How to Build a Healthy (and Delicious!) Meal
By using foundational nutrition principles and the Healthy Meal Wheel on the worksheets below, you will find that building a healthy and delicious balanced, healthy and delicious meal can be easy! [Also check out our comparison to the USDA guidelines.]
Vegetables and Fruit:
Focus on filling half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables--nutrient dense sources of complex carbohydrates. Non-starchy vegetables are a source of energy that will help to stabilize blood sugar and insulin levels, and they contain many vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients to support health. Choose a variety to maximize the variety of nutrients you take in. Fruits should be consumed in moderation as they have the potential to raise blood sugar and insulin.
Consuming quality protein (about the size of the palm of your hand) with every meal is one of the keys to optimal health at any age. Complete proteins include eggs, meat, fish, seafood, and poultry. In addition to being a complete protein, a quality protein is organic, naturally-raised or wild-caught as these do not contain unhealthy hormones, pesticides or preservatives. Vegetarian complete protein sources including potatoes, quinoa, dairy and soy should be consumed with caution due to their high carbohydrate content.
Fat is essential for optimal health and wellness because it helps build healthy cells and is a major energy source for the body. Often, healthy fats are a component of the quality protein you already have on your plate. Foods like organic whole eggs, grass-fed meats and wild, coldwater fish are all excellent sources of healthy fats. In addition to eating these foods, you can prepare or garnish food with extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, organic butter and ghee to get the healthy fats you need. You may also want to incorporate foods like avocados and organic nuts and seeds into your diet, as these foods are naturally high in healthy fats and make great snacks throughout the day.
Optional Additional Carbohydrates:
Athletes or people who exercise regularly may want to add additional carbohydrates to meet their energy needs. Starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes, winter squash and potatoes are nutrient-dense, high carbohydrate vegetables that can effectively meet this need. Eating grains is not recommended because they contain anti-nutrients that are harmful to the body. Additionally, proteins in the gluten-containing grains cause an immune response in one out of every three people and the starch found in these grains elevates blood sugar rapidly, contributing to blood sugar highs and lows. Quinoa, wild rice, teff and buckwheat are less problematic than true grains but require special preparation to minimize problems. Legumes also contain anti-nutrients and should be soaked and/or fermented before they are eaten.
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Find the right balance for you by combining the above in portions and ratios that work best for you and your lifestyle.