So many articles on healthy eating talk about a ‘balanced diet, or the ‘balanced approach’, but do we really know what this means?
I have created a diagram that I share with some visitors to help them understand this concept and I thought that some of you would find an explanation of it useful. It’s a bit like the blog I did on portion control.
The balanced plate focuses on the concept of healthy eating providing our bodies with the nutrients that it needs to sustain or improve health. This means that the cells of our body can function to their optimum.
What makes up a balanced plate?
We will look at what makes up a balanced plate and then some ideas of how this works in practice. Each meal plate each day should ideally be in the following ratios;
Fruits and/ or vegetables should make up at least 50% of the meal plate.
This may seem a lot but in practice it is quite straightforward. Another way to look at this is to try and eat 8-10 portions of fruit/vegetables a day. Choose from; All vegetables are included but not white potatoes as these are classed as a carbohydrate. All fresh fruit but not fruit juices as they are high in sugar, especially the shop bought ones. No dried fruit unless it is accompanied by either nuts, seeds or grains as in muesli or added to rice puddings, porridge etc.
All herbs and spices are included.
Complex carbohydrates approximately 20-25% of your plate
Choose from; whole grain bread, 3 seeded bread, spelt bread, whole grain pasta, brown rice, basmati rice, quinoa, oats, oat cakes, rye bread, ryvita crispbreads, white potatoes, millet, couscous, bulgar wheat and spelt flour. When looking for breakfast cereals check the sugar content as most are high in sugar. The best varieties are sugar free muesli, shredded wheat, puffed quinoa and porridge.
Proteins foods approximately 20-25% of your plate Choose from; Oily fish, white fish, canned fish, chicken (no skin); Turkey, lean beef, lamb or pork, eggs, all types of beans dried or canned but rinse the canned beans before use (kidney beans, adzuki beans, flageolet beans etc), chickpeas, hummus, lentils (all types split red, green continental etc), unsalted almonds, almond nut butter, unsalted cashew nuts, cashew nut butter, all seeds, pumpkin seed butter, live natural plain yogurt, cottage cheese, tofu, TVP,
Essential fats 5-10% of your plate Unsalted nuts, seeds, nut butters, seed butters, tahini, seed oils (cold pressed) ex. Pumpkin seed oil, sesame seed oil, nut oils (cold pressed) ex. Walnut oil, oily fish, avocados, coconut oil/butter.
So how would this look in practice?
If you draw a plate and divide it roughly into the percentage I have outlined you will have some idea of what a balanced plate should look like. If possible this idea should be adopted at all meal times. Obviously some days it will not happen for many reasons but generally it is a good idea to aim for this balance when you can. That way you are getting the right amount of nutrition in the right balance. Below I have given some examples of what this might look like in practice.
1. Eggs poached or scrambled with grilled tomatoes and mushrooms on wholemeal toast.
2. Live natural yogurt over chopped fresh fruit or dried fruit that has been soaked overnight in water, with chopped nuts and seeds sprinkled on top.
3. Poached haddock, grilled tomatoes and wholemeal toast.
4. Porridge made with almond milk or soya milk with mixed fresh berries or sliced bananas and cinnamon sprinkled on top.
1. A large mug of vegetable soup followed by a whole meal bread sandwich filled with egg or tinned tuna with a sliced tomato.
2. A mug of lentil and vegetable soup with a wholemeal roll or some rice cakes.
3. A very large mixed imaginative salad with tinned salmon or fresh salmon and some oatcakes.
4. A pita pocket stuffed with hummus and salad vegetables.
5. A brown rice and vegetables salad with chickpeas mixed through.
6. A vegetable omelette (mushrooms, sweetcorn, onion, peppers) with a wholemeal roll.
1. Vegetable curry and brown rice topped with toasted cashew nuts.
2. A piece of fresh salmon poached in water with brown rice and ½ plate of mixed steamed vegetables (choose vegetables that are in season and remember colour)
3. Oven roasted vegetables, chicken ¼ roasted with a baked potato all cooked in the oven at the same time.
4. Stir fried vegetables with prawns and noodles. Flavoured with tamari sauce.
5. Casserole using a variety of vegetables and lean beef served with sweet potatoes.
6. Vegetables lasagne with a large green salad and dressed with walnut oil.
These are of course only suggestions. Food does not have to be complicated, in fact the simpler the food and the less preparation generally the better the food value. Anyway have a go at drawing the plate and try and be mindful about balancing the plate and see how you get on.
Blog originally written by Caroline May 2014