Monday, July 27

Good Eating Monday: Planning A Balanced Meal

My Hubby used to eat lunch sometimes at the Bowling Alley on the Air Force base. He'd come home and tell me they were serving Salisbury steak with mashed potatoes and corn.
Well potatoes are a starchy vegetable and corn is a starchy vegetable: you never serve double starchy veggies and call it good!
I'd say, "What! Doesn't their chef know their food group basics for balanced nutrition?"
But large scale cafeteria operations frequently fall back on corn as their "veggie of choice" simply because it's cheaper then fresh broccoli and they can buy it in those giant, industrial sized cans.
Not that there's anything wrong with corn. I love corn. It does have nutritional value.
I'm just saying in the area of nutrition meal planning it's a rule of thumb to try and avoid having double starches in a single meal, when possible!
Eating burgers and fries at the fast food is actually another example of a double-starch eating situation. Bread and potato fires = two starches. To reduce this to a single starch eating situation, you'd want to order the side salad instead of fries.

Did you learn the food pyramid in school?
If not, here it is. Ideally, you want to work all these food groups into your daily eating to be healthy.
They're arranged in order from what you need the most of, such as grains & cereals, at the bottom, to the least important, such as sugars and oils at the top.

Recommended servings: 
Meat, Fish, Legumes, Nuts: 2 to 3 servings a day
Dairy: 3 servings minimum for kids. For adults this varies depending on gender and age. (Girls & women need a good calcium in-take all their lives.)
Fruits & veggies: Serve for every meal and as some snacks.
Whole Grain Breads, Rice, Pasta, Potatoes, etc: Every meal & some snacks. 
You want these kinds of starches in your diet because they digest slowly and help you feel full longer.
Now this is also a general rule of thumb and there's wiggle room for adults, depending on your purpose, such as body building or weight loss.
However, for your intestines to work properly keep in mind that all people absolutely need good solid, daily intake of both vegetable roughage and whole grain roughage. Also eating fruits with skin, like apples or grapes offers additional roughage.
The Balanced Plate:
This is a visual aid for meal planning & food portions.
The main point is to see that you're supposed to eat twice as many veggies as meat & grain products on the plate.
(I say "on the plate," because I usually have a cup of milk with every meal for calcium in-take, which I consider my drink.)
The grain portion of the plate represents "starchy grains or veggies," so, as you plan your meal, you can choose put a baked potato for the "grain" spot, a steak for your meat PLUS the equivalent of 2 green veggies--but let's say you want to add a salad---which has multiple veggies in it--well, you've  more then met your goal for a for a balanced, nutritious meal!

But what about a stir-fry or a casserole or jambalaya?

Now you've got a mixed pile of stuff on the plate that's not in neat sections anymore.
 That's where  principle of "more veggies then protein or grains" comes in.
Casseroles often have  meat, several veggies plus cheese! Just add a fruit on the side or a salad for bonus veggie points.
Stir-fry's are naturally loaded with more then 2 veggies plus a meat served over rice. That's already fantastic. 
What about lasagna? If you make your own, add extra veggies: bell peppers, onions and even mushrooms to the sauce before making. If you buy it, have a salad with lots of veggie additions with it.
Just some examples.
What about beans? 
This is the legume family, like Chick Peas, Navy Beans, Black Beans, Kidney Beans and so on.
I generally plan them as a protein in a meal, though technically they're also veggies & something of a starch.
Green baby & regular size lima beans are legumes as well. Mix them with corn and create a protein- packed veggie mix called "Succotash."  (Though try not to serve it with potatoes.)
Life's not perfect. Eat what you enjoy. Eat a wide variety of things.  Our bodies need a balance of protein, fiber, calcium & vitamins from a wide assortment of sources. Make you plate as full of as many colors as you can  and it will be fairly healthy.

Eat up, me hearties, yo-ho!

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