Hello, I’m a new member. I’m a 360 lb. and 5’8” female. I don’t know where to start with my nutrition. What do I eat? What serving size should I eat? How many meals a day and when do I eat? What should I shop for when buying food and drinks? Thank you.

– Sherland B.


Hello Sherland and welcome! Getting started on a new eating plan can be overwhelming. I’m guessing you have some idea of what healthier choices look like, though. Key points on choosing good foods are to:

  • Focus on complex carbohydrates
  • Eat plenty of vegetables
  • Choose lean protein and low-fat dairy
  • Opt for plant sources of fat
  • Avoid fried food, candy, junk food, alcohol and soda

Most often people don’t need nutrition information which you can get from a book but rather, they could use guidance on lifestyle and behavior. Your best bet may be to meet with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who can work with you to create a personalized plan based on your lifestyle and goals.

Without the level of detail necessary to give personalized advice, my initial nutrition advice would be to follow the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans which are supported in the recommendations and MyPlate checklists. For an estimated 1800 calories that would be daily intake of:

1 ½ cups FRUIT

  • 1 cup of fruits counts as:
  • 1 cup raw or cooked fruit; 1/2 cup dried fruit; or 1 cup 100% fruit juice


  • 1 cup vegetables counts as:
  • 1 cup raw or cooked vegetables; 2 cups leafy salad greens; or 1 cup 100% vegetable juice

6 ounces GRAINS

  • 1 ounce of grains counts as:
  • 1 slice bread; ounce ready-to-eat cereal; or 1/2 cup cooked rice, pasta, or cereal

5 ounces PROTEIN

  • 1 ounce of protein counts as:
  • 1 ounce lean meat, poultry, or seafood; 1 egg; 1 Tbsp peanut butter; 1/4 cup cooked beans or peas; or 1/2 ounce nuts or seeds

3 cups DAIRY

  • 1 cup of dairy counts as:
  • 1 cup milk; 1 cup yogurt; 1 cup fortified soy beverage; or 1 1/2 ounces natural cheese or 2 ounces processed cheese For a sample menu, see our answer to another member’s question by clicking here: How many calories a day should I eat and what should I be eating to lose weight?  The daily pattern above, combined with good food choices, can be helpful in creating a new routine to jump-start change.

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

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