You have probably heard people talking about having ‘balanced’ meals, but what does this actually mean?
Well, it means that in each one of your meals you should have the right balance of macronutrients (carbohydrate, protein and fat) but also a good helping of fibre.
So how do you get this ‘balance.’ The easiest way to describe this is to go through all the above mentioned groups.
This is where you get your energy from and each meal should contain a source of complex- carbohydrate. These are carbs which break down slowly in order to give you energy over a long period of time rather than in one big hit. So great options here would be potatoes/ sweet potato/bread/rice/pasta/oats/cereals/quinoa or couscous.
You must, however, make sure your portion sizes aren’t too big so check packets for portion size guides.
Protein provides you with the building blocks to build and repair your body. It also has the added benefit of helping to control your blood sugar levels and can keep you feel full for longer.
Good sources of protein would be chicken/fish/extra lean beef/ turkey/beans and pulses. However, to really optimise your nutritional benefit then consider keeping red meat to a minimum due to the saturated fat content and opt for beans/pulses a few times a week. You should also ensure that you have 2 portions of fish each week, one of which should be oily – this means you get that all important omega 3.
Again, portion sizes are important – 120g for meat/poultry/white fish and 90g for any oily fish.
Fat is used by the body in many different ways such as nerve and brain function, transporting fat soluble vitamins (A,D,E & K), as a source of energy and for making hormones.
However, fat is also a tricky one as it contains 9 calories per gram compared with carbohydrates and protein which both contain 4 calories per gram. So you should have good sources of fat in each meal but in very small amounts.
Always try to reduce your intake of saturated fat like coconut oil, red meat, cheese, ice-cream, cakes, mayonnaise and biscuits as much as possible – easy ways to do this are either avoiding the foods, sticking to small portions, swopping them to healthier options, grilling foods or choosing leaner cuts of meat.
Healthier fat options would be things like cooking with olive oil, meals containing an oily fish, a handful of seeds on a salad, olives in a meal or using an olive oil based dressing (use no more than 1/2 a tablespoon of oil if you are watching your weight).
Fibre is so important and I will actually be writing a separate article on this. Fruit, vegetables, wholemeal carbohydrates and whole-grains are all excellent sources. They help reduce your risk of heart disease, reduce your intake of fatty foods, provide lots of vitamins and reduce your risk of cancer. So as a rule I try to get clients to have at least 80g of fruit at breakfast, then 2 (different types) x 80g of vegetables with lunch and evening meals.
Examples of how to balance out your meals
- Cereal & semi-skimmed milk –> add 80g of berries
- Bacon butty –> change roll to wholemeal, cut off the fat from the bacon, grill the bacon & use olive oil spread on the roll
- Spaghetti bolognese –> add in some kidney beans, use extra lean beef & use wholemeal pasta
- Pasta & pesto –> add some chickpeas & use wholemeal pasta
- Ham sandwich –> use wholemeal bread, an olive oil spread and add in some tomato
If you would like more information on making your meals
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