Eating a "balanced diet” is NECESSARY for optimal health. It's not enough to consume organic, real foods - although that's a great start. We must also balance those foods...each and every time we consume them.
A balanced diet refers not only to eating a variety of foods to assure an abundance of nutrients for the body to use. It's also important to consume the correct ratio of protein, fats, and carbohydrates at every meal. Eating balanced meals and snacks provides long lasting energy, helps avoid over-eating later, and helps us stick to healthier food choices since we tend to reach for fast food or quick and easy processed food when we’re tired or hungry.
"The first component of a healthy lifestyle is learning how to eat in such a way that you do not spike your blood sugar."
~ RAY STRAND, M.D.
Eating a balanced diet is especially important to avoid blood sugar challenges or if we want to lose weight. When our blood sugar spikes by eating refined foods or even fruit or starches by themselves or in large quantities, our insulin levels rise and our body enters the fat storing mode. In addition, it leads to cravings and overeating for the rest of the day. You see, the satiety hormone, leptin, tells our brain that it's time to stop eating and get active. But insulin blocks leptin from doing its job, thereby setting us up for insatiable hunger and overpowering cravings resulting in almost no way to stick to a healthy eating plan long term.
However when we eat regular balanced meals and snacks that keep our blood sugar stable, our body releases fat, protects lean muscle, eliminates cravings, and increases energy.
It's also important to note that when we skip a meal, or cut back on calories or carbs, our blood sugar drops causing our body to burn muscle, hold onto fat, our energy crashes and cravings increase.
"Start your day off right. Consuming a quality source of protein for breakfast will help stabilize blood sugar levels throughout the day. This will improve moods, stabilize energy, and reduce carbohydrate cravings."
~ FOOD MATTERS
We have heard all our lives to eat three meals a day plus snacks and that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Studies show that both children and adults perform better when they’ve eaten breakfast. Going without breakfast is like trying to get a car to run with no gas. Or think of trying to get your cell phone to work when you forgot to charge it. We need to treat our bodies like a wood stove. You light the stove in the morning so it will warm the house while you work. Throughout the day you put small amounts of wood into the stove, and at nighttime, you fuel the stove and let it die down before going to sleep. Our bodies work the same way. If we eat meals & nutritious snacks throughout the day they are burned efficiently.
A good meal time framework to consider is…
- Breakfast: 7:00 am – 9:00 am
- Lunch: 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm
- Dinner: 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
…with small amounts of healthy snacks between as needed.
The way that I teach my clients to eat a balanced diet is to imagine a picnic style food plate — the kind with 2 small sections and 1 large section. At each meal fill one of the small sections with protein, the other small section with “starchy carbs” (gluten-free grains or starchy vegetables like potatoes, yams & winter squash), and the large section with non-starchy vegetables and a small amount of fruit. IF you still feel hungry after that, go ahead and have more — just make sure to keep the balance rather than just eating more of just one thing.
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Happy, Healthy Living!
JoAnn Newton is a Holistic Nutrition Educator and Master Massage Therapist with a private practice in Graton, CA.
Passionate about helping people transform their health through holistic nutrition, she facilitates the 23 day online Nutritional E-Cleanse Program seasonally with coaching, compassion, and humor.