Healthy eating is not always about how to lose weight. Well-balanced meals with the right nutrition help children to grow, prevent disease and make weight management simple. Balanced meal plans become easier as time goes on, but even starting out can be much faster and easier than people expect. Here are five ways to make, plan and prep for more healthy, well-balanced meals.
1. Start with Quality
Organic meats and produce instantly add better flavor and fewer chemicals to every dish. Choose the freshest options available, especially in fruits and vegetables to ensure the most nutrient-rich items. Avoid processed foods including products like condiments, canned broth or instant rice that have minimal nutritional value and lots of sugar and sodium.
2. Change Meal Focus
Many Americans make meat the main feature of their meal. Instead, turn the meat into the side dish and think more about the vegetables. Dedicate the largest part of every plate to vegetables. Prepare more than one veggie per meal, and feel free to add a handful of nuts or some fresh fruit to the dishes.
Season the vegetables with healthy oils like olive or coconut oil and add fresh herbs and seasoning for flavor. Make spaghetti squash or buy a spiralizer (we like this one for under $30!) to turn zucchini into noodles to make the texture and appearance of the dishes more interesting.
3. Learn Proper Servings
Weigh and measure all servings for a few days, so proper portion sizes become second nature. Many people take in too many calories because they overestimate what a portion size looks like. For example, adults should have 5-7 ounces of protein per day.
A three-ounce serving of steak is the size of a deck of cards. Most adults need two servings of dairy per day. A serving of cheese is about one ounce, or a piece the size of a pair of dice.
4. Create a Rainbow with Your Food
Put colorful food on the plate. Greens are wonderful, but the addition of vegetables of other colors will add even more nutrients. Red vegetables such as beets, red cabbage, and radishes contain anthocyanins that are powerful antioxidants. They also reduce the risk of macular degeneration and lower the risk of stroke and heart attack.
Orange and yellow fruits and vegetables have Vitamin C, Vitamin A and folic acid. Butternut squash and sweet potatoes offer potassium that helps to lower blood pressure, and the bromeliad in pineapples may improve digestion and lower water retention. White vegetables like onions, mushrooms or cauliflower also contain important nutrients.
5. Add Whole Grains
Try whole grain products instead of relying on just wheat bread or tortillas. Add cooked and cooled quinoa to a salad and put barley in soups or serve it as a side dish. Look for recipes that include buckwheat, millet and bulgur for a variety of new ways to make whole grains more interesting.
Balanced eating is about portion sizes, natural foods and a restriction on empty calories. Once people understand how to achieve these simple steps, it becomes easy to adapt recipes to match the needs of the family and even to choose healthy options when dining out.