Monday, March 19, 2012

Building a Balanced Meal

In this hustle-bustle world, too many people turn to packaged foods, high calorie snacks, and fast food to curb the hunger and refuel. The truth is, most of these foods aren’t actually satisfying. Yes, maybe in the moment that Big Mac, bag of chips, or Milky Way is going to taste good, but how is it going to you leave you feeling in a few hours? Most likely you will feel sluggish, hungry, and ready to taste again.

These fast food options leave you wanting more because they are high in fat, simple carbohydrates, and sodium. Eating high fat and high sugar items actually trigger endorphins, or the “feel-good neurotransmitters” in your brain. We then associate these types of foods with that high feeling, a pathway that can be almost an addiction. These foods lack fiber, fluid, and protein…components that help you feel full. Or more simply, aren’t balanced.

The plate model is the easiest way to create a balanced meal

Here is a visual of what your balanced plate should look like! I like to make HALF of my plate vegetables and have fruit on the side for dessert. If you aren’t a big veggie eater then this is a good place to start.

Make your plate colorful with non-starchy vegetables!
Greens, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, green beans, summer squash, asparagus, beets, Brussels Sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, eggplant, mushrooms, peppers, onions. They all count, aim for a variety to get the widest assortment of vitamins and minerals!

Fresh, frozen, canned, dried…all fruits count here. Limit the ones with added sugar or heavy syrups and be aware that the serving for dried fruit is 2 Tbsp!

Lean Protein
Poultry: Skinless breast meat (dark is ok on occasion),
90% ground chicken or turkey
Pork: Pork tenderloin, pork loin chop or roast, Canadian bacon
Beef: sirloin, top round roast, 90% lean ground beef, flank steak
Tofu, cheese, beans, eggs, nuts and seeds
Aim for fish 2 times per week! (The Omega 3 fatty acids are awesome for your diet!)

Grains and Starches
Aim for half of your starches to be whole grain! (Think brown rice or pasta, whole wheat bread/crackers, barley, rye, quinoa, oatmeal, amaranth, millet)
Other examples of starch include: Corn, peas, winter squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tortillas, beans.

As a rule of thumb, limit the amount of added fats and sweets in your diet.
If you use fats in your cooking, go for olive or canola oil, or a lower-calorie spread such as Olivio, I can’t Believe its not Butter, Smart Balance light, Brummel and Brown, Earth Balance etc.

Sweets and dessert can really add up. Watch your portion size and ask yourself if its something you really want! If it is, then go ahead, but eat mindfully and truly enjoy it.  Try splitting a dessert with a few people to cut back some calories.

Aim to build a balanced meal with this picture in mind for lunch and dinner! By adding more vegetables and cutting back on starches and protein you will be consuming fewer calories, but should still feel satisfied!  Small changes like these will lead to lifestyle changes...and long-term weight loss success.


  1. nice opinion.. thanks for sharing...

  2. Making a balance meal is not easy. We need to consider many things. The most important is, we should enjoy the food we eat. There are many alternative for each food, if you don't like a certain item, maybe you can try on one of its alternatives that suits to our taste.

  3. That's a great point Michael, it is so important to savor and enjoy the foods that you prepare. No use prepared chicken, brown rice, and steamed broccoli if you are sick of those foods and won't enjoy. That's why I aim for a variety of ingredients and pack all my recipes with tons of flavor and nutrition. After all, variety is the spice of life :)