With so many mixed messages around nutrition and health, it can be tricky to work out just what makes a ‘balanced meal’. But it doesn’t have to be complicated. To ensure you achieve the right balance and good nutrition, follow this simple formula every day.
The principle behind loading up each meal is to get your core ingredients right. This can be achieved by in three simple steps.
Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, always include brightly coloured fruit or vegetables. We tend to stick to eating the same fruit or veg on most days of the week. To obtain a wider array of vitamins and minerals, be sure to include lots variety and colour, as well as eating ‘in season’ where ever possible.
It’s recommended to have 2 serves of fruit every day. Breakfast and snacks are an ideal time to sneak in a serve of fruit. Top your morning muesli with one serve of chopped fresh fruit or whip up a fruit smoothie, then save the second piece for a snack.
When it comes to dinner or lunch, focus more on vegetables. Fill half your plate with veggies or salads (excluding white potatoes). They are packed with vitamins, minerals and fibre and are low in calories, which means you can eat a lot of them without gaining weight. Try a mix salad in a wrap for lunch and steamed or stir-fried veg at dinner.
Carbohydrates provide you with the energy that your brain and muscles need to work properly. The key is to choose the right type in the right amount. As a general guide, aim for a ¼ plate carbohydrates (½ cup to 1 cup). Where possible, choose unprocessed wholegrain varieties, such as quinoa, brown rice, basmati, oats, rye, spelt, barley, soba noodles. These tend to be higher in fibre and have a milder effect on blood sugar and insulin than white bread, white rice, and other refined grains. This keeps you satisfied for longer and the sugar cravings at bay.
When dishing out protein, it’s important to not go overboard: a serving is about the size of your fist (roughly 150g) or a ¼ plate full. Salmon is an excellent source of protein, as well as heart healthy omega-3 fats. Other quality proteins include lean chicken, turkey, lamb, pork, beef and other fish. Vegetarians can have 100g of tofu (soy), two eggs or half a cup of lentils and pulses (lentils, kidney beans and chickpeas). Limit processed meats such as bacon and sausages.
Herbs and spices. Indeed, cooking with fresh, dried or ground herbs not only adds flavour, but also boosts your antioxidant intake and helps you cut back on added salt and sugar.
Fats. Choose healthy vegetable oils like olive oil which have proven health benefits. Other healthy fats include nuts and seeds and avocado. It’s recommended to eat a handful of nuts every day (roughly 30 grams). Enjoy nuts as a post workout snack, or sprinkle sesame seeds or cashews over your stir-fry. Or drizzle 30ml of cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil over vegetables or salad and top your morning toast with avocado.