How to Balance Your Dinner Plate

Maybe it’s because I’m married to a math teacher, but I’m starting to look at dinner (okay, and breakfast and lunch too) as a simple equation. Perhaps a pie chart. Or a ratio. This is a challenge for my non-mathematical mind, but it allows me to apply a bit of logic to what I normally consider a creative endeavor.

The math is easy:

1 part Protein + 1 part Healthy Fat + 3 parts Complex Carbs

 

This is quite different to the meat and potatoes meals we (and our parents) most likely grew up with. It’s also quite different to the USDA’s MyPlate, which highlights dairy, fruit, and grains along with protein and vegetables. The UK’s Livewell Plate isn’t much better either, even going so far as to include “Foods and drinks high in fat and/or sugar” in their recommended daily allowance!

Of course, it can get far more complicated than the equation above. When it comes to choosing the source of that protein, healthy fat, or complex carb, the importance of quality far outweighs the quantity. It’s also important to think about your beverages and booster foods.

However, for now, if we had to choose three things to focus on, they would be protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs. Here’s my dinner plate the other night, to give you an example:

Phil called it “Mexican egg and chips”. You can take the guy out of England… 🙂

To break the plate down into the groups I mentioned earlier, here’s what we have:

  1. Protein: Gently fried organic egg, black beans in the dip
  2. Healthy Fats: 1/2 avocado, tahini & olive oil in the dip
  3. Complex Carbs: 1/2 roasted sweet potato, loads of fresh cilantro (in the dip and on the side), 1/2 avocado (a good fat and a fruit!)

A lot of emphasis is placed on having your protein as the star of the show (i.e. a chicken breast or a filet of fish). When you start looking at your meal as a sum of its parts, rather than what might go with the meat or fish, it becomes more balanced.

You’re probably not going to be seeing the plate above on a restaurant menu any time soon, but it doesn’t matter if what you eat for dinner is a mishmash of ingredients. What matters is that you’re getting a balance of all those great nutrients.

Health Benefits of Eating Balanced Meals

  • pH balance throughout the body, but especially in the digestive tract
  • More efficient metabolism, rather than overloading on one food group and potentially slowing you down
  • Mindful eating, putting thought and care into your food choices at mealtimes
  • Sustained energy, from the complex carbs and healthy fats
  • Increased satiety, from the good fiber-filled carbs and fats
Feeling inspired to try balancing that plate tonight? I’ve got some ideas for you – pick and choose from these categories, mix and match, get creative! It doesn’t have to be the next winning dish on Masterchef, just a healthy wholesome meal to keep you ticking along at 100%.

Suggested Foods

  1. PROTEIN: Organic chicken, wild-caught fish, organic eggs, beans and chickpeas, grass-fed beef, tempeh, hemp seeds
  2. HEALTHY FATS: Flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, avocado, olive oil, almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds
  3. COMPLEX CARBS: Always include something GREEN! Use leafy vegetables (like spinach and kale), crunchy vegetables (like broccoli and bell peppers), seasonal fruit (go local!), and unrefined starches (like whole grains and root vegetables).
This black bean dip recipe is a variation on an amazing one that I tracked down from a store in Newport, RI, called A Market. They sell a lot of their own homemade delicious food, including this black bean dip that is very popular with the locals. I’ve made black bean hummus before, but it never tasted as interesting as this one. I emailed the store and they actually responded with the recipe! Now that is good customer service.

 

Zesty Black Bean Dip

by The Particular Kitchen

Prep Time: 5 mins

Cook Time: 0 mins

Keywords: blender side snack gluten-free nut-free soy-free vegetarian wheat free

Ingredients (serves 8-10)

  • 2 (15-oz) can organic black beans, drained and rinsed
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp raw honey
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 big handful fresh cilantro leaves
  • optional: 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • to serve: pumpkin seeds

Instructions

Combine all ingredients (except the pumpkin seeds) in a food processor or blender and blitz until smooth. Add a splash of water to thin if needed.

Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of pumpkin seeds or a couple of cilantro leaves.

Keeps in the fridge up to a week.

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4 Comments on “How to Balance Your Dinner Plate”

  1. Cam says:

    Mmmm… pie… chart. 😉
    Would the dip work without the salt and honey? It just sounds like something my baby would love to try!

    • Molly says:

      You could absolutely switch up the ingredients in the dip, Cam! Use a different sweetener than honey (maple syrup, brown rice syrup, etc.) – let me know how he likes it!!

      • Cam says:

        Thank you! Will do. I was thinking of not sweetening it at all, seeing as we’ve managed to mostly avoid sugar this far, and he doesn’t seem to mind. But 1 tbsp is not much. 🙂

  2. Lisa says:

    Most of my dinners now are a protein + salad + veggie. Like last night I had a green salad with tomatoes, grilled salmon and steamed broccoli. That’s kind of the norm for dinners now and I feel so much better!


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