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Most of us have likely heard the term “low-calorie meals”, but what exactly does this mean? At what threshold do we go from ‘low’ to ‘high’? This, of course, depends on each individual to some extent, but there are some general guidelines that we can follow.
As a starting point, Vandana Sheth, RDN, CDCES, FAND, registered dietician, nutritionist, and author of ‘My Indian Table: Quick & Tasty Vegetarian Recipes’ notes:
“A low-calorie meal can be in the 300 to 400 calorie range for breakfast and 500 to 600 range for lunch and dinner meals, and 100 to 200 calorie range for snacks.” – Vandana Sheth
What is considered a low-calorie meal?
So, with this basic definition as a starting point, it follows that low-calorie meals are a way for you to structure a food plan so that it is easy to keep track of your daily intake. With planning and practice, it can become an easy habit to incorporate structured meals with the suggested calorie counts above.
Of course, the ideal meals for weight loss vary from person to person, and it is critical to ensure that your food plan meets your body’s needs, along with fitting smoothly into your lifestyle – and is something that you feel is both easy to maintain and delicious.
So, you might be wondering “what are some good low-calorie meals”? To give an example, low-calorie lunches can look like a nutrient-packed salad with fresh local produce in a rainbow of colours and topped with Greek-inspired cheese, roasted seeds and a drizzle of select dressing. Or maybe a protein of your choice – whether meat, poultry, seafood or a plant-based option –together with sauteed veggies and crispbread. Or if you happen to be on-the-go, you might just grab a yummy meal replacement as a quick way to make sure you are meeting your body’s nutrition requirements.
Those of us who avoid animal products need to take special care to ensure adequate dietary variety in our low-calorie vegetarian meals – the same holds true, of course, for vegan low-calorie meals. Without meat, poultry or fish, vegetarian low-calorie meals tend to be low in protein, so it is important to make sure you are getting the optimal amount for your body.
What can be gained from this loss?
With this measuring stick in mind, we can more easily understand what qualifies as low-calorie meals, but what benefits are there to reducing the number of calories you consume? It is a well-documented fact that decreasing the number of calories in your diet, combined with increasing your activity level, can help with weight management.
Simply put, burning more calories than are consumed should result in shedding kilos. So, if reaching a healthier personal weight is one of your health goals, then low-calorie meals for weight loss should be part of the plan. Caloric restriction is a necessary tool in combating obesity and overweight, often associated with diabetes or even pre-diabetes.
Incorporating low-calorie meals into your diet can not only result in weight loss, but also decreased body fat, a lower resting heart rate, as well as a healthier lipid profile. Beyond improving your general daily well-being, decreasing caloric intake has also been shown to aid in the fight against certain age-related diseases.
A healthy body weight therefore increases your chances of long-term health and longevity. A food plan that includes low-calorie meals may just be the elixir of life we’ve been searching for!
What not to cut out
Closely monitoring your daily caloric intake and incorporating healthy low-calorie meals does not need to be low in taste or nutritional value. In fact, if your low-calorie meals don’t suit your personal taste preferences, human nature dictates that you won’t keep eating them.
It can therefore be much more challenging to sustain a healthy body weight if we are struggling to stick to an unappealing meal plan – if you have been careful to stick to your plan all day long, then low-calorie dinners have got to be something you look forward to.
The best foods for weight loss (link to March article: “best foods for weight loss”) are the ones that both taste good and pack a nutritional punch – this naturally differs from one individual to another, but low-calorie meals are a good place to start.
Our bodies will always need protein, fibre, carbohydrates, healthy fats, and the necessary vitamins and minerals in order to feel full and have enough energy to power our busy lives. Without these important pieces of the puzzle, any diet – whether with very low-calorie meals or high in calorie count – could result in anaemia, lethargy, dizziness, irritability and even depression.
Less is more
It can be tricky to create a dietary plan with low-calorie meals that strikes the perfect balance between both lowering caloric intake and guaranteeing sufficient nutrient intake, while still delivering on tempting taste. There are many low-calorie recipes available to help craft the perfect meal, but portion size can also be a difficult variable to manage, which affects final caloric consumption.
A diet that includes ready-to-eat weight loss meals or meal replacement shakes can be a helpful approach in ensuring that all our body’s needs are met. In general, these options are easy low-calorie meals specifically designed to deliver all the important macro and micronutrients our bodies require.
Low-calorie meal replacements – such as shakes and bars – can take the guesswork out of planning and preparing three separate calorie-deficit meals a day and allow us to consume freely, without worry of exceeding weight loss parameters. They can easily be incorporated into a daily diet that includes freshly prepared low-calorie meals.
Many low-calorie meals have appealing flavour profiles that are sure to tempt any palate, in both the savoury and sweet categories. Delicious meal replacement shakes – such as mango vanilla or a cool mint flavoured chocolate shake – a simmering spicy Thai chicken soup, a creamy risotto or an oatmeal, or meal replacement bars, such as soft-baked cookies, toffee or lemon crunch bars. These are just some of the options available as part of the wide selection of products that Nupo offers, which proves that less really can be more.