Meal plans help keep people on track

Eating doesn’t have to be unpredictable

Preplanning meals and snacks when trying to lose weight can help prevent failure. These plans target stumbling blocks that knock people off track.

Shirley Kindrick, PhD, RD, LD, a team leader for Comprehensive Weight Management at the Center for Wellness & Prevention at The Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus, tells patients she is working with active weight loss programs to create a three-to-five-day menu plan that includes foods that are always available. This way, if something happens that might knock them off track, they will be prepared. They will not have to think about what they are going to eat. The meals can be items in the cupboard and refrigerator such as a bowl of cereal and a glass of orange juice for breakfast. They can be prepared items such as a frozen dinner as well as entrees found at restaurants that would be suitable.

Adults and children need to eat about five times a day so they will not get so hungry that they overeat, says Beth Passehl, MS, program coordinator III for Fit Kids at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. During this weight loss program for children, families are told that parents have a job, and that is to plan, prepare, and provide meals and snacks. "We establish appropriate boundaries around when, where, and how food is served," says Passehl.

Meals and snacks have a beginning, middle, and end, and do not mean a continuous graze all day long, she says. Between meals and snacks, children and their parents should drink water. Planning is important because families are usually overscheduled and consistently faced with fast food choices.

One goal is to have families slow down and enjoy the food that they are eating. Passehl recommends that meals be served family-style. "We eat for a variety of reasons, and we often eat without paying attention to what we are doing. People need to know that their needs change day to day, especially for children. Some days they want to eat more, and some days they may need less," she says.

Children learn that their job is to come to the table and make a selection from the food that is provided. They need to determine how much to eat and even if they will eat. People need to pay attention to how their body feels without pressure around eating or not eating, says Passehl.