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There are plenty of diet programs and meal plans out there, including many designed specifically for women looking to lose weight.
However, not all meal plans are equally effective when it comes to weight loss.
In fact, although many diet plans are safe, healthy, and sustainable, others can be ineffective, hard to follow, or downright dangerous.
Here are 7 of the best weight loss meal plans for women.
- Best meal planning app: PlateJoy
- Best for a plant-based lifestyle: whole foods, plant-based diet
- Best for hormone balance: low carb diet
- Best for community support: WW (Weight Watchers)
- Best for heart health: DASH diet
- Easiest to follow: Mediterranean diet
- Best for personal coaching: Noom
It’s important to keep a few factors in mind when selecting the meal plan that’s right for you.
For starters, be sure to consider your personal needs and preferences.
While some people may enjoy structured diet programs, others might prefer plans that are a bit more flexible.
Certain meal plans may also require more time and effort than others, which can be an important consideration for women who might not want to measure portion sizes or track their food intake.
Be sure to avoid diets that eliminate entire food groups or are overly restrictive. Not only are these meal plans more difficult to follow long-term, but they can also make it much more difficult to get all the nutrients you need.
Finally, be sure to talk with a healthcare professional before making any big changes to your diet. This is especially important if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking any medications.
How we chose
The meal plans featured in this article were selected based on the following criteria:
- Nutritionally balanced. Plans are well balanced, meaning they prioritize nutrient-dense foods rich in carbs, fats, and proteins and provide a good mix of vitamins and minerals.
- Effective. Plans are backed by research and have been shown to promote weight loss.
- Sustainable. Plans are not overly restrictive and can be followed long-term.
- Easy to follow. Some plans provide clear, straightforward guidelines, while others are flexible and simple, with no nutrient tracking or food logging required.
- Offers additional resources. We included a link to a book or website for each plan, many of which provide recipes, grocery lists, and sample meal plans to help you save time.
Best meal planning app
- Who it’s best for: those who have a busy schedule and are looking to simplify meal planning
PlateJoy is an app that helps simplify weight loss by providing custom meal plans and recipes tailored to your needs.
After you answer a series of questions about your diet, lifestyle, and health goals, PlateJoy builds a personalized menu for you and your household.
It also provides optimized grocery lists based on your meal plan. You can order the groceries and have them delivered directly to your door using a third-party delivery service.
In addition to adjusting the portion sizes automatically to fit your weight loss goals, PlateJoy makes it easy to prepare more tasty and nutritious homemade meals.
Studies show that eating more homemade meals could be associated with improved diet quality and reductions in body weight and body fat (
Additionally, one study found that adults who ate only home-cooked meals had 26% lower odds of obesity than those who did not eat any home-cooked meals (
While the app typically costs $12.99 per month, Healthline readers can subscribe to PlateJoy for just $4.99 per month.
Not sure if PlateJoy is for you? See what Healthline editor and registered dietitian Kelli McGrane, MS, thought of PlateJoy in this comprehensive hands-on review.
- provides personalized meal plans
- suitable for many dietary restrictions
- adjusts portion sizes based on your needs
- requires a subscription
- cost of ingredients not included
- can be time consuming to prepare meals
Best for a plant-based lifestyle
Whole foods, plant-based diet
- Who it’s best for: individuals looking for a flexible way to lose weight and improve overall health
Plant-based diets consist mostly of foods derived from plants, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
Animal products — meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy — are also sometimes included in small amounts.
Several studies have suggested that following a plant-based diet could be an effective strategy for helping reduce body fat (
One review found that people who followed a plant-based diet experienced less weight gain over 4 years than those who followed other diets (
Additionally, eating more fruits and vegetables, both of which are key components of a plant-based diet, has been linked to increased weight loss and decreased belly fat (
Not only that, but some research in women has found that eating more fruits and vegetables may be linked to a lower risk of obesity and weight gain (
For more information about following a plant-based diet, check out “The Plant-Based Diet for Beginners” by Alice Newman, which includes a sample 21-day meal plan to help you get started.
You can also check out our whole foods, plant-based diet guide.
- easy to follow
- doesn’t require counting calories or tracking nutrient intake
- may require careful planning to ensure nutritional needs are met
- no clear guidelines on specific foods to eat or portion sizes
Best for hormone balance
Low carb diet
- Who it’s best for: people who prefer structured diet plans with simple, straightforward guidelines
Low carb diets involve limiting your consumption of added sugars and foods high in carbohydrates, such as grains and starches.
Although there are various types of low carb diets, most restrict carb consumption to less than 26% of your total daily calories (
A review of 17 studies found that low carb diets were more effective for short-term weight loss than low fat diets, although the difference between the two slowly decreased over time (
Some research also suggests that low carb diets could increase the number of calories your body burns throughout the day, which may contribute to weight loss (
What’s more, other studies have found that low carb diets may offer some benefits specifically for women, including improvements in hormone levels and menstrual regularity (
However, keep in mind that very low carb diets may not be a good fit for everyone, especially women who have certain medical conditions or are pregnant or breastfeeding (
If you find that a very low carb diet is too restrictive or difficult to follow, you may want to consider trying a moderately low carb diet — with 36–44% of calories from carbs — instead (
For an in-depth look at how to follow a low carb diet to promote hormone balance, check out “Women, Food, and Hormones: A 4-Week Plan to Achieve Hormonal Balance, Lose Weight, and Feel Like Yourself Again” by Dr. Sara Gottfried.
- provides recommendations for foods to eat and avoid
- could support hormone balance and menstrual regularity
- not suitable for everyone
- some versions may be more restrictive
Best for community support
WW (Weight Watchers)
- Who it’s best for: people who need additional support to stay motivated
WW is a popular weight loss program that was founded in the 1960s.
It uses a points system, which assigns foods a certain number of points based on their nutritional value and gives users a daily budget of PersonalPoints.
It also encourages regular physical activity, provides various workout guides specifically for women, and offers options like group workshops and personal coaching for an additional fee.
Plus, it helps teach you how to make healthier food choices, so it may be a good fit for women seeking long-term, sustainable weight loss.
One large review of 39 studies found that people who used WW for 1 year lost 2.6% more body weight than a control group (
Another study showed that people who followed WW for 1 year lost more than twice as much weight as those who received a self-help booklet and 5 minutes of general nutrition advice.
The WW group also maintained a greater overall weight loss than the control group, even after 2 years (
However, keep in mind that this study was partially funded by WW, though the researchers note that this did not affect the design, analysis, or final results of the study (
WW offers several plans, starting at $22.95 per month. It also provides several sample meal plans and a variety of recipes on the WW website and app.
- offers peer support and coaching
- encourages healthy habits for sustainable weight loss
- uses simple points-based system tailored to your needs
- some subscription plans can be expensive
- requires food tracking on app
Best for heart health
- Who it’s best for: those looking to lose weight and lower blood pressure
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is an eating plan designed to help lower blood pressure levels.
The diet encourages eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources while limiting red meats and foods high in added sugar or salt.
Not only has the DASH diet been shown to improve heart health, but some research suggests that it may help facilitate weight loss as well (
One study in 293 female nurses found that greater adherence to the DASH diet was associated with a lower risk of obesity and excess belly fat (
A review of 13 studies also found that people following the DASH diet lost significantly more body weight and belly fat in 24 weeks than a control group (
In another study, older adults who followed a low calorie DASH diet for 12 weeks experienced a 6.3% reduction in body weight and a 2.5% decrease in body fat percentage (
You can read more about the DASH diet in “The Complete DASH Diet for Beginners” by Jennifer Koslo, which includes two 7-day meal plans with shopping lists and 75 heart-healthy recipes.
- supports heart health
- provides simple guidelines
- doesn’t offer organized support
- may be difficult to maintain
- requires logging food intake
Easiest to follow
- Who it’s best for: people seeking a simple diet plan that isn’t overly restrictive
Based on the traditional diets of countries such as Spain, Greece, and Italy, the Mediterranean diet is often considered one of the healthiest eating patterns.
Though it isn’t as structured as many other plans and doesn’t have any strict rules or regulations, the Mediterranean diet scored our top spot as the easiest meal plan to follow because it’s simple, sustainable, and not overly restrictive.
The diet involves eating lots of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and healthy fats such as olive oil.
As part of this diet, processed foods, sugar-sweetened beverages, red meat, and refined grains should be limited.
Several studies suggest that greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet is tied to a lower risk of weight gain and abdominal obesity and a greater likelihood of weight loss maintenance (
If you’re interested in learning more, check out “The Complete Mediterranean Diet” by Dr. Michael Ozner, which provides a 2-week meal plan and 500 nutritious recipes to try making at home.
- easy to follow
- associated with numerous health benefits
- some may prefer more structured plans
- can be time consuming
- allows alcohol, which some people may choose to avoid
Best for personal coaching
- Who it’s best for: individuals seeking an effective way to build healthy habits
Noom is a mobile app that helps users build healthy habits to support long lasting, sustainable weight loss.
Although no foods are off-limits with Noom, the program focuses on foods low in calories but high in nutrients, such as fruits and vegetables.
The app also offers support from a virtual health coach, access to an extensive library of nutritious recipes, and tools to help log and track your progress.
In one study that included nearly 36,000 people, about 78% of participants experienced weight loss while using Noom over an average period of 9 months (
Another small study showed that women who used a virtual coaching program like Noom for 8 weeks experienced significant weight loss and improvements in behaviors such as emotional eating (
Plus, Noom encourages members to eat mostly foods with a low calorie density, which has been shown to support both weight loss and fat loss (
Noom membership starts at $60 per month. The program also offers a Premium Bundle for a one-time fee of $49, which includes an online consultation and a customized meal plan and workout guide tailored to your needs.
Learn more about Noom in my comprehensive hands-on review.
- includes access to virtual coaching team
- no foods are off-limits
- promotes behavior changes
- relatively expensive
- requires users to log food intake
- not suitable for certain health conditions
- initial calorie recommendations might be too low for some people
Below is a 7-day menu with some ideas for simple meals and snacks that you can enjoy.
Keep in mind that this specific meal plan may not be suitable for you, depending on your dietary restrictions and preferences. You can also add snacks as desired to meet your needs.
|Day 1||omelet with veggies and cheese||stuffed bell peppers with ground beef, cheese, rice, and tomato sauce||sweet potato chili with side salad||homemade trail mix|
|Day 2||oatmeal with fresh fruit and walnuts||baked salmon with herbed quinoa and Brussels sprouts||grilled chicken salad with goat cheese and avocado||apple slices with peanut butter|
|Day 3||avocado toast topped with egg, tomatoes, and feta cheese||turkey and spinach lasagna with chopped salad||lemon butter cod with steamed broccoli and brown rice||fruit salad with yogurt|
|Day 4||smoothie with spinach, fruit, and protein powder||taco salad with ground beef and veggies||veggie burger with sweet potato fries||air-fried chickpeas|
|Day 5||Greek yogurt with berries and chia seeds||turkey wrap with cream cheese, spinach, and tomatoes||pasta with meatballs and roasted veggies||pita chips with hummus|
|Day 6||scrambled eggs with toast and turkey bacon||crab cakes with herbed potatoes and coleslaw||pesto grilled cheese with tomato soup||roasted edamame|
|Day 7||tofu scramble with sweet potatoes, bell peppers, tomatoes, and avocado||baked chicken with rice and lemon-garlic sauteed kale||pork chops with roasted carrots and cornbread||veggies with guacamole|
Time-saving tip: This plan was designed with variety in mind. However, to cut down on the cooking and prep, you can make large batches of each dinner and enjoy the leftovers for stress-free lunches.
Though meal planning may seem like a challenging and time consuming task, there are plenty of strategies that can make it much easier.
Here are a few tips for meal planning:
- Consider each food group. Make sure each food group is represented in your menu by including a protein, a heart-healthy fat, and a fiber-rich carbohydrate in every meal.
- Set aside time. Scheduling a specific time slot for meal planning each week is a great way to stay on track and meet your goals, especially if you’re busy throughout the week.
- Start a recipe collection. Make a habit of saving recipes you’d like to try, and then incorporate them into your weekly menu.
- Try meal prepping. Batch cooking your meals or preparing ingredients in advance can help you save time throughout the week and make it easier to enjoy more healthy, homemade meals.
- Make a grocery list. Decide which meals you’d like to prepare and what ingredients you need before heading to the store. This can help ensure that you get everything you need without spending extra money on things you don’t.
- Stock up on time-saving tools. Several kitchen tools can help streamline meal prep. A slow cooker, such as the Instant Pot, is great for hands-off recipes, and gadgets such as a rice cooker, food processor, and panini press can help shave off time in the kitchen.
Does calorie counting work for weight loss?
For some people, counting calories can be beneficial. This is because it can help increase awareness about food choices and make it easier to reduce your daily calorie intake, which could lead to weight loss (
However, keep in mind that counting your calories or tracking your food intake may promote disordered eating patterns and could foster an unhealthy relationship with food (
If you experience feelings of guilt or shame regarding your food choices, consider reaching out for support. The National Eating Disorders Association offers a free helpline, along with a variety of resources online.
Where can I find free meal plans?
There are a variety of meal planning apps and websites that provide free recipes and ideas to help get you started. You can also check out this article for some tips on meal planning for weight loss.
What’s the best subscription meal plan for weight loss?
Several subscription meal plan services are available, including PlateJoy, which curates a custom menu for you and your household based on your needs.
You might also consider trying a meal delivery service for weight loss, many of which provide meal kits or fully prepared meals to help you reach your goals.
There are a variety of meal plans for women that can help support long-term, sustainable weight loss.
When looking for a meal plan that works for you, consider your needs and preferences and the amount of time and effort required.
Steer clear of overly restrictive plans, and talk with a healthcare professional before making major changes to your diet.