It’s a growing problem. You want to stay healthy and treat your body well, but every time you Google a recipe, you seem to have another health kick or super food to catch up on. Whether it’s kale or quinoa, smoothies or spiralising (sliced veggies), keeping to a balanced diet seems more complicated than ever before.
Most of us think of a balanced plate as containing protein, carbohydrates and vegetables. While this is true, there are some other elements to consider before you can dig in. We’ve beaten the jargon and the fads to narrow down what really needs to be on your plate to find a healthy balance in 2017.
Alternative Protein Sources
Australia is one of the largest consumers of red meat in the world. New research shows that we should be trying to keep our red meat consumption under 700g per week, the equivalent of about 3 medium porterhouse steaks or 3 and a half cups of mincemeat. As well as fish or poultry, why not try a full vegetarian meal once or twice a week with legumes, lentils or tofu?
The Right Fibre
Ensuring you have the right kinds of fibre is essential. Prebiotic fibre can strengthen your intestines, improve mineral absorption and maintain regular bowel movements. This kind of fibre is found in wholegrains, onions and garlic, bananas, and Jerusalem artichokes.
Start the Day Strong
While many of us have perfected the art of healthy balanced lunch and dinner plates, breakfast is one area where people tend to lose creativity. If you’re starting every day with a bowl of cereal or toast and spreads, you’re loading up on carbs and sugar and are likely to need a large mid-morning snack to beat that energy slump. Try including protein such as eggs or yoghurt, or even lean meats like turkey sausage, or ham.
Portion and Serve Sizes
You might pat yourself on the back that your plate contains all the food groups, but are you serving them in the right quantities? The MyPlate initiative recommends that your meal is half vegetables, a quarter protein and a quarter grains. Many experts also suggest that you never eat to ‘full’ but rather to about half full, or just satisfied. One rule of thumb which won’t steer you wrong is aiming for the Australian ‘Go for 2+5’ for vegetable and fruit intake. Having two vegetable portions at both lunch and dinner is one great way of making this goal simpler to achieve, especially for children, or adults who are not natural snackers throughout the day.
Snack on Those Healthy Fats
Talking about snacks, while some people choose to limit their food to three daily meals, snacking throughout the day has its benefits too. As well as helping to maintain healthy blood sugar levels, it can stop you feeling deprived by managing hunger, optimise your energy levels and give you the opportunity to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, as well as healthy fats.
Some great ideas for healthy snacks include vegetable sticks with hummus, salsa, or guacamole. You can also try protein filled snacks such as roasted chickpeas or beans, and nuts and seeds such as almonds or flax and chia seeds. Avocado, olives, almonds and chickpeas are just a few examples of ways to get healthy essential fats into your weekly menu.
Super-foods and super trends are great options for increasing variety into your diet. But the foundation of your healthy eating should remain the same with or without them. Healthy snacking and a focus on three properly portioned meals per day should be the basis. Within that, an awareness of healthy fats and fibre as well as alternative proteins, are a great start to a healthy and balanced 2017.
Feature Image Source: Christos Pontikis