Nagina’s guide to easy meal planning


Nagina Abdullah


January 7, 2015

Man eating burger.

A friend of mine used to be an athlete in high school and college. She has a busy job and 2 kids, and lately she has been trying to regain her energy.

She lost several pounds in one week. When she told me about it, I asked her what she did.

In my past, I would have thought, “Did she exercise 5 days a week? Did she eat hardly anything?”

Now I know those strategies dont work. What she did tell me was interesting, though.

“Nagina, I lost weight because I planned my meals ahead of time.”

She didn’t want to leave anything up to chance. When the week starts, its as if a tornado passes through. Theres work, after-work activities, kids, dinners, and more. She doesn’t have time to have control over what she eats. She would eat junk if healthy meals werent available at her fingertips.

Her goal was to gain back energy and she knew she would also lose weight in the process. She wanted to make it fun so she made it a game. She tried to see if she could get as much stamina as when she was a competitive athlete.

She tested different things during her day — if her breakfast gave her a dip or boost in energy, if her snack was filling, and if she felt good throughout the day.

She had fun with trying out different things. She knew she had to make it fun to work. I love this approach!

Meal Planning is a powerful way to lose weight

When you are ready for a meal, theres a lot of “other stuff” thats in the way — like hunger, temptation, and being tired which leads you to eat fast and unhealthy.

If you set up your week before youre in the moment, it doesn’t matter if youre tired or hungry — you will still make a good decision because the easiest option is already prepared and ready.

Meal planning is an example of a powerful system you can set up in your life to consistently see more energy and weight-loss.

Youre setting up your life to reach your goals. My recommendation is to set up this fool-proof plan so you dont have to think. We all think too much during the days and with our other responsibilities – let’s make it easy on ourselves!

There are ranges of meal planning, and as a busy ambitious woman, I know you dont have time on the weekends to spend hours cooking.

How NOT to meal plan

I recently read an article from My Fitness Pal called, “A Beginners Guide to Meal Planning.” Though I think it could be a helpful guide to some, there are about 10 detailed steps which sounded like an executive-level strategic plan that I used to do for Fortune 100 companies. It started out with an “Assessment” that included 4 sub-steps followed by “Mapping” out your menu. It also included creating a “Master” recipe list, followed by several more detailed steps.

Doesn’t it sound like a corporate strategy?

Personally I would give up after step 1, “assessment” — even just reading it was a lot of work!

Meal planning can sound like it takes a lot of time and maintenance, but not if you do it my way.

Naginas Easy 3-Step Meal Planning Technique

1. Make 2 sides during the weekend, which should consist of:
Bean, lentil or healthy carb + vegetable dish


(you can mix and match these options too)`
Make easy sides like the ones above, and they can be refrigerated for most of the week. You can pull them out every evening for dinner and pack for lunch the next day. Choosing sides with flavors and spices (does not have to be spicy) will make you want to eat it. Spices and flavors really work themselves into the dish more over time, so they taste even better each day!

2. Store food in glass containers, which helps them keep their freshness for longer (I tested this myself). Each side can be stored for at least 4 days in a glass container. Buy different sizes to store and transport to work. You can also buy plastic containers to transport to work because they are lighter. However, plastic containers do not keep food as long as are not safe for longer-term storage due to the material of the plastic so its better not to store there for multiple days.

Here are my favorite glass containers: Kinetic Go Green Glasslock Series (we have the 64, 37 and 17 oz. sizes)

3. During the week, make an easy protein, preferably using white meat or eggs, such as grilled chicken, fish, or an omelet. You can also have a whey protein shake.

Pair this protein with the sides you already have prepared and it will be delicious! Make extra so you can take to work the next day.

Note: If you have extra time, you can also marinate and/or prepare your protein portion on the weekends. See these examples: Cumin Coriander Fish or Lamb Kabobs: A great choice to help avoid holiday weight gain (can replace lamb with ground turkey for a lighter dish).

Imagine if you came home from work to Cumin Coriander Fish, Yellow Lentils and Roasted Vegetables! How much easier would it be for you to lose weight?

Do you see how you would be setting yourself up for more energy + weight-loss?

You can also pack these for lunch the next day. Your mouth will be watering at lunch time!

I share my recommended breakfasts in this post (located on the bottom).

Im talking about setting up your meal planning system this early in the year because its THAT important for you to lose weight.

If theres one thing you can do thats a big bang for your buck — its to think ahead for the week.

I recommend meal planning as a priority for you to lose weight if you are not already doing it.

Please leave me a comment below and let me know how you’re planning to get started and your questions around meal planning. What will your dishes be for the first week?

My Support For You

I offer free 45-minute Food & Weight-Loss Breakthrough sessions by phone or Skype to help you lose weight, gain energy, and reach your weight-related goals through what you eat. During the session you will:

  • Create a crystal clear vision for the life you will live in your slimmer, lighter body with more energy
  • Uncover hidden food and lifestyle challenges that may be sabotaging your weight loss efforts and destroying your energy
  • Leave our session renewed, inspired, and ready to lose the weight you want and gain the energy you need
If you would like to apply for a breakthrough session, fill out the application here. If I think I can help you, I will contact you within 1 week.

Note: If you have already had a session with me, you can re-apply and we can revisit your goals and where you are today. Sign up here.

Avatar photo

Nagina Sethi Abdullah, BA, MBA

Nagina Abdullah is a health coach for middle-aged women and professionals. She coaches women to boost their metabolism naturally, shed pounds and keep them off. Her work with weight loss clients led to the creation of Masala Body, an online weight loss platform that provides an easy and accessible system that helps women sustainably lose weight. She has helped over 1200 women successfully lose from 10-80 lbs and create a sustainable lifestyle change. Nagina earned her degree in Molecular and Cell Biology from UC Berkeley.

Reader Interactions


  1. MS says

    Thank you for these tips, for making it easy! This is exactly what I need right now. i’m finding that I really need to plan my meals, snacks, and my toddler’s meals and snacks (hopefully we’ll both eat the same thing) i love planning but meal planning always seemed so hard.with these tips you’ve made it super easy. Will let you know how it went!


  2. Serpah says

    Thanks for your easy 3 step meal planner. I have been struggling with the idea of meal planning for a while now and I really appreciate this easy approach. Setting up a chart of meals for the week isn’t appealing to me, but I really want something that allows me to plan with some flexibility. I’m going to take that plan on.

  3. Jana says

    Hi Nagina, I have been an avid reader for some time, but this post on meal planning really nailed it home and I finally did start this week.. I made garbanzo beans on Sun along with red split lentils with carrots (gone by Tue) and today tried my luck at cumin coriander fish and eggplant bellpepper medley. Both are edible, but will need some tweaking as I added balsamico instead of vinegar in the first, and too much chilli in the second. Still, its a good and fast supper and will last me& my fiancee hopefully till Thursday at least.

    • Nagina says


      I’m so happy to hear that you starting trying out meal planning! You have done such a great job. It is normal to need to find what recipes work and keep trying it out and you will find your rhythm. Try the fish with white vinegar and it will have a much different taste. Keep it up!!

  4. Scott says


    Do you have some suggestions for a teen daughter that will not ANY kind of bean or ANY seafood? As a single father who commutes 3 hrs/day I need to prepare somethings in advance. We’ve tried the cockpot but are running out of fresh ideas. Suggestio
    ns please.

  5. Sandy says

    I sent off for the free diet book. I can do this. This week I had some chicken curry salad from Trader Joes. And I realized that I have always loved the type of spices you have mentioned. I think my biggest issue will be preparing ahead of time( but now that I know that is what one needs to do, I’m going to do it) My hubby doesn’t like these spices, so I have to prepare my food ahead so that I don’t start eating the type of things he eats. I’m glad I found your site. Actually I heard about you from the AZL video but your heart and soul came through in the video and made me want to check out your site. The weight issue is one of the things I need to deal with in order to achieve some of my other goals. Thanks so much for being who you are in your interview with Ramit.

  6. chloe says

    Thanks for sharing about the glass containers. I had no idea

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