Healthy eating may seem overwhelming for some people, but thankfully choosing to improve your eating habits can been made easier by following ‘The Balanced Plate Model’, which is a visual guide showing how we should assemble our dinner plate for a more balanced meal.
How do you create a balanced plate?
First – Vegetables
A great way to start is to fill half of your plate with loads of non-starchy vegetables or salad. Veggies are low in energy and rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre. Whether you enjoy eating them as a salad, roasted, steamed, in a soup or stew, they are always a great addition to your meal. Great vegetables to include are lettuce, spinach, cucumber, eggplant, broccoli, carrot, capsicum, onions and beetroot.
Second – Protein
Next up is protein, which should comprise one quarter of your dinner plate. Foods containing protein provide our body with amino acids which are the building blocks for muscle, bone, skin, a component of enzymes and hormones and a source of energy. Protein-rich foods also help to keep us feeling fuller for longer, thereby leaving you less likely to overeat. When eaten with carbohydrates, protein also helps slow down the release of sugars into the bloodstream. Foods high in protein include, skinless chicken, lean steak, tuna, tofu and legumes.
Third – Carbohydrates
The final quarter of your dinner plate should be allocated to carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are broken down in the body into sugars which are used as an energy source or stored in our muscles and liver in the form of glycogen to be used later. Some excellent sources of complex carbohydrates include wholegrain bread, basmati rice, quinoa, pasta, sweet potato and legumes such as lentils and chickpeas. These types of carbohydrates are higher in fibre and lower in glycaemic index, meaning they digest to sugar in the body at a much slower rate. This helps to keep energy levels and blood sugar levels much more stable across the day, as well as keeping you feeling fuller for longer.
- Add a small portion of healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado or nuts and seeds to your meals. These help with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and minerals.
- Make water your fluid of choice and avoid sugary drinks.
For more tips on how to improve your meals, speak to one of our expert dietitians at Sunshine Coast Dietetics.