Sometimes my clients request "compact" meal ideas, typically for occasions when they need to feel nourished but can’t look or feel stuffed (if they have to wear a form-fitting outfit for example). But petite meals don’t always equate to tiny calorie counts, and the opposite is also true. On days when you’re craving volume, you can eat what I like to call 'large but light' meals. Here are four meal examples (a day's worth) that provide a whole lotta bites for fewer than 500 calories each - and each meets the '5 piece puzzle' guidelines from the weight-loss plan in my newest book (note: 1 cup is about the size of a baseball or tennis ball):
A large smoothie made from 1/2 cup each frozen pitted cherries and blueberries, ¼ cup dry rolled oats, 1 cup organic skim or soy milk, 2 Tbsp almond butter and a dash of cinnamon
Total volume: whips up to almost 3 cups
2 cups baby mixed greens dressed with 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice topped with ½ cup cooked, chilled red quinoa, ½ cup chick peas and ¼ of a ripe avocado, sliced
Total volume: over 3 cups
3 cups air popped popcorn sprinkled with ¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese, chipotle seasoning and 2 Tbsp toasted sunflower seeds
1 cup grapes
Total volume: almost 5 cups
2 cups raw veggies (like onions, mushrooms and peppers) sautéed in 1 tbsp each sesame oil, Japanese rice vinegar and 100% orange juice with 1 tsp fresh grated ginger, served over a bed of a half cup wild rice, topped with a half cup edamame
Total volume: 3 cups
Total volume for the day: nearly 14 cups of food!
Portion control is important when you’re reaching for foods that pack a lot of calories per bite, like cookies and ice cream, but it’s perfectly OK to pump up your plate with generous servings of foods like fruits, veggies and popped popcorn when a petite sized meal just won’t cut it.
Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is Cinch! Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.