Measuring, weighing, counting and tracking your food can take the joy out of eating. Your body knows how much to eat better than any online calorie counter ever could (see Beyond the Calories for more information on this). Follow these guidelines to understanding the best way to fill your plate!
Many people want to begin leading a healthier lifestyle, but don’t know where to start. How about starting with your plate? You can ensure you are getting the nutrients your body needs by simply visualizing your plate at meal time. Aim to have a balance of quality protein, healthy fat, smart carbohydrates, and non-starchy vegetables at every meal or snack. It’s a simple as that.
If you need a little more guidance on how big of a portion of each of these foods you should be consuming, use the following tips to get you started!
- PROTEIN: You may have heard that a serving of protein looks like a deck of cards. But you can also use the palm of your hand (not including your fingers) to guide you. Aim to have 1-2 palms of protein (about the thickness of your palm) at every meal. For eggs, however many eggs you can hold in one hand counts as a serving. Choose the highest quality protein sources available to you (use the Good, Better, Best
- FAT: Have you become fat-phobic? It’s time to change your way of thinking here. Use your thumb to estimate 1 Tbsp. A serving of fat is 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, coconut oil, or butter. What about other fatty foods? 1-2 handfuls of coconut flakes, 1-2 handfuls nuts or seeds, ½ an avocado, or ¼-½ cup full-fat canned coconut milk are all perfect portions.
- CARBOHYDRATE: The most nutrient dense forms of carbohydrates are fruits and vegetables! Aim for 1-2 servings (the size of your fist) of fruit per day. Incorporate ½ cup of starchy vegetables at your meals or snacks. If you’re an athlete requiring more carbohydrates, add additional starchy vegetables to your plate!
- NON-STARCHY VEGETABLES: Non-starchy vegetables have the most nutrients with the least amount of calories. Not to mention all of the hydrating water and belly-filling fiber they contain! Fill the rest of your plate with all the non-starchy vegetables you can handle. Even better, aim to have 2 different kinds of non-starchy vegetables at each meal.
But wait a minute, where do dairy and grains fit into the equation? Good question! There are no nutrients in dairy and grains that the body cannot get elsewhere. For many people, dairy and grains can cause more harm (in the form of allergies, inflammation, and blood sugar imbalance) than good. These foods can also take up valuable space on your plate where other, more nutritious foods might otherwise be. If you do include dairy and grains in your diet, use them as supplements to your meal or snack rather than the main components. Use the Good, Better, Best principle below to guide you towards making the best food choices possible!
A couple other healthy eating tips to consider:
- Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full.
- Eat without distractions (yes, that means your TV, computer, tablet, or cell phone).
- Take time to chew your food (it takes 20 minutes for the brain to recognize when the stomach is full. Give your body time to send the correct signals and listen carefully).
- Eat at least 2 hours before bed to give your body sufficient time to digest.
So what are you waiting for? Build a healthier plate today!