Many people have asked me how I ensure my, and my families diet is nutritionally balanced? The short answer is, with a little forethought and a bit of planning, having a healthy diet is really quite simple.
I realise I have the advantage of nutritional knowledge and also a passion for cooking since I was a child, (although I am not a trained cook). I appreciate that for many of you, nutrition and or food may not be your calling. So one of my aims at Well Nourished is to help you to understand how to choose foods so that all of your nutritional needs are met and your taste buds are truly satisfied. It is also the reason why I structure my recipes with details of how the ingredients assist your health, as well as offering suggestions for options and variations to suit your individual tastes and dietary requirements. For more about my recipe structure, you can click here.
But now, for some general guidelines for ensuring all of your nutritional needs are met…
A balanced meal
So when I think about creating a meal or snack, I primarily aim to have a little of all of the macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate and fat) in one sitting. If you are eating a good variety of plants, with a little-unprocessed protein (you can read more about protein here), the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) will be naturally present alongside. For example; a little meat or a vegetarian source of protein, with a salad or vegetables is a simple, but very well balanced meal.
To simplify nutrition, the dominant macronutrient is generally the one associated with the food. I do however want to clarify, that whole foods are rarely just one macronutrient. For example meat is not just protein and fat, it also has a carbohydrate content. Whole grains are not just carbohydrates, but also have some protein and fat. Most plant based foods are largely carbohydrate and fibre with a little protein and occasionally fat.
The next thing I think about is variety. Too much of any single food, even a whole food, is not always a good thing. Make sure you don’t get stuck in a rut eating the same primary food in different forms. Wheat is one of the worst offenders here. For example, many people would have a wheat based cereal or toast for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, pasta for dinner and wheat based cake or biscuit for a snack. This is and example of poor variety, which ultimately results in poor nourishment and nutritional deficiency.
A balanced day
I tend to think in 24 hour cycles (I try not to venture afar from the present)! So each day I endeavour to eat lots of different foods across each meal or snack time. It doesn’t always work out the way I plan, but I generally manage to have lots of variety in a day of nourishment.
- Always make sure breakfast is protein rich. Remember, protein will always give you the most energetic start to the day. For more about breakfast and ideas for things to eat, click here.
- Lunch (mine and what I include in the kids lunch boxes), will largely hinge on what we’ve had for breakfast. For example; If we have eggs on toast in the morning then that is it for wheat for the day. I come up with something other than a sandwich for lunch, and no pasta, bread or cous cous at dinner either. I probably wouldn’t include eggs as my primary protein at lunch or dinner again also (but as eggs are an easy ‘go to’ protein, I occasionally do the daily double)! Lunch and dinner generally consist of a combination of protein and as many vegetables as I can come up with. Lunch is frequently leftovers from the day before.
- So, then dinner depends upon what I’ve had for lunch and breakfast (and also dinner the night before). For example, I try not to have the same protein and variety of vegetables at lunch and dinner. However there is often some overlap, e.g. salad greens both at lunch and dinner.
A balanced week
- For breakfast each day, I try to have something a little different. Sometimes I do get in a rut and end up serving the kids and I home made muesli, fruit and yogurt for a few mornings in a row (until the spoilt little buggers start to complain). As I said in my breakfast post, I do have some weird and wonderful things for breakfast, leftovers and other creations. But sometimes breakfast is simply good old boiled eggs and toast.
- I try and vary between, red meat, white meat, fish and vegetarian meals across a week. I aim for an even split between them across a week.
- I love the very wise Michael Pollan’s quote, when asked what we should eat, he said:
“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants”
Really, that small sentence, sums up the essence of a balanced meal! But I hope my long winded post has got you thinking a little about how to extend the variety and range of the foods you consume.
Rather than counting your calories, make your calories count and nourish your body each and every day with a variety of real, nature given whole foods.