Build a Better Plate
Jam-packed schedules and long to-do lists always leave us craving more balance in our lives. For some of us, finding balance might be finding inner-peace through quiet meditation, for others it might mean finally having an empty laundry basket. Whatever your balance looks like, we encourage you to take the first step to finding it by balancing your plate. Yes, your plate.
When you have a balanced plate, you are providing your body with all of the nutrients and energy it needs to run efficiently. No more groggy mornings, mid-day slumps, or late-night cravings. Your balanced plate is the first step to a more balanced life.
What does a balanced plate look like?
First and foremost, a balanced plate is filled with whole, unprocessed, and nutrient dense foods. That means foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds. Unless you are a vegan or vegetarian, your plate will also include meat, fish, eggs, and dairy.
Notice what foods are not listed here? While processed foods like breads, pastas, cookies, and potato chips are not bad, they are not a nonessential component of a balanced plate. There’s always room to indulge, but today we are going to focus on the whole-food groups that make up a balanced plate.
Above you’ll see a photograph of a real-life balanced plate. Use this as a visual aid as you read each food group below.
Vegetables and Fruits
Vegetables and fruits are the most nutrient dense food group. This means they have the highest concentration of nutrients per calorie. Filling up on a variety of fruits and vegetables will also give you the nutrients your body needs to function efficiently, and provide volume to help you feel full and satisfied. Vegetables and fruits will make up at least ½ of your balanced plate.
Examples: Leafy greens (kale, collard greens, spinach, arugula, broccoli), carrots, bell peppers, radish, summer squash / berries, peach, apple, figs, oranges.
Whole Grains and Starchy Vegetables
Whole grains and starchy vegetables are a powerhouses of nutrition. Loaded with fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals, these foods will help fill you up, unlike their processed counterparts (breads, pastas, french fries). Whole grains and/or starchy vegetables will make up at least ¼ of your balanced plate.
Examples: Brown rice, quinoa, farro, barley, oats, potato, sweet potato, winter squash. Whole grain breads and pastas will also fall in this category, however we always recommended to reach for the least processed option first.
Protein (Meat, Eggs, Beans, Legumes)
Our bodies digest carbohydrates first, then protein, then fat. Having a healthy portion of protein at each meal helps you keep full and prevent cravings and excess snacking. Protein will make up about ¼ of your plate.
Examples: Meat, fish, chicken, eggs, beans, peas.
Fats are an essential component of our metabolic process and brain function. No need to go “low fat” however, it is important to practice consuming high quality fats like nuts, seeds, avocado, and coconut with each meal. Think about using these foods as a topping for each plate.
Other examples: almonds, walnuts, peanut butter, coconut, olive oil, butter
It’s important to remember that a plate might not always section out perfectly. Think about the Sweet Potato Chili recipe we posted last week; that was a balanced bowl! Your “plate” might be a soup, salad, or even sandwich.
What was your most balanced plate this week? Share with us in the comments below, let’s learn from each other!