Want to lose weight? Drop 10 pounds with this healthy meal plan

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

You may have heard someone liken the "COVID 19" to the "Freshman 15" in jest. But for many of us, the play on words is all too real. A year of being confined to the house, seeking solace from the stressful state of the world in our favorite comfort foods, and being forced to put that gym membership on hold is starting to show up on the scale.

But the good news is, you've taken the first step: You're ready to start changing your life by making new healthy habits. Way to go! Now is the time to create a plan to help you accomplish your goals. Though trying to create a healthy meal plan from scratch can seem daunting. Luckily you don't have to worry about that — TODAY nutritionist Joy Bauer is here to help!

Her "Drop 10 TODAY" plan has loads of delicious and satisfying recipe options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can mix and match all month long, repeating meals as often as you like. Plus, you can enjoy one to two Joy-approved snacks each day and unlimited non-starchy veggies.

How long will it take you to drop 10? Losing weight is personal and not a race. While some folks may drop 10 pounds in a month, others will hit their goal later and that's OK.

The best part? This plan is sustainable. It’s filled with so many options and it's nothing like a fad diet. You’ll not only feel energized and satisfied while you’re losing weight, you can keep it off for good.

(Like any other plan, always check with your doctor before starting something new.)

Below is a week's worth of menu options that can be repeated throughout the month. Simply mix and match breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks to make a custom menu just for you. (Click here to see a larger version of the meal planner!)

Drop 10 Planner UPDATED (TODAY illustration)
Drop 10 Planner UPDATED (TODAY illustration)

Breakfast recipes

Each morning meal follows a "10/4" winning combination, meaning these meals consist of at least 10 grams of protein and at least 4 grams of filling fiber to help jump-start your day and keep you energized until lunchtime. Also, sip on a “beverage booster” for an extra shot of morning energy. Choose between a cup (or two) of coffee or black/green tea. Skip the sugar and enjoy a splash of optional milk.

1. Avocado ‘n egg toast

One slice of whole grain toast topped with 1/4 smashed avocado and one poached, hard-boiled or scrambled egg, with a sprinkling of preferred herbs and ground black pepper. Enjoy with half a grapefruit or one orange on the side.

2. Egg-vegetable scramble

One whole egg and three egg whites scrambled with any veggie combination (chopped tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, spinach, peppers, green beans, etc.) and one slice of whole grain toast OR one orange or half of a grapefruit.

3. Apple protein pancakes

You can substitute apple with 1/2 cup any fruit of choice.

4. Feel good overnight oats

Or try this recipe for chocolate banana overnight oatmeal.

5. Greek yogurt parfait

The power of this colorful parfait lies in its energizing combo of protein-rich yogurt and fiber-rich berries. Add your choice of berries — fresh or frozen!

6. Energizing breakfast smoothie

This protein-packed smoothie will keep you energized until lunchtime.

7. Peanut butter berry sushi

Who wants sushi for breakfast? With this fruity spin, even the kids will dig in — no chopsticks necessary. It's fast and easy to put together and fun to devour.

8. Bacon, egg and cheese sandwich

Craving a warm and hearty morning meal that will leave you feeling focused and energized? Lean egg whites, Canadian bacon, reduced-fat cheese and a whole-grain English muffin are the secret ingredients in this slimming breakfast sandwich.

9. Blender strawberry protein pancakes

These sweet and yummy protein pancakes are a breeze to whip up (and then clean up). All you need is a blender and a skillet.

10. “Mug” French toast

French toast fanatics, this recipe is for you! It’s sweet and delicious, and there’s no skillet required.

Related: Snack and comfort food sales are soaring as people stay at home during the coronavirus crisis.

Lunch recipes

Midday meals follow Joy’s “3 P Plan” — that stands for protein, produce and powering down. At lunch, you’ll enjoy tasty options packed with ample protein (think chicken, turkey, lentils, eggs, low-fat dairy and more) and 2 cups produce (specifically non-starchy veggies from the unlimited list below). You’ll also need to take a break from electronics, including computers, TVs and smartphones. Protein and produce provide a one-two punch against hunger, helping to satisfy your appetite and showering your body with good-for-you nutrients. And by powering down electronics, you’ll be present and more mindful during the meal.

1. Drop 10 salad

Mixed leafy greens topped with 5 ounces of protein (chicken, turkey, salmon, shrimp or tofu), half-cup beans and unlimited non-starchy vegetables (see the photo at the bottom of this post for vegetables you can choose). Dress with 1-2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil + unlimited vinegar or fresh lemon juice (alternatively, you can use 2-4 tablespoons of low-calorie vinaigrette).

2. Open-faced turkey & Swiss sandwich

One slice whole-grain bread layered with 4 ounces turkey, one slice of Swiss cheese, 1 tablespoon mustard or hummus and preferred vegetables (lettuce, tomatoes, onions, roasted peppers, etc.). Enjoy with 2 cups of baby carrots on the side. *If preferred, nix the cheese and enjoy your sandwich on two slices of bread.

3. Soup and salad

Two cups of lentil, black bean or hearty vegetable soup with a side salad filled with non-starchy veggies and dressed with 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil and unlimited vinegar or fresh lemon juice (alternatively, you can use 2 tablespoons of low-calorie vinaigrette).

4. Cantaloupe and cottage cheese

Half of a cantaloupe with 1 cup low-fat cottage cheese topped with 2 tablespoons nuts or seeds of your choice and 2 cups non-starchy vegetables on the side (for example, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers or bell pepper sticks).

5. Curried chicken salad with green peas

On a bed of baby spinach leaves + 1/2 whole grain pita.

6. Quinoa chickpea tabbouleh

With 1 cup non-starchy vegetables on the side.

7. Restaurant fare: chicken or fish with veggies

Five ounces cooked fish or skinless chicken (grilled, baked or broiled) and lots of steamed, grilled or roasted veggies on the side.

8. Chicken Caesar salad wrap

Enjoy with 1 cup sugar snap peas or sliced cucumbers.

9. Open-faced tuna melt

Enjoy with side salad dressed with 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil and unlimited vinegar or fresh lemon juice.

10. Veggie omelet

Enjoy with one slice of whole grain bread and 1 cup fresh fruit salad.

Related: With all the diet advice out there, it’s easy to overlook some of the most basic nutrition guidelines — even if they're the most effective.

Dinner recipes

Dinner is all about the pregame. Before starting supper, drink 2 cups (16 ounces) flat or sparkling water and eat one large handful (about 1 cup) of non-starchy vegetables. Then enjoy your meal. This strategy helps take the edge off your hunger and enables you to start filling up.

1. Burger and Fries

A bun-less burger of choice (lean beef, turkey, vegetarian) layered with lettuce, tomato, onion and a squirt of ketchup or salsa with one serving of oven-roasted sweet potato friesand 2 cups steamed or roasted vegetables or a salad dressed with 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil and unlimited vinegar or fresh lemon juice (alternatively, you can use 2 tablespoons of low-calorie vinaigrette). You can also skip the fries and instead enjoy your burger on a half bun.

Feel like cooking? Try these simple recipes:

2. Cauliflower fried rice with shrimp, chicken, black beans or tofu

Enjoy one to two servings of cauliflower fried rice and 4 ounces cooked protein of your choice such as shrimp, fish, chicken, tofu, pork tenderloin, lean steak or poultry sausage — or 3/4 cup cooked black beans.

3. Baked fish with broccoli and sweet potato

Five to 8 ounces grilled, roasted or baked fish (cooked with 1 teaspoon olive oil, fresh lemon juice, salt, pepper and preferred seasonings) and 2 cups steamed or roasted broccoli and 1/2 baked sweet potato.

4. Grilled chicken Parmesan

Eat with 2 cups of steamed green beans or sugar snap peas.

5. Turkey sausage with sautéed peppers & onions

Enjoy up to two servings.

6. Slow cooker comfort food

Try my Chicken Curry and Vegetables or Slow Cooker Chicken and Black Bean Chili. For the Slow Cooker Chicken and Black Bean Chili, enjoy one serving with 1 dollop low-fat Greek yogurt + ¼ cup reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese + ½ cup cooked brown rice or quinoa (or half a baked potato)

7. Pork tenderloin, baked potato and carrots

Five ounces of roast pork tenderloin with 2 cups cooked carrots and half a baked potato topped with 2 tablespoons of low-fat Greek yogurt or light sour cream and/or 2 tablespoons salsa.

8. One skillet lime-cilantro shrimp

Eat with roasted broccoli or cauliflower and 1 cup cooked brown rice or quinoa.

9. Balsamic chicken

Serve with 1 cup cooked brown rice or quinoa.

10. One pan chicken with roasted veggies

Serve with 1 cup steamed edamame in the pod.


Enjoy one to two snacks each day — and add your favorites to this list! (Click here to see a larger version of Joy's approved snacks.)

15 Healthy Snacks Chart (TODAY illustration / Getty Images)
15 Healthy Snacks Chart (TODAY illustration / Getty Images)

Plus, you can enjoy any of your favorite veggies from the unlimited non-starchy vegetable list. (Click here to see a larger version of approved non-starchy vegetables.)

Non Starchy Vegetables Chart (TODAY illustration / Getty Images)
Non Starchy Vegetables Chart (TODAY illustration / Getty Images)

Get the recipes from the plan

Any health-related information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider for any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, or before embarking on any diet, exercise or wellness program.