How to Build a Balanced Meal
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Category: Health & Wellness
How to Build a Balanced Meal
There are many factors to consider when planning meals, such as other family members, work schedules, daily activities, and even plans for traveling. Sometimes when we get focused on a plan for the week ahead, we can lose sight of how to prepare a plate for the next meal.
Researchers and medical professionals agree that the food we consume matters. The main benefit of planning meals is control over what goes into your daily diet. Food not only provides essential nutrients, but it also sustains our bodies on a daily basis. Making informed choices when putting a plate together improves overall health and longevity.
- Fill half of your plate with vegetables. Focusing on the nutrient dense, non-starchy vegetables is important, as they are a source of energy and help stabilize blood sugar and insulin levels. Additionally, these vegetables contain many vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that function through protective mechanisms with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.1
- Starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes and squash are nutrient-dense but higher in carbohydrate content. While these can effectively meet energy needs, they are best consumed in moderation or in combination with a protein source to decrease the insulin response.
- Athletes or those who exercise regularly may add additional carbohydrates to meet their energy expenditure needs by incorporating more nutrient dense vegetable carbohydrate sources. Another source of complex carbohydrates are grains including quinoa, wild rice, buckwheat and legumes as these are often less difficult for the digestive system and metabolism.2
- Fruits are best consumed in moderation as they have the potential to raise blood sugar and insulin levels.
Consuming quality protein with every meal is one of the keys to optimal health, especially its ability to regulate lean mass and body composition.2 Complete proteins include eggs, meat, fish, seafood, and poultry. In addition, a quality protein is organic, grass-fed or wild-caught, as they do not contain unhealthy hormones, pesticides or preservatives. Thus, these proteins support adrenal health and improve mental endurance to keep you focused.
- Vegetarian complete protein sources include quinoa, buckwheat, sprouted breads, legumes and soy.
- Fat is essential for optimal wellness because fatty acids build cellular membranes and are a direct fuel source among other beneficial cardio-metabolic effects.3 In addition to eating fatty fish, prepare foods with extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, organic butter and ghee for more healthy fats. Furthermore, pick snacks such as avocados or nuts and seeds that are naturally high in healthy fats.
A few more tips to make the most of your plate:
Take Your Time. Savor your food. Enjoy the taste and textures. Eating quickly may cause you to eat too much. Satiation and satiety are controlled by factors that begin when a food is consumed and continue as it enters the gastrointestinal tract and is digested and absorbed.
- As food moves down the digestive tract, signals are sent to the brain, and gut hormones are produced that affect energy balance in a variety of ways, including slowing gastric emptying, acting as neurotransmitters, and reducing gastrointestinal secretions.4
Use A Smaller Plate. This helps with portion control and allows you to feel satisfied without overeating.
Try New Foods. Make a list of the foods that agree with your body and you enjoy. Keep it interesting by picking new foods and rotating them through your shopping lists.
- For example: if you think salads are a bit of a snooze, spruce them up by tossing in almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, apples, or quinoa. You may find a new favorite recipe!
Stock good snacks. Keep a supply of walnuts, almonds, blueberries, cucumber slices, sliced jicama or carrot and celery sticks handy during the day to encourage another serving of fruit and veggies.
- Slavin, Joanne L., and Beate Lloyd. “Health Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables.” Advances in Nutrition 3.4 (2012): 506–516.
- Larsen, Thomas Meinert et al. “Diets with High or Low Protein Content and Glycemic Index for Weight-Loss Maintenance.” The New England journal of medicine 363.22 (2010): 2102–2113.
- Wang, Li et al. “Effect of a Moderate Fat Diet With and Without Avocados on Lipoprotein Particle Number, Size and Subclasses in Overweight and Obese Adults: A Randomized, Controlled Trial.” Journal of the American Heart Association: Cardiovascular and Cerebrovascular Disease 4.1 (2015): e001355.
- Benelam B. Satiation, satiety and their effects on eating behaviour. Nutr Bull. 2009;34:126–73
We hope that you find this article helpful!
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