoid foods with gluten. You can buy your food in some specialized gluten-free shops or look for the aisle with gluten-free products at the supermarket. Many food products are naturally gluten-free (e.g., fruit and vegetables), but you will need to carefully check the labels of each product you buy.

You can also find many restaurants that offer gluten-free foods in your city. Just search on the web, and the same also applies to many pizzerias.

I can understand that it will not be easy to change well-established eating habits, but it is the only thing you can do to protect your health while you wait for science to defeat this problem.

But don’t give up, there are many things you can eat without problems if you are gluten intolerant:

• Bread, pasta and pizza made with gluten-free flours

• Meat (as long as it has not been dusted in wheat flour before cooking)

• Fish (same as above, as long as it was not dusted in wheat flour before cooking)

• Fruit

• Vegetable (many people intolerant to gluten become vegan or vegetarian)

• Rice

• Potatoes (but not chips)

• Milk

• All legumes

• Almonds

• Buckwheat

• Corn

• Corn starch

• Quinoa

• Sorghum

• Teff

•Fruit juices

• Wine

As you can see, even if gluten intolerance is an annoying problem, you can still eat many excellent dishes, mainly thanks to the higher sensitivity of people towards this problem.

grains

Have a detox day once a week

What’s a “detox day”?

It’s a day where you will only eat light foods that can cleanse your body from harmful toxins and poor nutrition.

Examples of detox activities include:

• Doing outdoor sports.

• Read a personal growth book.

• Do meditation.

• Practicing yoga.

• Give up bad habits (such as smoking or drinking alcohol).

• Drink a lot more water.

• Swap bottled fruit juices in favor of homemade centrifuges.

• Sleep more.

• Spend less time on toxic hobbies or social media.

Detox is the subject of several controversies in the medical sector. I never recommend a detox-only diet to my clients, but dedicating one day a week to these activities is a great way to cleanse your body and lose weight. The things that you do during this detox day can become habits to be maintained over time; this will improve your overall quality of life.

As for nutrition, here is an example of a typical detox day, in which you will eat a small number of calories:

  • You start with a breakfast based on a vegetable smoothie.
  • Have an herbal tea as a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack. You can have an unsweetened tea or tomato juice (can also be found in the supermarket).
  • Have lunch with a salad or a bowl of vegetable soup (for example, zucchini and potatoes, or leeks and potatoes).
  • Have dinner with another salad or with a vegetable soup.
  • Drinks: lots of water, herbal teas, non-alcoholic beer, tomato juice, sugar-free drinks.

As you can see, it is a very light menu, which you can follow at most one day a week, when you are at home, and you don’t have to do heavy activities. You will feel your body becoming lighter and purified, and you may integrate some of these activities into your everyday life (e.g., drinking sugar-free drinks).

Healthy smoothies

Ideas for frequent travelers

It would be ideal if you could eat at home as often as possible. Unfortunately, this is not always possible, especially if you travel a lot for work and you frequently eat in restaurants. I have met many people who suffered from stomach problems and had gained a lot of weight, mainly because they traveled a lot and had little time for physical activity.

Therefore, I thought to give you some tips that will help you eat healthily even if you travel frequently and you cannot always cook your food. Here’s how not to gain weight even if you often eat in restaurants:

  • Order a salad at the beginning of each meal.
  • Limit your carbohydrates intake by avoiding bread and breadsticks, especially if you order a dish based on grains (e.g., pasta, rice, etc.).
  • Avoid ordering more than one dish at a time. Order a second course only if you are still hungry after the first one. You will save money as well!
  • Don’t eat too fast. Take your time and stop when you feel that you are no longer hungry.
  • If you sleep in a hotel, have a breakfast high in protein and poor in sugar. You won’t need to eat lunch.
  • Avoid all-you-can-eat restaurants and large buffets, which make you overeat.
  • Order a soup as a main dish instead of a high-calorie dish.
  • Avoid fast-food restaurants and do not go overboard with fried foods.
Lose weight when traveling

This concludes the rundown of my tips for weight loss. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me!

Gianluca Tognon

Gianluca Tognon

Gianluca Tognon è un biologo specializzato in scienza dell’alimentazione. Ha lavorato per diversi anni come ricercatore presso l’Università di Göteborg in Svezia ed è docente presso l'università di Skövde in Svezia. In Italia ha pubblicato cinque libri su diversi temi legati all’alimentazione e alla nutrizione ed è co-autore di numerose pubblicazioni scientifiche su riviste internazionali.

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About Me

I’m an Italian nutrition coach, speaker, entrepreneur and associate professor at the University of Gothenburg. I started MY career as a biologist and spent 15 years working both in Italy and then in Sweden.

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