Do I need to follow meal plan exactly or can I use different meals?
The meal plan is designed to give structure and suggestions to those who find that beneficial. They are also organized to include a variety of fish, vegetarian, meat and poultry options on a weekly basis. We tend to often eat the same meals week to week and don’t incorporate other healthy alternatives. If there are any meals in the meal plan that you do not like or are allergic to, you can easily replace that meal with any of the cookbook recipes. For those of you trying to choose lower glycemic options, if you are replacing a green meal, choose from the lower glycemic guide to keep it in the same category.
I don’t eat meat, can I still make the meals that have meat in them?
Yes you can. Any meals that have meat in them can be substituted for any other protein of choice. Under my favorite proteins page are a list of several options for proteins. You can substitute with whichever protein you desire.
How often can I eat bread?
It really depends on what your goals are and if you are reaching them. Some people can eat a sandwich everyday as long as their meal is balanced and still lose weight, while others are very sensitive to carbohydrates and don’t do well by eating a lot of higher glycemic index foods such as bread. Many people find that higher glycemic meals don’t last as long as lower glycemic meals such as salads, chili’s, etc. The reason is that high GI meals tend to break down quickly and leave you hungrier sooner. If you are eating bread once a day, satisfied for at least 3 hours and reaching your weight loss goal, eat away! On the other hand, if you are finding you are hungry within a couple hours of eating or are not losing weight as quickly as you had hoped for, then try to minimize the amount of bread to a couple times a week.
What if I don’t like some of the meals on the meal plan?
The meal plan is only intended for suggestions and to have a combination of low and high glycemic meal options every day. Feel free to make your own meal plan by choosing from any of the cookbook recipes available.
How many snacks should I have in a day?
Most people eat between 2 to 3 snacks a day. I normally suggest that you eat either a meal or snack every 3 to 4 hours. If you are eating breakfast at 7am and not eating lunch until 12pm, then have a snack around 10am. Similarly, if you are eating lunch at 12pm and not having dinner until 6pm, having a snack around 3pm or 4pm is advised. Night time snacks are not always needed, but once again, if you are eating at 6pm and go to bed later than 10pm, you may have a little snack if you are hungry. Having a balanced and satisfying dinner may also curb your hunger and minimize unneeded snacking.
Should I eat differently on the days I exercise?
Depending on the type of exercise you are doing, you may need to adjust your eating schedule and snacks. If your goal is weight loss, I often suggest that you keep your meal portions the same but have an extra snack or two either before or after your workouts. Those in weight maintenance can afford to eat more medium GI meals (blue meals) when exercising regularly without any changes in their weight. For the weight loss participants, try to remain eating lower glycemic meals (green meals) when exercising and simply eat more snacks (also green).
What if I am hungry after my meals?
The hard part about this question is finding out why you are hungry. Sometimes when we make changes to our diet, it takes time to adjust to the new intake. We can also be hungry if we are not having a large enough portion. The meal plan is a “suggested” portion for the average person. Once you have been following the plan for a week or two you will begin to understand your body and your body’s energy needs. Before you increase the amount of food you are eating, first try switching to more of the green meals, as they break down slower and tend to keep you satisfied for longer. They also tend to have more volume which is filling. If that still doesn’t do the trick, increase your portions. Once again, if following the weight loss plan, you are better off increasing your portions of the lower glycemic meals as opposed to the medium ones.
Shouldn’t men be eating more protein than woman?
Most meals call for 4 oz portions of meat, fish or tofu throughout the meal plan. The protein substitutions guide is designed to be adjusted for any individuals with higher protein needs (men, athletes or very active individuals, etc.). To use this guide, recipes calling for 4 oz can combine any 2 proteins of choice. Those wishing to increase their protein to 6 oz would simply add one more protein option from the list.
What if I am hungry in between meals?
Understanding hunger is not always an easy task as there can be several different variables. Since we all eat at different times of day and at different intervals, it is important to learn how much and how often you need to eat so that you minimize unpredictable or uncontrollable cravings. Firstly, it is important to not skip any meals. Eating at the same time of day provides your body with a constant and predictable flow of energy. Missing a meal leaves your body confused and in search of energy. This can be a reason for hunger late at night or even right after a meal. Secondly, if you are not eating snacks in between meals, especially those that are more than 4 hours apart, you may not be providing your body with adequate energy. Eating 4 to 5 times in a day is advisable to reduce hunger, balance blood sugar levels and keep your metabolism active.
I have nut allergies but find a lot of recipes with nuts here. Can I substitute for something else?
Recipes that have nut based ingredients in them can easily be replaced with nut free alternatives. Coconut oil, avocado, soy nut butter, butter and seeds are just a few examples of foods that can be used in their place. Since nuts contain protein, fat and carbohydrates, replacing them with another ingredient may change the breakdown of the meal. To find the best substitute, refer to the substitutions guide provided.
Can I still follow this if I eat out often?
Yes you can. Eating out is definitely not without its challenges, as each restaurant prepares their meals differently. Foods considered healthy at home can be filled with added fat, sugar and salt when dining out. For your convenience, we have provided an eating out guide to help you make better choices. Although restaurant cooking may not be as balanced or nutritious as homemade, at least you can feel positive about making the best available choices!
How do I adjust the recipes if I am only cooking for one person?
Most breakfasts and lunches are already designed for one or two servings. Dinners such as chili’s, soups, stews and stir fry’s, are difficult to prepare for one, which is why they are usually either 4 or 6 servings. Some recipes are easy enough to cut all ingredients in half and make a smaller amount, but there are benefits to having leftovers. Freezable meals can be portioned out for later use, making dinnertime quick and easy when time is limited. Leftovers also make for a great lunch the next day. There is always the option to choose another meal if the suggested one is not practical for your individual needs.
What about artificial sweeteners? Can I drink diet coke or other sugarless beverages?
The pros and cons of sweeteners make this difficult to give a straightforward answer. Those individuals with diabetes or any sugar related sensitivities can benefit by using a sugar substitute. For weight loss, cutting down on sugar is also important. Choosing natural sweeteners is my first rule of thumb, and then deciding which is best for you based on your goals is the next step. Coconut sugar does contain sugar and calories, but it provides nutritional value and has a lower glycemic index than traditional white sugar. Stevia is a sugarless (and calorie free) alternative that has been shown to have beneficial properties as well. The best choice of all is to acquire a taste for foods that are unsweetened. Using cinnamon, vanilla extract, ginger, etc. is a great alternative. I do use stevia, xylitol and coconut sugar throughout the book as suggested sugar alternatives, but it is important to note that no sweetener is without some health implications. Refer to the resources guide for more information on artificial and natural sweeteners.
I don’t have a lot of time to cook, any suggestions?
For your convenience, an entire guide has been composed of meals that are relatively quick. Some are quicker than others, but refer to the quick & easy guide for suggestions. The trade off with many meals that require very little time, is that they aren’t as desirable and often use higher glycemic foods such as breads and fruits. A suggestion to deal with this is to double your favorite recipes and freeze. Then just warm them up and serve.
What are some good grab and go breakfast options?
There are a couple different options for people who are rushed in the morning and don’t have time to cook or eat at home. Under the breakfast section of the cookbook there are numerous muffins, squares and bars that are rich in protein and made with lower glycemic ingredients. Most of them freeze well. Once a month choose a couple different ones, bake them on a weekend, and freeze them individually so you can just grab a bag and go. Another option is to use the breakfast box meals that were designed for people with little time to prepare. Hard boiled eggs can even be made at the beginning of the week and kept in the shell to use the following days.
How do I feed a family when everyone eats different foods?
Depending on what your goals are, it can be quite a challenge to make meals that everyone can eat. One suggestion is to pick 10 meals under the kid friendly guide that are appealing to everyone and using those as dinners. If those meals are not low glycemic, you can put more emphasis on choosing green meals for breakfasts and lunches, as you know your dinners may not always be low. For those of you wanting to eat low glycemic dinners, I often recommend that you pick a protein recipe such as teriyaki salmon or grilled chicken breast that everyone will eat, and serve it with individual sides. For example, you can make your family rice or potatoes as a side dish, and make cauliflower rice or creamy mashed cauliflower for yourself. Soups are also a great option for everyone. Lastly, making freezable meals for times when you don’t have time for different meals is advisable.
Can I follow this and keep kosher?
With the exception of a few ingredients, almost every cookbook recipe can be made using kosher ingredients. All ingredients highlighted in blue can be clicked on to view the nutritional breakdown. Once you have this, you can simply find comparable brands. In terms of proteins, go to my favorite protein link and you can substitute for any protein of choice. Finally, meals that are made with meat and milk, you can either substitute the meat protein with a non-meat option, or simply choose another meal to replace it. There are several recipes that give suggestions on how to make the meal without dairy.
How do I keep gluten free on this?
Many ingredients that contain gluten are now available in gluten free options at the grocery store with little or no changes to the nutritional breakdown. For the most part, the pasta, rice and baked goods recipes contain no gluten. When you click on the ingredient, you will see that the pasta brands that are recommended are of gluten free varieties. In addition, many of the alternative starches such as zucchini pasta, mung bean pasta, spaghetti squash, cauliflower pizzas, etc…are gluten free friendly. Flours are also available in coconut and gluten free oat flour. In terms of breads, as long as the carbohydrate content is similar, you can use any gluten free variety. In the rare event that an ingredient cannot be gluten free, you are welcome to choose another meal altogether from the cookbook database.
What if I don’t like one of the side dishes? Can I choose another one?
Absolutely. A couple of considerations before choosing are needed. Firstly, there is a breakdown at the bottom of every recipe. As long as the protein, fat and carbohydrate amount is approximately the same, it can be substituted. Secondly, the glycemic index of the side dish may differ. Make sure if you are wanting to eat green, you choose a side dish that is also using low glycemic index ingredients. Refer to the glycemic index chart for a list of all carbohydrates and their corresponding color code.
How do I keep this if I am lactose intolerant?
Fortunately lactose free products are no longer difficult to find. At the grocery store you can find lactose free cheeses, milks and yogurts. Since the nutritional breakdown is rarely altered in lactose free products, substituting will cause no changes in the recipe. If you encounter a meal that contains lactose and cannot be bought lactose free, you are welcome to choose another meal altogether from the cookbook database.
I work shifts and am always hungry, what should I do?
Working shifts definitely presents some additional challenges to eating well and losing weight. The most common complaint of shift working is unpredictable and uncontrollable hunger. Since it is difficult to eat at similar times every day, your body doesn’t know when to expect energy. If you skip meals and snacks as well, your cravings and hunger are likely to be erratic. The best way to deal with minimizing these undesirable effects is to carry quick and easy portable snacks that require little or no time to prepare, and being diligent in eating every 3 to 4 hours. Take a look at the snacks guide for some portable options. There are great products on the market nowadays that you can buy for meal replacements and snacks that are clean, balanced and taste great. Be careful of products that are filled with artificial ingredients and high glycemic sugars.
What if I travel a lot for work and don’t have access to a fridge or freezer.
Luckily the food industry has come a long way in offering healthier options to those trying to be health conscious. Even McDonalds has added some impressive items to their menus. Sliced apples and specialty salads were not an option in the past. Take a look at the eating out guide as well as the quick and easy snacks for ideas to take with you before travelling. My most common recommendation is to always carry some portable meal replacement and snack bars with you for times when you don’t have access to anything. Refer to the suggested product list to view all the brands and flavors available.
How often should I be weighing myself?
No more than once a week. Our weight can fluctuate for many reasons, which may not always indicate legitimate weight loss or weight gain. When we are eating healthy and not losing weight, it is important to be patient. Weight loss can be a slow process. Better to lose weight slowly and consistently, than making harsh changes that you are not prepared to stick with in the long term. If you weigh yourself too often and don’t get the results you want, this can lead to feelings of failure and interfere with your motivation and belief in what you are doing. Once a week is a good rule of thumb, on the same day and time.
What should I expect in terms of weight loss?
It really depends on how much weight you are looking to lose, how you were eating previously, how much exercise you are engaging in, and your metabolism. Losing weight slowly and steadily (1lb per week) is the best way for long term loss. Losing weight too fast or too much can backfire, causing your body to have unexpected hunger and cravings, making it difficult to feel satisfied. Any weight loss in the long run adds up and will be welcomed. If you lost ½ lb every week for a year, you would be down 26 lbs. No one would ever frown upon that! Be excited about the loss, not the amount. Know that you are going in the right direction. Even weeks that you stay the same weight is ok. We cannot lose every week.
What if I don’t want to lose weight? Should I still be following this?
This plan does have a weight loss emphasis for those who choose to follow that stream, but it is first and foremost intended to nourish your body to be healthy, balanced and overall strong to prevent disease and ailments. Every time you eat, your body responds. If you eat foods that are void of adequate nutrients, or give your body an amount of energy that it doesn’t need, the result can be low energy levels, weakened immune system, sleeping difficulties, emotional and psychological imbalances, and more. You are what you eat. We need guidance now more than ever with the food industries abundance of convenience foods and eating out options.
What happens when I have lost all my weight and am in maintenance?
Eating this way never has to change. What can change are the types of foods you eat and the quantity. When in weight loss mode, the lower glycemic meals are encouraged and the medium ones are eaten less often. When you have reached your goal weight, you will find that you can eat more breads, pastas, and rice dishes that you were limiting before. Having slightly larger quantities or adding an extra snack in maintenance can be enjoyed.
Should I be keeping a food journal?
This is a great question. I always suggest that people keep a food journal as it is the only way you can know for sure what your daily intake is. We definitely cannot remember at the end of the week or month what we ate, so if for whatever reason someone isn’t losing weight, without a detailed journal it is difficult to give feedback. Another reason I encourage food journals is for future reference. What worked in the past is a good place to start in the future. Another benefit is accountability. Whether you are journaling for yourself or someone else, you are more likely to eat well when you have to remember and write it down. Lastly, if at some point you plateau and need some assistance, the best way to move forward is to have an exact reference of what you have been doing so that you can get the right advice. We can have an idea of what we do day to day, but food journaling is really the only way to see patterns and overcome obstacles. Use the online Journal if you wish.
I don’t like cooking. Can I buy everything already cooked?
Life would definitely be easier if this was the case, but it really is too good to be true. There are many places that make delicious prepared foods with clean ingredients, but the exact amount of protein, fat and carbohydrates would be impossible to know. Even restaurants that publish their nutritional data online is subject to debate, as each chef will prepare things differently. The only way to really know is to prepare it yourself. There are some exceptions; roast chickens, grilled chicken breasts, cooked rice, hard boiled eggs, and vegetables can be found already prepared. Some fast food restaurants that have make your own salad meals have a few more prepared foods that are just steamed or grilled. Just bear in mind that meats, fish and vegetables are often marinated in sugar, fat and salt for flavor and/or preservation. Buying pre sliced vegetables (fresh or frozen) can cut the preparation time in half for those who don’t like to be in the kitchen. The quick & easy guide also has meals that are relatively simple.
What happens if I am following the plan and not losing weight?
Weight loss is one of those things in life that even after years and years of research, theories and medical intervention, we still aren’t sure what works for everyone. We know that low carb, low calorie, low fat and exercise are all important to some extent, but the challenge is that any two individuals can do the exact same thing and have different results. If diet and exercise were the only factors involved in weight loss, I likely wouldn’t be writing this. Genetics, however, plays an equal role.
The 10 week meal plan includes a variety of glycemic meals (low and medium) because the majority of people can tolerate both, as long as they are not over consuming them. With that said, the terms “insulin sensitive/insulin resistance” has been given lots of attention over the past several years. These people are best suited to following a lower glycemic guide. If you have been following the meal plan and are finding your weight loss to be slower than desired, try following the low glycemic meals for at least one to two weeks exclusively. If you notice that you only lose weight when eating lower glycemic meals, you likely will need to be mindful of your carbohydrate intake long-term.
I know fruit is high in sugar. How many times a day can I eat it?
Fruit is packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber, but it also contains sugar and calories. Although fruit is included in more than 50% of the breakfasts in the meal plan and snack options, it is important to know that it has limitations as well. Individuals with pre diabetes, diabetes or high triglycerides are most often advised to control their sugar intake from fruits, especially the higher glycemic index ones. In terms of weight loss, I would try to limit your fruit intake to no more than 2 servings a day. Refer to the lower glycemic fruits and vegetables guide.
Do drinks matter?
Yes. Anything that contains protein, fat and carbohydrates needs to be considered part of your meal or snack. Your body doesn’t digest a drink any differently than a meal. Drinks that contain full fat cream, milk or sugar can solely be responsible for setbacks in weight loss as they can contain more energy than an entire meal. Drinking water, hot water with lemon, tea and coffee are all fine. Avoid juices, honey and sugar. Adding milk or cream to tea or coffee is fine as long as it is a condiment size (1 to 2 tbsp). Lattes and specialty coffees (with cream and sugar) are also not recommended. Choose lower fat creams such as 5 or 10% when possible.
Do calories matter?
Calories do matter, but they are not the only consideration. You may eat a banana (200 calories), or an apple and cheese (also 200 calories). The calories are the same, but the way they are digested in your body are not. Meals that combine protein, fat and carbohydrates break down slower than meals containing 100% carbohydrates. When meals break down quickly, there is a greater chance you won’t need that energy as fast as you received it. Understanding balance can be a more useful tool to losing weight than simply calorie counting. With that said, the total protein, fat and carbohydrates that are listed for each meal does translate into a calorie amount. Most meals are somewhere between 300-500 calories, depending on who they are geared towards (men or woman).
My husband doesn’t want to lose weight. Can we both eat the same meals?
All meals can be adjusted to accommodate different goals. Meals that are considered to be low glycemic can be served with an alternate side dish. For example, if you are making the baked sole, you can serve the suggested side dishes (grilled vegetables and side spinach salad), and add a serving of rice. Any lower glycemic meal can be adjusted to include an additional side. Weight loss aside, the benefits to eating a lower glycemic meal are vast. Making stir-fry’s, chili’s, and stews, can be enjoyed by both, you can simply serve a larger portion.
We go to friends’ homes a lot for dinner and they don’t serve healthy options. What should I do?
This is a tricky one because there needs to be a balance between making healthy choices and living life and enjoying. In most cases I tell people to live by the 80/20 rule: 80% of the time do your best to follow the meal plan, and 20% of the time enjoy a meal out, have a treat or eat one of your favorite meals. If your lifestyle is such that you are frequently eating out, offering to bring something to dinner can be a good option. Most hosts will serve some type of main protein such as chicken, salmon or meat. A salad or vegetable dish can ensure you have a low glycemic side dish.
We go to friends’ homes a lot for dinner and they don’t serve healthy options. What should I do?
Energy needs can vary from person to person depending on your height, weight, activity level, age, metabolism and habits. Although men and woman are thought to have very different energy needs, it may be more about having different nutrient needs such as calcium, iron, fiber, etc. For the purposes of this program, I have made small adjustments to the protein portions for men and women, which can be adjusted based on individual needs. When adding your favorite lean protein to any meal, use 4-oz for woman and 6-oz for men as a general rule. I have used 4-oz as the default in most recipes, but you can adjust it accordingly. Be mindful that women who are taller, more active, or in maintenance, can eat more protein. Similarly, a man’s activity level and height may be more suited for lower protein intakes.
Is protein powder safe for kids?
Kids can be picky eaters as we all know. Since the protein needs of kids differ from adults, eating a variety of foods such as eggs, cheese, beans, nuts, meat and fish should be enough to reach their daily protein intake. In some circumstances, parents have difficulty getting enough protein into their children’s diet and may turn to alternatives such as protein powders. For children with nut, egg or dairy allergies, adding some protein powder into meals can be beneficial. Finding a powder that is clean and free from artificial sweeteners, additives, sugars and using a high quality protein is important. The suggested serving size for kids would be about ½ of the suggested serving for adults. Powders are available in whey, soy, pea, rice and other vegetable based powders. See the product list for suggested brands.
What is whey protein powder?
Whey protein (a milk based powder) is a “complete protein,” meaning it contains all of the essential building blocks of protein. These building blocks are called amino acids. Essential amino acids are those that the body cannot make on its own and must come from our diets. In addition to being a rich source of protein, whey protein powder is also easy to digest, making it an appealing addition to many foods.
Should I be buying organic?
Going to keep this answer short and sweet. I am a believer that the most important foods to buy organic or naturally raised are dairy products, eggs, meats and poultry. It isn’t always feasible or available to purchase everything organic, so I believe we should prioritize. There are many guidelines available to learn which fruits and vegetables are best bought organic, and I do encourage those who are interested to seek out those sources. For a list of where to buy your naturally raised goods, please refer to the naturally raised farms section of this site. For your convenience, the option to order your meats and fish online and shipped to your house is available.
What about alcoholic beverages and weight loss?
Drinking alcoholic beverages and weight loss is as much a topic of interest as the role of carbohydrates. But it isn’t as simple as reading the total calories or carbohydrates per cup. If it were that simple, choosing alcoholic beverages that are not filled with sugar and other high glycemic ingredients would seem relatively harmless. In fact, a glass of wine has very few carbohydrates and a relatively low amount of calories. The issue has to do more with what happens to your digestion when alcohol is present. When your body is processing alcohol, it is not able to focus on other tasks such as breaking down foods containing carbohydrates and fat. As a result, these calories are more likely to be stored in your body as fat. In addition, alcohol lacks nutritional value, but still contains almost as many calories per gram as fat.
I have come across individuals that have followed a low glycemic meal plan and enjoyed their wine or alcoholic beverage of choice and still lost weight. But more commonly I witnessed individuals who continued to struggle with their weight loss until they cut them out. On a health and weight loss perspective, I am prone to give the advice to avoid alcoholic beverages 80% of the time. That still leaves some room for the occasional drink.
How much water should I be drinking?
I am sure you have heard the standard 8 glasses of water a day (8-oz each). The amount varies from person to person based on your exercise, height, weight and time of year. On a weight loss perspective, not giving your body enough fluids can impact your weight loss efforts as thirst is often mistaken for hunger. So drink regularly, perhaps using 8-oz as your starting point and increasing based on your individual needs. For those who struggle with thirst, add water into your meal plan before and after a meal in order to make it a new habit.
How important is exercise for weight loss?
We know that exercise is an important factor to consider when trying to lose weight, but the question is always how much do I need? Those who have exercised and not lost weight are always left wondering how that is possible. But exercise is only a piece of the puzzle. My advice at the beginning of any new way of eating is to continue doing the amount of exercise you have been engaging in for the first few weeks. Increasing your activity levels will influence your hunger and can be difficult to know whether the new portions and balance you are eating are sufficient for your body. Once you know your energy needs on any given day, you can either have more snacks or slightly increase your portions on days you exercise. For those of you who are sedentary, begin by simply walking a few times a week if you want to do something right away. Exercise will not only accelerate your weight loss efforts by impacting your metabolism, it will also improve your mood and energy levels, both essential to being successful throughout your weight loss endeavors.