Dear JJ: I find designing meals the biggest obstacle to weight loss. How much and what to eat become confusing, and oftentimes I find myself overeating or eating too much of the wrong thing. How can I fix meals that help me lose weight without becoming hungry a few hours later?
Designing a healthy, fat-burning, filling, satisfying meal can become a challenge. Many clients tell me they don't have time to count, sort, weigh, or otherwise measure their food.
That's why I created the perfect plate, which can simplify healthy eating in just four steps. Properly designed, the plate reduces hunger between meals, creates steady sustained energy and focus, and helps you burn fat for fuel.
When I tell people the right foods can keep you full, focused, and burning fat loss for four to six hours, they often appear incredulous. Yet once they follow these four steps, they no longer experience snacking urges or cravings for the hot donuts their coworker brought in.
Once you get the hang of it, every meal -- whether you're dining out, traveling, or fixing a meal for your picky family -- becomes a delicious opportunity for fast, lasting fat loss and optimal health.
Step One: Add Protein
Protein comes from the Greek word "protos," which means "of prime importance," for a reason. "Proteins make up every part of your body from your skin and hair to your blood and muscles," writes The Active Times. "Without protein you couldn't live."
Studies show protein fills you up, keeps you satisfied, and decreases cravings. Because adequate protein steadies your appetite, you're less likely to nosedive into the double fudge brownies.
Ideally, women should get 75 to 80 grams and men should get 100 to 120 grams of protein each day. Stress, body weight, and activity levels will vary your protein levels. If numbers don't appeal to you, simply ensure about one quarter of your plate contains high-quality protein.
Optimal protein sources include organic, free-range, cage-free, grass-fed, and no-hormones-added sources whenever possible. When you choose fish, avoid farm-raised fish and fish at risk for medium or high levels of the toxic heavy metal mercury, like orange roughy and swordfish.
Step Two: Include Healthy Fats
Healthy fats reduce your appetite and stabilize your blood sugar by slowing the release of sugar into your bloodstream.
Dietary fat still gets a bad rep in some circles, though more recently studies vindicate even once-maligned saturated fat. As long as you get fat from whole, unprocessed foods, you're fine. The only truly bad fats are damaged fats (think cheap-o vegetable oils) and trans fats.
Among her healthy fat sources, Sarah Klein recommends avocado, nuts, salmon, olives, and flaxseed. Quality especially matters with fat, so choose organic produce, grass-fed beef, and wild-caught fish.
Ideally, you should have two to three servings of healthy fats at every meal. Men and athletic women can go up to four. One serving would be one tablespoon of olive oil, one-quarter avocado, four ounces cold-water fish, about 10 nuts, one tablespoon of nut butter, or 10 olives.
Aim for about one-quarter of your plate as healthy fats. Remember protein-rich grass-fed beef, free-range poultry, barnyard eggs, and wild-caught fish all help meet your fat quota.
Step Three: Load up on Leafy and Cruciferous Veggies
Put a dozen nutrition experts in a room and we'll probably agree about very little, yet nearly everyone concurs non-starchy vegetables should become your plate foundation.
Check out the powerhouse status of your veggie favorites here, which come loaded with phytonutrients, nutrients, and fiber.
Shoot for up to 10 or more veggie servings a day, using a half cup cooked, one cup raw as a serving size). To make that easier, just fill about two-thirds of your plate with veggies. Sautéing them in coconut oil or ghee provides major flavor while helping you better absorb the veggies' fat-soluble nutrients.
Step Four: Fill the Remainder with Slow-Release, High-Fiber Carbs
Bypass the nutrient-empty, high-sugar impact white rice, potatoes, and other starches for quinoa, legumes, spaghetti squash, and other high-fiber choices that absorb more slowly so they steady your blood sugar.
Aim for one to two servings of high-fiber starchy carbs per meal or snack, using a half cup cooked as a serving. Larger or more athletic men can have three servings per meal.
Implement these four simple components and every meal can become healthy, filling, satisfying, while keeping you full and burning fat for hours.
Do you follow your own plate formula when you design meals? Share your strategy below. And keep those great questions coming at AskJJ@jjvirgin.com.