Couples' Weight Loss Challenge: Meal Plan

Here at TheNest.com, we want to help you make this your best summer ever. So we put together a special couples' weight loss challenge to help get you ready for it. Follow the program, and we promise that in one short month you'll be looking and feeling better! We asked weight loss guru, and author of Skinny Chicks Don't Eat Salads, Christine Avanti, to create a custom meal plan just for you. Read on for her tips, tricks and mouth-watering recipes geared specifically toward couples. Bon appetit!

Avanti's weight-loss guidelines:

  • Eat within one hour of waking up to kick start your metabolism.
  • To speed up your weight loss, eat every 4 hours and try not to snack in-between meals. However, if you find that you are starving between meals, narrow the meal intervals to every 3 hour. Then, try to go back to every four hours as soon as your body allows.
  • Drink water before, during and after meals (8-10 cups). Not a huge water drinker? Add a splash of fruit juice, a slice of fresh citrus or fresh mint if you don't like the taste of plain water. Water helps flush out toxins and helps curb hunger -– so think of it as a must.
  • Reduce your caffeine intake to 2-3 cups per day if possible. Avanti recommends switching to hot or iced green tea with lemon and a drizzle of honey. But, if you love your coffee, try drinking it black for best weight loss results.
  • Avoid diet soda, refined processed packaged foods, artificial sweeteners, and any food that contains ingredients you cannot pronounce.
  • It's OK to mix up any of the meals in the plan. For example: It's fine to have breakfast for lunch or lunch for dinner. To keep grocery shopping simplified (and your taste buds happy) feel free to repeat any meal as often as you like.

Click here for Avanti's complete couples' meal plan.


Nestpert: Nutritionist Christine Avanti is a healthy weight loss specialist, author and certified chef with over 20 years of experience in the health and fitness industry. On her journey, Christine lost 30 pounds and still cannot find them! Her new book, Skinny Chicks Don't Eat Salads (Rodale) is a fun, sassy, fool-proof weight loss guide filled with over 100 ridiculously good recipes. Blessed with the gift of gab, she has been featured on Dancing With the Stars, Rachael Ray, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Tyra, E! News, TV Guide, Fox News Channel, and The Style Network and many more.

His: 1 + 1/2 servings
Hers: 1 serving
Big-n-tall His: 2 servings

To make this guide even easier to follow, Avanti created a key for these meals. Note that some meals have two symbols – for example, some meals can be prepared at home or enjoyed in a restaurant.

5: 5 minute meal

g&g: grab and go

t.o.: take out

cth : cook together at home


Breakfast options (300-400 calories)

Tip: Eat within 1 hour of waking up.

1 1/2 CUPS OF KASHI GO LEAN high protein cereal made with low fat milk (or soy) sprinkled with almond slivers and ½ cup blueberries (5)
1 SLICE CANADIAN BACON with Jarlesburg light Swiss cheese between a double fiber English muffin toasted in a toaster oven (g&g,5)
1 CONTAINER LOW FAT GREEK YOGURT
(about 6 ounces) blended with ½ cup strawberries and ½ cup blueberries sprinkled with 2 tablespoons sliced almonds (g&g,5)
1 CUP ICED COFFEE + 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder (such as Jay Robb's) + a medium banana + 1 tablespoon of almond butter mixed well in a blender (g&g,5)
1 EGG + 2 egg whites, scrambled with onions, tomato, sprinkled with a pinch of shredded cheese and half of a fresh cantaloupe (cth)
1 PEANUT BUTTER CLIF BUILDERS BAR + 1 cup seedless grapes (g&g)
ANTI AGING ACAI BERRY SMOOTHIE--see recipe below (cth)


Anti-Aging Acai Berry Smoothie Recipe
IngredientsL
1 cup blueberries, frozen
1 scoop of protein powder, Jay Robb's egg white
1 1/4 cup almond milk (or soy if you prefer)
1/4 cup acai berry juice
1 tbsp. almond butter
10 ice cubes

Preparation:
Place all ingredients in a electric mixer and blend until you reach desired thickness.

Nutriton facts: 398 calories, 28 gm protein, 45 gm carbs, 12 gm fat

Lunch options (350-450 calories)
Tip: Eat 4 hours after breakfast.

GREEK WHOLE WHEAT PITA POCKET -- see recipe below (cth)
CHICKEN TACOS -- see recipe below (cth,t.o.)
SALMON BURGER -- see recipe below (cth)
GRILLED CHEESE -- see recipe below (cth)
MINI VEGETARIAN PIZZA -- see recipe below (cth)
TURKEY SANDWICH -- 3 slices of low sodium turkey, lettuce, tomato, onion, spread with fresh avocado or order a 6" on whole wheat from Subway (cth, t.o.)
LAST NIGHT'S LEFTOVERS -- huge time and $ saver! (5)


Greek Whole Wheat Pita Pocket
Ingredients:
2 1/2 oz grilled skinless chicken breast
1 Tbsp fat-free feta
1 Whole Wheat Pita
1 Tbsp hummus
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
Cucumber, red onion, tomato, fresh mint
Splash of red wine vinegar
Splash of lemon juice
1/2 cup seedless grapes

Preparation:
Spread hummus inside pita. Stuff chicken, cucumber, onion, tomato and mint into pita. Season with vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Enjoy with fresh grapes.

Nutritional info: 401 calories, 28 grams protein, 54 grams carbohydrates, 10 grams fat


Chicken Tacos
Ingredients
3 oz grilled skinless chicken breast
Two 6" corn tortillas
1/4 cup black beans
1/4 cup rice, brown or Spanish
1/4 cup avocado, cubed
Extra virgin olive oil cooking spray
Shredded lettuce, tomato, onion, salsa

Preparation:
Use extra virgin olive oil cooking spray to grill chicken. Wrap grilled chicken breast into warm tortilla stuffed with lettuce, tomato, onion, avocado and salsa. Enjoy with black beans and rice on the side. If dining out, order two chicken soft tacos and request no cheese, no sour cream, no guac and no special sauces except salsa. Note: Chicken can be swapped for shrimp or fish.

Nutritional info: 377 calories, 28 grams protein, 50 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams fat


Grilled Salmon Burger with Arugula
Ingredients:
1 salmon patty
1 whole wheat bun
1 fresh medium pomegranate
Dijon mustard
Arugula, tomato, red onion, cornichons

Preparation:
Spread toasted bun with Dijon and top with grilled salmon patty, arugula, tomato and onion. Garnish with cornichons. Enjoy with a delicious pomegranate or a piece of your favorite fruit.

Nutritional info: 399 calories, 27 grams protein, 55 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fat


Fat-Free Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Ingredients:

2 large slices whole wheat bread

1 1/2 slices fat-free Swiss cheese

1 1/2 slices fat-free Cheddar cheese

1 small tomato, sliced

1/4 tsp dried oregano

2 tsp olive oil or olive oil spray

Preparation:
1. Place the Swiss cheese on one side of a slice of bread. Then place sliced tomato on top and sprinkle with oregano.
2. Follow with the Cheddar cheese and second piece of bread.
3. Place a medium sized frying pan over medium heat. Spray or pour olive oil into pan and cook sandwich 2 minutes on each side, until cheese is melted and bread is toasty. To help cheese to melt faster, cover the frying pan.

Nutritional info: 335 calories, 24 grams protein, 48 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fat


Vegetarian Pizza
Ingredients:
1/4 cup shredded part skim mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup shredded fat-free mozzarella cheese
1 toaster size whole wheat bagel
1/2 cup marinara sauce, divided
2 black olives, sliced
Onion, mushrooms, bell pepper, basil

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 375°F. Spread 1/4 cup marinara sauce on each half of bagel. Add cheese, olives, and your favorite veggies and place on a cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil. Toast in over for 10 minutes or until desired doneness. Note: This can also be prepared in a toaster oven.

Nutritional info: 382 Calories, 24 grams protein, 49 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams fat


Afternoon snack options (150-250 calories)
Tip: Eat 4 hours after lunch.

2 BABY BELL LIGHT
cheeses + 1 snack bag of Popchips + 1 Clementine (g&g)
1 CUP BERRY SALAD + 2 hard cooked eggs (no time to make…buy them precooked at Trader Joe's) (g&g)
2 TABLESPOONS HUMMUS DIP + 10 baby carrots + 10 celery sticks (g&g)
1 COTTAGE CHEESE DOUBLE any flavor + 12 almonds (g&g)
1/2 CUP FROZEN MANGO + 1 fresh kiwi + 1 cup pineapple juice mixed well in a blender + 12 walnuts (cth, 5)
1 GRAPEFRUIT
sectioned + 1 cup sliced strawberries + 6 ounces low fat Greek yogurt sprinkled with flax seeds (cth, 5)
2 MINI ASPARAGUS FRITTATAS premade -- recipe below (cth, 5)


Springtime Asparagus Mini-Frittatas
Ingredients:
9 egg whites (crack and strain yolks from farm fresh eggs)
3 whole eggs
2 tbsp. half and half (or just eyeball it)
1/2 lb asparagus, trimmed, blanched and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 small onion, diced
2 mini red bell peppers, julienne
2 mini orange bell peppers, julienne
1/4 cup Romano cheese, shredded
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Cooking spray

Preparation:
1. Preheat oven to 375°.
2. Wash and trim ends off asparagus. Boil asparagus until tender, approximately 6 minutes, blanch in ice water, pat dry, and cut in to 1 inch long pieces. Set aside.
3. Beat egg whites, whole eggs and Romano cheese in a medium sized mixing bowl.
4. Coat one 12 cup muffin tin with cooking spray. Otherwise use two six cup muffin tins. I have personally found that the aluminum muffin tins from the grocery store make perfectly baked mini frittatas.
5. Sauté onion, peppers and asparagus on a large frying pan with one tablespoon olive oil. Use salt and pepper to taste.
6. Place vegetables into each muffin tin half way to the top. Next, slowly pour egg mixture ¾ of the way up (to allow for rising).
7. Bake at 375° for approximately 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when pierced into the frittata.

Nutrition Facts per serving: 171 calories, 16 g Protein, 7 g Carbs, 9 g fat
Serves 4. Serving size: 3 mini fritattas


Dinner options (350-450 calories)
Tip: Eat 4 hours after mid-afternoon snack.

SPRING VEGGIE PASTA -- see recipe below (cth)
LEMON ROSEMARY GRILLED CHICKEN BREASTS + 4 roasted fingerling potatoes toasted with olive oil and fresh rosemary + spring mix drizzled with Italian dressing (cth)
GRILLED SALMON + 1 cup steamed green beans + 1 cup cooked quinoa tossed with water packed artichokes and pimentos (cth,t.o.)
10 SHRIMP sauteed with garlic and red pepper flakes in 2 teaspoons sesame oil + 1 cup frozen Asian vegetables + 1 cup cooked brown rice (find frozen brown rice at Costco, Sam's Club, Whole Foods or Trader Joe's) (cth, t.o.)
6 SUSHI ROLLS from your local Japanese restaurant, choose from salmon, spicy tuna, shrimp or eel + 1 cup steamed veggies (g&g)
CHICKEN TIKKA
(sorry, no marsala!) + 1 cup lentils or mashed curry cauliflower made at your local Indian restaurant (t.o.)
HOISIN AND GINGER BEEF STIR FRY -- see recipe below (cth)


Spring Vegetable Pasta with Artichoke Hearts and Asparagus

Ingredients:

1 pound asparagus, trimmed, blanched and cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 pound artichoke hearts (fresh or packed in water), quartered
1 red onion, cut into thinly sliced rounds
3/4 cup mozzarella, reduced fat shredded
1 pound whole wheat penne (try Barilla Plus, which is packed with fiber and protein)
1/4 cup vegetable broth (or your favorite white wine)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 oz. fresh pesto (use commercial pesto if you don't want to make it homemade)


Christine's Signature Pesto:
2 cups basil, tightly packed (about ½ of a 4 oz. box of fresh basil leaves)
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 clove crushed garlic
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, reduced fat
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Makes about 1/2 cup of thick, rich pesto.

To make pesto:
1. Combine the first 5 ingredients in a food processor or blender. Slowly pour olive oil into mixture as it's processing. Blend for about 45 seconds or until mixture looks bright green and thick.

To make spring vegetable pasta:
1. Wash, trim and blanche asparagus. Save the water for cooking the penne.
2. Cook penne according to package directions using asparagus water. (This will boost the nutrient value of the pasta.)
3. Set range to medium-high heat. In an extra large frying pan sauté asparagus, artichoke hearts and red onion in olive oil until onions begin to caramelize. If you don't have an extra large frying pan, do this in batches.
4. Deglaze pan with vegetable broth or your favorite white wine, scraping all the brown bits from the pan. Add 2 tablespoons of pesto and lightly sauté until pesto is evenly distributed.
5. Add pasta and lightly toss with a set of tongs.
6. Plate and sprinkle with shredded mozzarella.

Makes approximately 7 servings.
Nutritional info: 366 calories, 18 grams protein, 53 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams fiber, 10 grams fat


Hoisin & Ginger Beef Stir Fry

Ingredients:
2 cups jasmine rice
Paprika
1/3 cup hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (Sriracha)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic salt
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes, divided
1 pound extra lean flank steak, sliced into approximately 1 1/2" strips
1 large white onion
1 large green bell pepper
1 cup carrots, shredded
¼ fresh cilantro

Preparation:
Pour 4 cups of cold water into a medium pot and bring to a boil. Rinse rice and add to boiling water. Reduce heat and cover. Cook for 20 minutes.
Combine first 5 ingredients in a small bowl. Place steak strips and marinade into a large zip lock bag and place in the refrigerator.
Slice onion and bell pepper lengthwise and then in half, keep them separated. Using a large wok or frying pan, spray bottom of pan with cooking spray then sprinkle a little garlic salt, crushed red pepper, and black pepper. Sauté the onion until it is golden brown. About 5 minutes. Remove the sautéed onion from frying pan, and place into a medium bowl.
Coat bottom of pan with cooking spray again and repeat seasoning in step 4. Place bell pepper and carrot slivers into pan and sauté for about 5 minutes. Remove the sautéed veggies from frying and add to onion bowl.
Coat bottom of pan with cooking spray again and repeat seasoning in step 4. Place the marinated steak into pan. Pour remaining marinade into pan. Saute steak for about 5 minutes.
Add veggie mixture to pan and continue to cook for 2 minutes. Place 3/4 cup of cooked rice onto plate and add 1 1/2 cups of stir fry. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

Makes: 4 servings
Nutritional info: 400 cals., 26 gm protein, 50 gm carbohydrates, 12 gm fat.