This blog post is about balance. For your meals, that is. Everyone talks about it, but what does that mean? Awhile ago, I wrote a blog post about the Food Guide. You can read it here. A quick review: there are 4 food groups. That's all you need to know to make sure your meals and snacks are balanced. We'll talk about meals first:
In order to balance your meal, it needs to contain 3 of the 4 food groups. Easy!
So, if your breakfast is toast with peanut butter, and a coffee, that is NOT balanced. Why? Toast is in the grains food group, and the peanut butter is in the meat and alternative food group (and coffee isn't in a food group). That adds up to 2 food groups, and we want 3! So, you can either add a fruit or vegetable (peanut butter and banana????), or something from the milk and alternatives group (a glass of milk, or a yogurt on the side?). Does that make sense?
Similarly, for dinner, if you have a chicken breast with a salad on the side (let's say, lettuce with a variety of veggies, and oil and vinegar dressing). How many food groups are represented there? If you said 2, you're right! (Answer: meat and alternatives, fruit and vegetables). So, adding a grain would be great! A side of wild rice or roasted potatoes would be great!
Then, for snacks, the rule is a protein and a carbohydrate should be in your snack. If we're still talking food groups, proteins are the meat and alternatives and milk and alternatives; carbohydrates are fruit and vegetables and grains. So, that might be cheese and crackers, dried fruit and some nuts, an apple with a nut butter or veggies and hummus. Easy!
The reason balance is important is the reason we eat is to get nutrients. Since different food contain different nutrients, we need to eat a variety of food to get all the nutrients our bodies need. Like I said in my blog post on the Food Guide, the food groups are grouped as they are because those foods offer similar nutrients (key is similar, not the same!). So, by eating from a variety of food groups, you're maximizing the nutrients your body is getting, making you healthier!
For snacks, the reason you're eating carbohydrates is to maintain your blood glucose, which will moderate your mood (no more being hangry!) and your energy levels. The protein will keep you full, meaning that you won't arrive at your next meal ready to chew your own arm off.
Finding balance in your meals doesn't have to be complicated, and it maximizes the benefit of the food that you eat. Start paying attention to balance and see how you're doing!