There’s a reason South Beach Diet is so appealing. We cook for you. And by cook, we mean we have a team of chefs that create fresh, nutritious meals that are high in protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals and flavor. All you have to do is heat them up. So…we get why creating DIY meals and snacks is intimidating.
On the South Beach Diet, you’re responsible for cooking or ordering two DIY breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners and two snacks over the course of the week. They can be spread out over two days or spaced all throughout the week. The point is that by incorporating DIY meals and snacks into your diet, you have the flexibility to go out to eat, having friends over for dinner and most importantly, learning the principles of a balanced meal that you can carry with you even after your weight loss journey is over. And to do that, you need to know how to prepare your own nutritious meals. You’ve got this. Really.
Here are eight tips to get you started with DIY meals and snacks :
1. Stick to What You Know
Are you used to going through the drive-thru for a double cheeseburger? While the idea of a fast food favorite should be avoided, enjoying a cheeseburger, believe it or not, is still an option as long as you follow the South Beach Diet guidelines with Protein, Good Carbs, Non-Starchy Veggies and more. When heading out to eat, let South-Beach-approved foods and pre-made meals be your guide whether you’re ordering out or cooking at home. Love our Artichoke & Spinach-Stuffed Chicken Breast but heading out to dinner? Ask the restaurant for grilled or baked chicken with the same ingredients or new combinations—tomato and basil, spinach and mushrooms, or onions and peppers.
2. Home Sweet Home
The best way to manage portions for your DIY meals and snacks and be in total control of what you’re eating is to cook at home. People who frequently cook dinner at home consume fewer calories than those who cook less and consume fewer calories when they eat out, says research published a November 2014 study by Public Health Nutrition. With restaurants adding to already inflated portions, it can be challenging to stay on track. But we’ve got you covered—just ask the server to box up a third of your food before it arrives at your table. Or, order one entrée and split it two or three ways.
3. Out and About
We’ve got a few more bright ideas for when you eat out—because you will. Avoid buffets; they’re just asking patrons to overeat. Seek out a restaurant with a diverse menu and good selection of fresh food and ask for a lighter-fare menu or guideline to help streamline your options. Then, ask your server to hold the bread so it’s never a temptation. Order a salad or veggie-based soup to start. Beware entrees and main courses that don’t list each ingredient and try to avoid foods with a glaze, crispy coating or creamy dipping sauce. If it’s a special occasion—and you’ve planned the rest of the day accordingly—have one drink (12-ounce beer, 4-ounce dry red or white wine, or cocktail with 1.5 ounces of liquor), split an appetizer or have the smallest dessert on the menu (and share it if possible).
4. Don’t Procrastinate
If you enjoy South Beach meals for five days straight, that means you’re left with making your own DIY meals and snacks for two days in a row. Now, if you work through the week and have time to DIY on the weekend, great! But if your weekends, too, can be a bit unpredictable, a little planning ahead can save you from making poor game-time decisions. Always keep eggs, cheese, whole grain bread and a few veggies on hand to whip up a quick omelet or egg sandwich. Also spend a little time on Saturday and Sunday to meal plan. Try preparing a few make-ahead meals to eat throughout the week. Map out your meals, snacks, and recipes for the whole week, not just a day or two. Then, do all your shopping before your busy, work week begins. You’ll thank yourself later.
5. Extra, Extra—Also Free!
You know the egg, cheese and veggie omelet you ate yesterday? With 2 tablespoons of salsa, 1 tablespoon of sour cream and a squeeze of lime juice, you can use the same ingredients to make huevos rancheros today. How so? Salsa and sour cream are Extras and lime juice is a Free Food on South Beach. Each “Extra” should be no more than 35 calories and 6 grams of carbs. Limit your extras to three each day. Free foods are unlimited; enjoy as much as you like. Herbs (Free), cream (Extra), mustards (Free) and vinegar (Free) are the foundation of endless sauces. Check The Palm for recipes and inspiration! >
6. Old Habits Die Hard
How does your mom—or your grandma—fix you a plate? There’s probably a big slab of meat, piles of potatoes and a scoop of veggies, right? One of the biggest things you need to learn when you’re cooking for yourself is portion control. Mom may have good intentions but her order isn’t quite right. The largest food portion on your plate should be Non-Starchy Veggies followed by a 3-oz serving of a Protein and a half-cup of a Good Carb. What does that look like? Measure out each serving until you get used to seeing it and trade your 11” or 12” dinner plate for a salad plate so the food looks more plentiful on it. Harvard Health conducted research that has sown eating with chopsticks can slow you down while you eat which gives your body a better shot of getting the “I’m full, stop eating” message across. You can also avoid the temptation to eat seconds by leaving your food (however impressive it may be) in the kitchen. Out of sight, out of mind.
7. Variety Is Key
Have you mastered roasted broccoli? Maybe grilled chicken breast? Terrific! Just don’t stop there. You need to eat a balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, meats and more to get all the vitamins and nutrition your body needs from food. The good news is branching out is easier than you think. Virtually any vegetable can be roasted. Try carrots, cauliflower, mushrooms, eggplant or artichokes: Coat with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 400 degrees (or so). Then try grilling salmon, tilapia or a sirloin steak. Sure, the times and temperatures vary from food to food but the concepts are the same, and you’ll get better with every attempt. A great way to start trying new ingredients is to pick seasonal items. In the middle of summer when farmers’ market produce is at its peak of freshness, buy it up and get cooking.
8. Still Feeling Lost?
Ask for help. South Beach Diet has dedicated weight loss counselors you can consult (for free, as many times as you like) when you’re in need of guidance—including DIY meals and snacks guidance. Whether it’s via phone, live chat or email, the counselors can be reached from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, EST. Need some in-kitchen training? Watch some cooking shows on television, ask the butcher or seafood clerk at the supermarket for guidance or better yet, enroll in a cooking class or two. It could be a fun experience to do it with your spouse or friend. If that friend (or another) has more cooking expertise than you, you can also bring the class to your kitchen!