Since I mentioned back in January that I believe spring is the best time to launch a weight loss plan, I figured it’s time for me to share a healthy, weekly menu plan like the kind we used two years ago to help my husband lose – and keep off! – over 55 lbs. As we’ve learned, weight loss is all about insulin. Sugar and refined carbs drive insulin up and make you store calories as fat. Bring the insulin level down and your body will burn the fat. The fat you eat has nothing to do with the fat your body stores. (If you have the time, I recommend reading Gary Taubes’ articles on sugar and fat. The article, “Is Sugar Toxic?” is especially eye-opening with its possible link to cancer.)
If you’re trying to lose weight, be sure to keep your carb servings (about 20 g. carbohydrate) to 4 or 5 per day, not including fruits and veggies. To keep your motivation up, go ahead and enjoy a low-sugar treat (like my mixed berry cobbler recipe below) on the weekend. Once you’ve reached your desired weight and have gotten used to eating low sugar breakfasts, you can enjoy a small serving of dessert at the end of the day and still be free from cravings. Besides cutting out obvious sugar bombs, avoid sugary condiments like barbecue sauce and honey mustard. Try buffalo sauce or spicy brown mustard instead, if you need a dipping sauce. Chose breads and salad dressings with 2 g. of sugar or less per serving. Also, be sure to drink plenty of water to flush out your system and stay full. Other beverage options include water with a lemon or lime wedge, unsweetened tea (black, green or herb), or coffee with half-and-half. Before reaching for an afternoon snack to refuel, try putting your feet up for 10 minutes and sipping a cup of hot or iced tea to recharge. It works!
No Need for Special “Diet” Food or Separate Kids Meals
The menu choices below don’t require a lot of fancy ingredients or time in the kitchen – click on the links to find specific recipes on my gluten free blogs. The dinners only take 20-30 minutes, and most of the breakfasts and lunches take 10 minutes or less. I even threw in an optional fast food meal, if you’re used to eating out on the weekend. Contrary to what you might have heard, eating healthy, whole foods doesn’t have to be expensive – even when you’re on a gluten free diet. (I’ve found chicken tenderloins for $1.29/lb., sirloin steak for $3.50/lb., and all the sides except the GF bread products and pasta cost pennies.) These aren’t bland, tasteless diet foods either – it’s the way we eat as a family all the time, just portion controlled. For us, breakfast is key because a healthy diet begins at breakfast (and is doomed if we start the day with the typical American breakfast of cereal). If we eat protein and fat with a small, low-sugar carbohydrate serving for breakfast, we will stay full throughout the morning and avoid sugary, starchy cravings for the entire day.
If you have trouble breaking free from the sugar cravings, you might need to limit fruit to dinnertime for the first few days. If you’re used to eating dessert every night, I recommend saving your fresh fruit salad to eat when you would usually eat dessert. This is the perfect time of year to enjoy nature’s bounty for dessert! Mangos, strawberries, and pineapple are reasonably priced this time of year and satisfy a sweet tooth. I include a lot of berries because they are low in sugar and high in antioxidants and fiber. Feel free to substitute other fruits and vegetables your family likes or whatever is least expensive. You can mix and match breakfasts and lunches or eat the same ones every day. So what do you have to lose, besides the weight?
Gluten Free Menu Plan (with optional whole wheat choices)
- Breakfast – 1 piece of toast with butter (whole wheat without high fructose corn syrup or 2 slices low-sugar gluten free bread like Ener-G Light Tapioca bread or the homemade sandwich bread recipe in “The Gluten Free Bible” cookbook), 2 scrambled eggs (with cheese and real bacon crumbles, optional). Tall glass of water and coffee, if desired. (If you normally add flavored creamer, try using plain half-and-half.)
- Lunch – Cooked turkey cubes (like Costco’s Kirkland brand oven roasted turkey breast, which is GF), mozzarella cheese stick, grape tomatoes, and 15 Crunchmaster’s GF Multi-Grain Crackers (also available at Costco) or other sugar-free cracker with 2 or more grams of fiber. The kids like to make kabobs with a chunk of turkey, cheese, half of a grape tomato and a little dab of spicy brown mustard. Tall glass of water and tea, if desired.
- Dinner – Shrimp & Spinach Linguine (you can substitute chicken) made with Ancient Harvest’s corn/quinoa GF pasta, roasted broccoli and carrots
- Dessert – Fresh fruit salad made with mango, kiwi, blueberries, and raspberries (or whatever fruit you have on hand)
- Snacks – Tea or iced tea, handful of lightly salted nuts like Blue Diamond low sodium almonds
- Breakfast – Whole grain or gluten free toaster waffle (like Nature’s Path – we like their GF Buckwheat Wild Berry flavor) with butter or peanut butter, sausage (like Jimmy Dean heat-and-serve turkey sausage), and 3 or 4 strawberries. Tall glass of water and coffee, if desired.
- Lunch – Grilled ham and cheese sandwich made with a slice of cheddar cheese and piled with nitrate-free ham (like Hormel Natural). Serve with carrots and a small apple.
- Dinner – Grilled or sauteed chicken tenderloins sprinkled with salt or seasoned salt (we like Redmond Real Salt Natural Seasoned Salt and Lowry’s Seasoned Salt), pepper, parsley and olive oil. Serve with Herb Seasoned Rice and green beans or other vegetable.
- Dessert – Fresh pineapple or other fruit. Snack on nuts and drink tea or water as needed if you get hungry.
- Breakfast – 1 piece of toast with butter (we like all natural butter spreads made with butter and canola oil), 2 scrambled eggs (with cheese and real bacon crumbles, optional), and a small bunch of red grapes or orange wedge. Tall glass of water and coffee, if desired.
- Lunch – Cooked turkey cubes, mozzarella cheese stick, grape tomatoes, and 15 Crunchmaster’s GF Multi-Grain Crackers or other sugar-free cracker with 2 or more grams of fiber.
- Dinner – Grilled or broiled steak seasoned with coarse salt and fresh ground pepper, and topped with herb butter (we like Challenge Tuscan Butter spread) or steak sauce. Serve with a small yam or baked potato (feel free to use real butter and sour cream, like Daisy brand all-natural sour cream, with bacon bits and chives on your potato), and spinach salad with cucumber (using a dressing with 2 g. sugar or less, like Newman’s Own Olive Oil & Vinegar dressing with 1 g. sugar).
- Dessert – Fresh fruit salad with mango, kiwi and berries. Snack on nuts and drink tea or water as needed if you get hungry.
- Breakfast – Skillet Scramble made with cubed O’Brien hash brown potatoes (with or without onions/peppers) cooked in oil and seasoned with Lowry’s Seasoned Salt and pepper. Move cooked potatoes to the side, lower heat, and melt a pat of butter in pan. Add eggs, season with salt and pepper, and scramble. Mix scrambled eggs with hash browns and add chopped cooked sausage. Sprinkle cheese on top and cover until cheese is melted. Serve with sliced banana and berries or fruit of choice.
- Lunch – 1 piece of toast or whole wheat English muffin topped with a slice of cheddar cheese and piled with nitrate-free ham (like Hormel Natural), then heated in the microwave. Serve with carrots and a small apple.
- Dinner – Crock Pot Pork Tacos or Taco salad made with grilled chicken tenderloins (seasoned with Lowry’s Season Salt) on a bed of spinach or green lettuce with veggies (chopped red or yellow peppers, red onion, tomato, canned black beans), shredded cheddar or Mexican cheese, a handful of crushed Fritos or tortilla chips sprinkled over top, and Creamy French dressing mixed with a little taco seasoning (about 1 T. seasoning per 1/2 c. dressing or to taste – we like Wishbone Creamy French because it’s dairy free for our diary free child). If desired, grill extra chicken and chop extra peppers for tomorrow’s quesadillas.
- Dessert – For an extra special treat, grill some fresh pineapple over medium heat.
- Breakfast – English muffin topped with melted cheese, sausage, and an orange wedge.
- Lunch – Quesadilla made with 2 sugar-free corn tortillas (check labels), 1 grilled chicken tenderloin or leftover cooked chicken, chopped red peppers, and shredded cheddar or Mexican cheese blend. Top with salsa and guacamole, if desired, and serve with a small bunch of red grapes.
- Dinner – Hamburger or turkey burger patty (we like Jennie-O turkey burgers) with cheese but no bun, 1 serving of fast food or frozen fries, raw veggies like carrots, cucumber, broccoli, etc. with ranch dressing. (A large order of McDonald’s French fries split 3 ways – our kids split one of the thirds – is equal to 1 carb serving and has 2 g. fiber.)
- Dessert – Frozen banana on a stick, which is simply a peeled half of a banana with a craft stick inserted that’s been frozen until firm, and ends up having a creamy texture like ice cream when frozen.
- Breakfast – Toaster waffle with sliced strawberries (fresh or thawed frozen) and a squirt of canned whipped cream, 2 scrambled eggs (with cheese and real bacon crumbles, optional).
- Lunch – Cooked turkey cubes, 15 Crunchmaster’s GF Multi-Grain Crackers OR 1 serving Food Should Taste Good brand Multigrain Chips and cucumbers with hummus (we like Athenos red pepper hummus), and a small apple.
- Dinner – Chicken pesto pizza with artichokes and roasted red peppers on an Udi’s GF pizza crust (about 2/3 of a pizza equals 2 carb servings). Top the crust with pesto and grilled or leftover cooked chicken seasoned with salt and pepper. Add whatever veggies you like – we like artichokes, roasted red peppers (which you can roast on Monday with the broccoli), mushrooms and black olives. We use an Italian cheese blend, but if you can afford goat cheese, it’s wonderful!
- Dessert – Fresh fruit salad made with red grapes, mango and kiwi.
- Breakfast – If desired, treat yourself to 1/8 of a low-sugar mixed berry cobbler made with a package of frozen mixed berries poured into an 8×8 pan. Combine 1½ c. oats, ½ c. whole grain flour (I like Hodgson Mill’s GF whole grain baking mix, but any GF blend will do, as would whole wheat flour), ¼ c. brown sugar, ¼ tsp. salt, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. baking powder, and 1 T. ground flax (optional). Stir in 1/3 c. oil and one egg. If desired, add 1/4 c. chopped nuts, like pecans. Stir together and spread over berries. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla yogurt (instead of ice cream – this is breakfast). I like Dannon natural vanilla yogurt or Mountain High yogurt, which is also natural and has a little less sugar than Dannon. For more protein, try using Greek yogurt. You can substitute just about any fresh or frozen fruit (chopped apples with a little extra cinnamon, peaches, fresh berries), but frozen fruit is easiest.
- Lunch/Sunday Dinner – Grilled fish or salmon burger patty (we like Trident frozen salmon burgers) with lemon juice or Herb Crusted Pork, mashed potatoes or leftover rice, grilled or sauteed squash (zucchini, yellow summer squash, onions & peppers, if desired, in olive oil with coarse salt and pepper sprinkled on AFTER cooking to avoid mushiness), and fresh pineapple.
- Dinner/supper – I like easy suppers on Sunday that don’t require much cooking (or dishes!), like crackers or homemade popcorn, chopped turkey or ham cubes, cheese, raw veggies, and grapes or apple slices.
Need more ideas? There are quite a few low sugar recipes, including desserts and muffins, on this blog. Leave a comment if you’d like to see more menus in the future.