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  • Writer's pictureMeghan Stock

How to eat a balanced meal in 1 easy step!


You often hear about how healthy eating is based around eating a balanced diet.  Sounds easy, but what does it mean? What constitutes balance and how can you get it at each meal? 

Thankfully, the principles of meal balance is easy, there’s even a diagram!

Canada’s Food Guide got a major upgrade in 2019, and it’s now very easy to follow. 

This is best applied to lunch and dinner only, breakfast is a bit different (and we’ll cover that in a different blog post – stay tuned!). 


The key to following this diagram is proportion.  Aim for ½ vegetables, ¼ protein, ¼ starch.  Easy, right? 

Let’s break it down even more.



plate with vegetables, protein and starch
Balanced plate diagram


Vegetables


These should take up ½ of your plate.  The picture has a lot of options, but the rules are:

-       Choose what you like

-       Cook it how you want (or don’t cook it at all)

-       Mix it up as much as you can

So, if you have a fridge full of vegetables, feel free to make a huge salad.  If you only have broccoli, just cook it all and have half a plate of broccoli. 


A note about fruit - There is fruit on this diagram, but I recommend taking fruit off of the plate.  Fruit is a healthy choice, but it contains more sugar than vegetables, so if you end up having half a plate of fruit at a meal, that’s likely too much sugar.  So, use it as a garnish or as part of a salad, or as dessert or snack, but not as the main part of the meal. 



Starch


These are an important part of a balanced meal.  Starches offer energy, fibre and vitamins that you don’t get from other foods. However, they are generally soft, easy to chew options so it’s really easy to eat more than you need.  Keep it to a quarter of your plate helps you balance getting the nutrition you need with reining in the calories. 


There are a few things to note. 


The starchy vegetables – potato, sweet potato, corn and squash – should be in the starch group. While they are healthy choices (if you like them, you should eat them!), but they’re starchier, so fit better in this quarter.


White vs whole grain – In the olden days we used to recommend 50% of the starch you eat should be whole grain.  Using this principle is a good guideline, so figure out how this works for you.  Look for areas where you can introduce whole grain (aka fibre).  If you enjoy white rice, fine, but have whole wheat pasta or bread.  The more whole grain options you can introduce the better!



Protein


These foods are essential to a healthy diet and should be eaten at each meal.  The rules for protein are the same as for vegetables:

-       Eat the foods you like

-       Cook them how you want

-       Mix it up as much as you can

Because protein is made up of amino acids, and each protein food has a different combo and amount of amino acids, variety is essential!  But, people generally don’t need as much protein as social media tells us we do, keep it to a ¼ of your plate. 



Meal balance - easy as pie (chart)!


The reason this diagram works so well is because it ensures you have a food from each of the food groups, so each meal will give you the nutrition you need.  It also focuses on vegetables, ensuring you get a lot of fibre and fill up on low calorie foods. 

 

If you make your plate look as close to the diagram as possible as much as you can, you will be making the foods you eat as healthy as possible, and feel full in the process.  Give it a try and let me how it goes!

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