Back To Basics: 7 Steps to Building a Healthy Meal
"Should I be eating paleo? Do I eat breakfast or fast 'till lunch? Are carbs the enemy, or is it fat… or sugar?" When you realise how much conflicting nutrition advice is available with the click of a button, it’s not really surprising that so many people haven’t gone a clue what to eat. So, we’re taking things back to basics. No fads, no superfoods, no bizarre ingredients that you don’t have a chance of finding in your local Tesco. Just 7 simple steps to building yourself a healthy, balanced meal.
Step 1: Make At Least Half Your Plate Veggies and Fruits
When it comes to building a healthy meal, veggies are always our first priority. They’re packed full of micro-nutrients and have a host whole of health benefits. Try to eat a variety of different fruits and veggies throughout the week, focusing on different colours to make sure you're getting everything your body needs. Pile up with vegetables such as greens, peppers & tomatoes first and foremost, and then add in a few more starchy veggies like butternut squash and parsnips. Don’t forget your favourite fruits too – but be a little less reckless with your abandon, as they do of course contain natural sugars.
Recommended Portion Size: 1-2 + fists
Step 2. Add a Quality Source of Protein
Always making sure you’re consuming a quality source of protein is our second top tips when it comes to building a healthy meal. Protein plays a crucial role in pretty much all biological processes – and amino acids, are the building blocks of our cells, muscles and tissues. It’ll help you recover post-workout(link), build lean muscle(link), stay satiated (link)… it can even improve the quality of your hair and skin! Be aware of consuming complete proteins e.g. foods that contain all nine essential amino acids, such eggs, meat, dairy, fish, seafood and certain Vegan Protein Blends. Why is our vegan blend a mix of hemp & pea protein? (link).
Recommended Portion Size: 1-2 palms
Step 3. Wholegrain Carbohydrates
Adding additional carbohydrates (remember – vegetables and fruits are carbs too!) is great for when you need a little extra energy or to refuel post-workout. Wholegrains are awesome because they provide slower releasing energy, thanks to their high fibre content – which has a whole host of other benefits for your gut too! Try experimenting with grains such as quinoa, wild rice, wholegrain pasta, buckwheat, oats and spelt.
Recommended Portion Size: 1-2 cupped hands
Step 4. Top with a Healthy Fat
Fat is often forgotten about or deemed as ‘unhealthy’, but this macro-nutrient is essential for optimal health – providing energy, building healthy cells, regulating hormones and aiding many other bodily functions. But that’s not a reason to head straight to the chippy - avoid less-nutritious deep-fried foods and overly processed fats, and opt instead for extra virgin olive oil, nuts, avocados, nut butters, eggs, and full-fat dairy instead. These are super filling and tasty foods that are great for b too! building healthy meals, or satiating snacks too!
Recommended Portion Size: 1-2 thumbs
Step 5. Season Smart
It might seem obvious to some, but try to steer clear of excessive sauces or processed flavourings – overly creamy, cheesy, rich or sugary dishes are going to add unnecessary fats, calories, sugars, and salts to your plate. Focus on herbs, spices, lemon juice, stocks and some of the healthy fats mentioned above to transform your dinner into a taste-sensation!
Step 6. Mix Things Up
Simply put, the more variety you eat, the more nutrients you’ll get – and the less bored you’ll be of eating healthily. No-one enjoys getting stuck in a culinary rut, so push yourself to try out new ingredients and cook new dishes on a weekly basis.
Step 7. Keep Moderation in Mind
There is nothing wrong with eating your favourite foods, and that doesn’t mean you have to always make healthier versions either. Our simple rule? Keep moderation in mind. A little bit of this and that here and there is a great way to satisfy cravings and avoid restriction. The 80/20 rule isn’t necessarily golden, but it is a pretty handy ratio to keep in mind!