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What does a “Balanced Meal” mean?

You’ve heard it since you were a kid…“it’s important to eat a balanced meal”. Sounds easy right? But what does that really mean?

By: Kelly Atyeo-Fick, B.A.Sc., M.H.Sc., P.H.Ec. 

You’ve heard it since you were a kid…“it’s important to eat a balanced meal”. Sounds easy right? But what does that really mean? 

The term “balance” is generally used to describe keeping things from falling.1

Try balancing an apple on your head; does the same definition apply for a meal?  Just keep the food from falling?  Not quite!  Other definitions for balance include being in a state of “emotional” stability.1 Lucky for us; food doesn’t tend to have nervous breakdowns!

All definitions aside, the word balance does provide wonderful inspiration at mealtime.

A balanced meal provides you with enough macronutrients and micronutrients that your body needs.  Macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates and fat, which provide you with energy.  Micronutrients are essential vitamins and minerals that the body uses for a variety of important functions – including breaking down macronutrients!

Ways to Help Keep Your Meals Balanced

Just like balancing that apple on your head, if you lean too far one way it might fall.  Same idea with your meals!  If you eat too many carbohydrates at one meal you may feel more sluggish than if you added some protein to balance it out.  Similarly if you only eat protein and carbohydrates with no fat, you will miss out on important micronutrients.     

This makes meal planning using Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide very important!2,3

There are four food groups that each have foods in them that contribute to a balanced diet.2,3 

These include:

  • Vegetables & Fruit (rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants etc.)
  • Grain Products (carbohydrates, B-vitamins, fibre etc.)
  • Milk & Alternatives (protein, calcium, B-vitamins, fats sometimes etc.)
  • Meat & Alternatives (protein, B-Vitamins, fat sometimes etc.)

Having a balanced diet starts with having balanced meals, which means you should try to think about what you’re eating whether you’re missing foods from any of the four food groups.

Have fun experimenting with your meals to make them balanced in a way that best suits you.  Below are a few options of balanced meals that you can eat from breakfast all the way to dinner.

Balanced Breakfast Options:

Chicken & Egg in a Mug

This is quick and simple recipe – offering 28 grams of protein per serving, perfect for before an early morning workout.  Want to make it a bit more balanced?  Add a slice of whole grain toast to get some carbohydrates for quick sugars that the brain needs.  That will allow your body to use protein for building muscle.

Speedy Breakfast Quesadilla

Love this recipe for its simplicity and its high nutritional value.  While you’re scrambling the eggs, add spinach to boost up your dose of vegetables!

Balanced Lunch Options:

Chicken Mustard Salad

Chicken Crunch Salad

Both these recipes scream balanced lunchtime meal.  The beauty of these salads are they give you energy and protein – however, they aren’t super heavy – so you won’t go back to work literally being “out of balance!”

Balanced Dinner Options

Braised Chicken with Rosemary Sweet Potatoes

This recipe has flavourful sweet potatoes to increase the amount of micronutrients in the meal (130% of your Daily Value of Vitamin A!).  Along with the dark meat of chicken, which also contributes to your B-vitamins, you’re good for a balanced meal with this dish!

Baked Barbecue Pineapple Chicken

This flavourful dinner also uses dark meat to balance out those B-vitamins.  It is tasty and nutritious if you add green beans, broccoli and/or whole grain rice on the side!

What makes YOUR meals balanced?

Everyone has different recommendations and dietary needs, so be sure to check out Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide and/or consult a Registered Dietitian to identify the ways to keep your meals balanced!

References

  1. Dictionary.com. (2016). Balance. Retrieved February 16, 2016, from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/balance
  2. Dietitians of Canada. (2013). Planning Meals Uising Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide. Retrieved February 16, 2016, from http://www.dietitians.ca/Downloads/Public/Senior-Friendly-collection.aspx
  3. Health Canada. (2007). How Much Food You Need Every Day. Retrieved February 16, 2016, from http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/food-guide-aliment/basics-base/quantit-eng.php

 

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