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How to Build a Balanced Plate

Hayley Constance

(Picture: Hayley Constance)

If all the talk about macronutrient tracking, what to eat when, how much of X Y or Z you should be eating, etc. has you more confused with your diet than ever, just focus on keeping it simple. Vegetables, starchy carbs, high quality proteins, and healthy fats.

Maybe the easiest way to stay on track throughout the day is building balanced, satiating meals that keep you satisfied all day and are full of vitamins and minerals. If you balance each plate throughout the day, meaning you have a good, consistent ratio of macronutrients (carbs, proteins, and fats,), your total intake will be balanced as a result.

 

Each macronutrient is important in our diets for a variety of reasons:

Proteins are the building blocks of the body. Our bodies use roughly 50,000 different proteins to form organs, nerves, muscles, and skin. Enzymes, antibodies, hemoglobin, and hormones are all made up of proteins.

 Fats are the building block for cell membranes and hormones. They provide a source of long lasting energy, slow the absorption of food, and are necessary for the absorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K

 Carbs provide a source of fuel for the brain and quick energy for muscles, regulate metabolism of the other macronutrients, and provide fiber. We all know that vegetables are packed with necessary vitamins and minerals.

 

So how should you eat to reap these benefits at every meal?

 

Try this: Fill 50% of your plate with vegetables, 25% with starchy carbs (sweet and other potatoes, squash, white rice, gluten free oats, etc.) and 25% protein.

If your protein is lean like skinless chicken or white fish, also add a couple tablespoons of fat to your meal in the way of real butter, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, almond butter, etc.

Pictured above is a good example of a balanced breakfast: Half the plate filled with kale, a quarter filled with fried plantains (a dense source of starchy carb), and a quarter with two eggs for protein+fat.

Experiment with these ratios for a few weeks while tracking your energy and satiety levels, sleep patterns, performance in workouts, and general cravings. After tracking and assessing, try playing around with your ratios yourself. Some folks, namely athletes, do better with a higher starchy carb intake while those who are less active often thrive on a higher fat ratio.

 

It’s all about finding what works for you, and that will change over time as well! Things like stress levels also impact our need for different macronutrients, so the best thing you can do is lay a healthy foundation of real foods while listening to your body for what it’s craving. I’m not talking about your doughnut craving, though:)

 

 



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