How to Balance Your Dinner PlatePosted: September 7, 2012
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:
- Protein: Gently fried organic egg, black beans in the dip
- Healthy Fats: 1/2 avocado, tahini & olive oil in the dip
- 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
- PROTEIN: Organic chicken, wild-caught fish, organic eggs, beans and chickpeas, grass-fed beef, tempeh, hemp seeds
- HEALTHY FATS: Flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, avocado, olive oil, almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds
- 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).
Zesty Black Bean Dip
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
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.