The Formula for a Balanced Meal
Whether you love cooking from scratch or you rely on eating out, this formula will help ensure that you have a balanced meal! Since we tend to eat different foods for breakfast, we’ll keep this formula specific to lunch and dinner. I listed food examples for each category, but of course, this is not an exhaustive list.
Step 1: Pick a Base
This will usually be our carbohydrate group. We’re aiming for high-fiber and nutrient-dense options.
- Grains: quinoa, brown rice, farro, millet, barley
- Legumes: lentils, chickpeas, beans (black, pinto, kidney, etc.)
- Starchy vegetables: winter squash (acorn, butternut, etc.), all potatoes, corn, peas
Step 2: Pick a Protein
Whether you are vegan, vegetarian, omnivore, or whatever! You need protein at every meal, not loaded all up at dinner.
- Plant-based: legumes, edamame, tempeg
- Meat/poultry: beef, chicken, turkey, eggs, cheese
- Seafood: salmon, tuna, shellfish
Step 3: Include Non-Starchy Vegetables
Ideally, non-starchy vegetables should take up at least half of your plate. But if you’re just starting to include veggies into your diet, start with more realistic goals and aim for at least 1 serving per meal then work your way up.
One serving = 1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw or 2-3 cups leafy greens.
- Choose seasonal to get the most nutrient-dense options
- Choose organic, use the Dirty Dozen list to help you prioritize
- Include cruciferous like broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, arugula, bok choy, etc.
- Raw, cooked, or a mix of both. There are many methods of preparing veggies to make them tasty (roasting, sauteing, grilled, steamed, raw)
Step 4: Add Your Flavor
This is where you can make the dish tasty and pack it with flavor. Usually the “flavorizer” as we’ll refer to it, contains the fat portion of the dish.
- Classic vinaigrette
- Seed-based: tahini
- Nut-based sauce: peanut sauce
- Herb-based sauce: pesto, zhoug
- Avocado-based: guacamole, avocado
Step 5: Add Your Booster
I refer to the “booster” as the food that isn’t obligatory, but can really level-up your meal by giving it that extra nutritional boost or providing that extra oomph of health to your dish.
- High-quality oil: avocado, olive, flax, walnut
- Nuts or seeds: sesame seeds, almond slivers, walnuts
- Fermented or cultured foods: kimchi, sauerkraut, slaw
- Herbs: cilantro, parsley, basil
- Spices: turmeric, sea salt, garlic
Putting it together
Healthy meals do not have to be complicated. Here are some ideas in hopes to inspire you in the kitchen or to order balanced meals.
Each example follows the order of the steps listed above: base + protein + veggies + flavorizer + booster .
- Quinoa Dish: quinoa + lentils + roasted veggies (eggplant, carrots, zucchini) + pesto + sesame seeds
- Stir Fry: brown rice + tempeh + sauteed veggies (broccoli, onion, cauliflower) + avocado oil + kimchi and coconut aminos
- Salad: chickpeas + edamame + leafy greens, radish slices, baby tomatoes + classic vinaigrette + pumpkin seeds
- BBQ: quinoa + grilled flank steak + grilled cauliflower and zucchini + tahini sauce (to drizzle on sweet potato) + spices to season steak
- Burrito bowl: brown rice + shredded chicken + salsa, baby spinach, fajita veggies + guacamole + cilantro
- Salad: farro + chopped turkey slices/hard boiled egg + baby mixed greens, beet chips, diced celery + classic vinaigrette + raw walnuts
- Sandwich: high fiber bread + tuna + diced onion, carrot, celery + full fat Greek yogurt (to mix with tuna) + lemon pepper, salt, garlic powder (to mix with tuna)
- Burger: sweet potato + salmon burger + portobello mushroom cap (as bun), arugula and tomato slices + pesto + sauerkraut
- Tacos: tortillas + grilled fish + salsa, shredded cabbage, fajita veggies + avocado + cilantro
Do you find these posts helpful? Let me know in the comments below!