Eating healthy, balanced meals are a must if you want to manage your health, maximize your energy, and maybe lose some weight too.
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, carbohydrates (starchy vegetables, whole grains, and fruit), non-starchy vegetables, and healthy fats 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.
The typical diet today is too high in carbohydrates which spikes our blood sugar and compromises our metabolism and our ability to burn fat. When our blood sugar spikes by eating refined foods or even fruit or starchy carbs 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 too much 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 balanced 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 good news is that when we eat a clean diet of REAL foods, we will naturally crave the foods that are deficient in our body - and when that balance is achieved we will naturally crave a balanced diet. In the meantime, the way that I teach my clients to eat a balanced diet is to imagine a picnic style food plate — the kind with 2 smaller sections and 1 large section.
Fill one small section with protein - such as beans, meat, poultry or fish.
Fill one small section with starchy carbs - such as whole grains or starchy vegetables like potatoes, yams, corn, or winter squash. If you are using more than one piece fruit (such as in smoothies), then it would contribute to this step as fruit provides more carbohydrate than vegetables.
Fill the large section with a variety of cooked vegetables, salad, greens and a serving of fruit.
Add a serving (or two - but not more than that) of healthy fat - such as salad dressing, nuts or seeds, nut butter, or avocado.
These 4 steps will insure that your meal, be it breakfast, lunch, or dinner, is made up of the necessary food groups and various nutrients needed for a healthy balanced diet.
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 with coaching, compassion, and humor.