How To Create A Balanced Plate

Let’s Chat About Balanced Plates

“Just eat balanced”

Typical advice that health advocates offer is to “eat a balanced plate of food.” Although it’s quite simple sounding and easy to apply at first thought, implementing this in our daily routine can be more challenging than one may think. How come? Most likely, the word: balance, which means steadiness in all areas. But what happens when you are unclear on what those sides are; and may have different meanings to each individual.

Paint Your Plate With Colour

Eat The Rainbow

Bringing colour to your plate not only makes it visually beautiful, but it offers heaps of nutrients. Pack your plate with rainbow colours to make your plate rich in phytonutrients, essentially plant nutrients. What makes phytonutrients, also commonly known as phytochemical’s, so awesome? They have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities, immune boosting properties, assists the repairing process of DNA damage from exposure to toxins, and detoxifies the body. Common phytonutrients include carotenoids such as lutein, flavonoids, coumarins, indoles, isoflavones, lignans, organosulfures and plant sterols. The colourful vibrant pigment in fruits and vegetables come from phytonutrients, which is essentially nature’s natural vitamins/minerals (micronutrients.) How to get more phytonutrients in your daily diet? Focus on mostly plants. Eat the rainbow. Paint your plate with colour.

RED, ORANGE, AND YELLOW

  • Tomatoes, carrots, peppers, squash, sweet potatoes, peaches, mango, pineapple, banana, melons, citrus fruits, and berries

LEAFY GREENS

  • Spinach, kale, bok choy, broccoli, swiss chard, rainbow chard, and romaine lettuce

OTHER FAVS

  • Garlic, onions, chives and leeks
  • Whole grain products (such as brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, barley, wheat berries, and whole wheat whole grain breads and whole grain cereals)
  • Nuts and seeds (such as walnuts, almonds, sunflower, sesame and flax seeds)
  • Legumes (such as dried beans, peas, lentils, soy beans and soy products)
  • Tea and coffee (such as green tea, black tea and other herbal teas)
  • Dark chocolate

Add All Macronutrients {Mostly Plants}

Build Your Plate In Four Simple Steps

Creating a plate based around these four simple steps to create a completed balanced plate that ticks all the boxes for nutritional density. Focusing on filling half the plate with vegetables, carbohydrate, quality protein, and whole food fat. The cool part of macronutrients is many ingredients cross-over into multiple categories (example: wild salmon is both a protein source and fat; almonds are both fat source and plant-based protein; eggs are both protein source and fat.) This makes creating a balanced meal easier than you think!

STEP ONE: Non-Starchy Vegetables

Load half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables right off the bat. This is your foundation, and encourages the “eat the rainbow” mantra!

Sources: Cucumber, dark leafy greens, zucchini, peppers, fennel, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, artichoke, eggplant, and celery.

STEP TWO: Quality Protein

Protein. We require protein to help build our muscles, maintain tissues, repairing and feed our cells (every cell in our body contains protein), growth and development, hormone health, and helps transmit messages between our cells to organs.

Organic Animal/Fish Sources: Chicken, turkey, grass-fed beef, lamb, elk, and bison. Wild salmon, tuna, prawns, cod, halibut, mussels, and scallops. Local cheeses, especially goat/sheep. Pasture raised eggs.

Plant-based Sources: Nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh, and legumes. Whole grains. Nuts/seeds.

STEP THREE: Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the bodies favourite source of fuel (macronutrient), and getting adequate enough in our daily diets is important to strive for optimal health. Complex carbohydrates contain longer chains of sugar molecules than simple carbohydrates. The body converts these sugar molecules into glucose, which it uses for energy. Favouring complex carbohydrates on the regular is great for blood sugar controlling, adding fibre to the diet, and adding in those nutrient-rich carbohydrates.

Complex Carbohydrates: Whole grains, brown rice, wild rice, quinoa (actually is a seed), buckwheat (also a seed), and oats. Starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes, yams, winter squash, beets, carrots, corn, and potatoes.

Simple Carbohydrates: Fruits such as banana, apple, pear, mango, pineapple, dates, and berries. White rice and white flour. Maple syrup, coconut sugar, date sugar, honey, or agave.

STEP FOUR: Whole Food Fats

Fats. We can’t forget how important fats are for our wellbeing. Adding fat to our dishes enhances vitamin absorption (fat-soluble vitamins require fat for absorption), supports cell growth (our bodies are made of trillions of cells), protects our organs, adds depth and flavour (satisfaction), and helps protein do it’s job by acting as a messenger. What are whole food fats? Fats that have been unprocessed/minimal processing, and made from whole food ingredients such as cashews, avocados, almond butter, and wild salmon. These sources of fat are preferred over more processed fats such as oils.

Fun fact: Our brains are made up of mostly fat (60%) which means it loves having fat in the diet to help fuel it (cognitive health!)

Whole Food Fats: Avocado, nuts, seeds, chia, flax, hemp, wild salmon, and nut butters.

Best Oil Sources: High temp sources are avocado oil, coconut oil, ghee, or grape seed oil (best for roasting/sauteing). Lower temp sources are flaxseed oil, EVOO, sesame oil, or walnut oil (best for dressings or gently heat).

Completed Plate Ideas:

~ Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad with Tahini Dressing: Quinoa (complex carb/protein), Tabbouleh Salad (non-starchy veg), Tahini (fat/protein)

~ Scrambled Eggs with Spinach & Roasted Sweet Potato: Eggs (protein/fat), Spinach (carbohydrate), Sweet Potato (complex carbohydrate)

~ Almond Butter Banana Smoothie with Kale: Banana (carbohydrate), Almond Butter (fat/protein), Hemp Seeds (fat/protein), Kale (carbohydrate)

Count Nutrients Over Calories

Again, Count The Colours.

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Not all calories are created equal.

Let me repeat that.

NOT ALL CALORIES ARE CREATED EQUAL.

There is a time and place where counting the caloric number of an ingredient or meal can be important. However, counting the nutrients is always important as the quality of the food we are eating is much more beneficial. There are low caloric foods that are highly processed (think of 100-calorie packs of gummies or cookies), and equal zero to negative (adding more harm) benefits to our health; and there are high caloric foods that are highly nutritious, and support a healthy lifestyle (think avocados/nuts/seeds.) The food we eat produces shifts in our body within all organ systems such as endocrine, nervous, and digestive system. What the means is what we are eating is affects us on every cellular level including how our body stores weight.

TRY THIS: Apple = fibre, vitamin c, potassium = digestion, immunity, happy cells

Adopt An Intuitive Eating Mindset

Do, Say, Think, And Eat With Intention

Intuitive eating is an approach to food that honours your body, health, goals, and taste buds. Intuitive eating is about creating a foundation of nourishing food that will serve you in the present moment. The question of “what do I need right now?” to be followed with the action of an appropriate choice based on your honest answer. Intuitive eating is about re-learning to trust your body, to use internal cues (like hunger, fullness, and taste buds) instead of external cues like rules and restrictions. Adopting a mindful food mindset helps align our intuitive eating cues by holding space for honest answers for our bodies’ needs AND wants —the freedom to enjoy ALL foods without guilt. We are gifting ourselves unconditional permission to eat what we want, whenever we want, with a mindful attitude towards respecting how we desire to feel.

Want to build a balanced plate of food?

Mostly plants, lots of colours, enjoy all macro groups, and listen to what your body needs as well as craves.