Are your meals balanced? Today, with all the nutrition information out there, it’s very easy to over think how to eat healthy and balanced. Everyone seems to have their own definition of eating “clean” and their own opinion on how to everyone else should be eating too.
The best advice I give my clients is this: The best “diet” or meal plan is the one that works for you and you can live with. Once you figure out that balance, it’s easy. But figuring out what that is for you can be a very long and tedious process. But if you strive to have balanced meals, you’re off to a great start. Here are some basic steps you can take to get started.
First off, let’s define what balanced means. For me, and for most people, balance means all macronutrients are present and accounted for – Fats, Protein, and Carbohydrates.
Some people really aren’t aware of what is considered a protein, a fat, or a carb so here are some examples in case you’re a little behind in Nutrition 101.
Fats – olive oil, nuts, avocado, nut butters, coconut oil, butter
Protein – fish, chicken, turkey, pork, beef, eggs
Carbs – fruits, veggies, breads, cereals, grains, oats, rice, pasta
How much of each is going to depend on your goals. But here are some general guidelines I try to follow:
- Protein should be the size of your palm – this is a very generic rule but it’s universally accepted as the norm. Take a look at your protein on your plate and compare it to your palm. Is it close? Is it way off? Make adjustments and dig in!
- Carbs should be in the form of veggies/greens – This is usually a salad or a piece of fruit. Are you getting the recommended daily intake of 7-9 servings of fruit and veggies? Most people don’t. Just remember, no one ever overdosed on veggies.
- Fats are usually used as the cooking oils or dressings so they shouldn’t take up too much of your plate – Fats don’t make us fat. They help make us feel full and we need those good healthy fats that contain omega-3’s. Don’t ever be afraid of fat!
- Your greens/veggies should take up a large portion of your plate. Think of them as filler, literally filling up on veggies before you even stick a fork and knife in your protein
- Your protein should take up the rest of the plate living very little room for “extras.” I go over what those Extras are below.
- Ask yourself if all macronutrients are accounted for. What are you missing? How can you replace something that’s missing?
- If you’re already eating balanced, it might be a good idea to weigh and measure you food. Many people use the “eye-ball” approach a bit too much and could be consuming more (or in some cases LESS) than what they think they’re eating. Invest in a food scale and start measuring out your portions. It’s an excellent way to review what you’ve been taking in and a small way to hold yourself accountable to sticking with your plan.
Eliminate the Extras
Think of “extras” as those foods that have little to no nutritional value. Almost like decorations on a plate. If you don’t care about having much balance on your plate, then go ahead and eat these. But if you really want to strive for 90% balance, it might help to cut back or completely eliminate these “special occasion” foods.
- Rolls, biscuits, breadsticks, muffins, etc. You usually find these on the dinner table at restaurants before you even order your entree. Not necessary to fill up on these!
- Alcohol, sugary sodas, diet pop, juices. You really want to think of these as “once-in-a-while” treats and never your beverage of choice.
- Sauces, syrups, creamy dressings. Find healthy alternatives or make your own.
- 100 Calorie Snack packs. Why are these considered extras? Because I’d be willing to bet you’ve had more than 1 of these snacks in a given day. They don’t fill you up because they contain little nutritional value and usually no protein. Protein will help you stay fuller longer, whereas pre-packaged snacks leave you wanting more.
And don’t forget….
- Where’s your water? Hydration should be a staple in your daily routine
- Don’t scarf down your food. Eat slowly and enjoy the meals that you make. If you must, set a timer for 20 minutes and force yourself to eat slower. You’ll be glad you did!
- Think of each meal as a food opportunity. Will your next opportunity get you one step closer to your goals? Or will it deter from your goals? Think and choose wisely.
- How big is your plate? If you’re eating your meals on a huge plate, chances are you try to fill that plate with food leaving no spaces in between. Consider eating off of a smaller plate. It can be a visual game changer!
A couple examples of balanced meals would be:
- Grilled chicken breast on a bed of greens and a side of brown rice. The salad is dressed with an oil based dressing. The chicken is the protein, your salad/greens as well as the brown rice are your carbs and your salad dressing is the fat.
- Egg white and Whole Egg omelet with spinach and sauteed in coconut oil with a side of oatmeal. Your eggs and egg whites are your protein, your fat is the coconut oil and your carb is the oatmeal and the spinach.
- Even snacks can easily be balanced – Yogurt with some nut butter mixed in and a piece of fruit. Yogurt is your protein, nut butter is your fat and the fruit is your carb.
Take these simple steps and make your meals balanced every time. Once you get some practice preparing and logging your meals, it will become second nature. Remember, eating should be a stress-free part of your day. If you get off-balance, no need to worry. Make your next meal as balanced as you can, and get back on track. Print this post out and put it on your fridge. Keep it with you or save it to your phone and refer to it the next time you’re trying to stay balanced.