Now that we have an understanding of Proteins, Fats and Good Carbs, we’ll look at how much of each of these “macronutrients” we should aim to include in our meals and snacks.
How Much do I Need of Each?
As a general guideline, your plate should look like this:
However, focusing on percentages can be burdensome and potentially counterproductive for people beginning to change their diet.
Keep it Simple!
A simpler, but practical approach is to “eyeball” your portions:
1. Reserve the first half of your plate for fruits and vegetables
Aim to fill at least half your plate with fibrous, low starch fruits and veggies (good carbs) at every meal, such as broccoli, spinach, tomato, zucchini, berries, oranges, apples, and asparagus.
Low starch, fibrous veggies and fruits typically come from the stem, leaf, flower or fruit of a plant.
Tip: try to “eat the rainbow” by choosing fruits and veggies of different colors. This will help you enjoy the full range of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that the produce aisle has to offer. Every time you go to the grocery store, considering choosing a new fruit or vegetable to try.
2. Use your hands to estimate the rest
You can use your hands to estimate the rest of the plate. Try to include about:
- A palm size of protein, such as fish, chicken, eggs, or steak
- A thumb size of good fat, such as avocado, olive oil, or almonds
- A fist size of starchy carbs, such as whole grains, sweet potatoes or potatoes.
Starchy carbs typically come from the root (such as a potato, sweet potato or beet) or the seeds of a plant (such as wheat, oats or corn). Tropical fruits, such as bananas and mangos, should also be treated as starchy carbs for meal planning purposes.
A note on starchy carbs: most whole, natural starchy carbs contain beneficial nutrients but we want to limit the amount that we eat if we’re trying to lose weight. You don’t have to include starchy carbs with every meal. The fist size guideline only applies if you are choosing to include them. You can replace starchy carbs in a meal with two more fistful portions of low starch fruits and veggies.
An Eyeballing example
Here’s an example of eyeballing a balanced, healthy meal:
- A half a plate of broccoli, green beans and strawberries (low starch veggies and fruits)–about two cupped hands worth
- a palm sized piece of chicken (protein)
- a few slices of avocado–about a thumb size worth–to add healthy fat. Note if you choose a fatty fish for your protein, such as salmon, you already have a good fat source.
- a fist size of sweet potato (starchy carb)
How Much to Eat Throughout the Day
If you are following the healthy eating principles, including the portion estimates, with each meal and snack, then three meals a day with a small (balanced!) snack in between is appropriate for most people (athletes or other special circumstances may require modification).
If you want to get really precise with your portions and total daily intake, we discuss how to do that here.
Weight Loss, Snacking and Extra Portions
If you’re trying to lose weight and you find you need more food to get or stay full or as a snack, you can add as many low starch veggies and fruits as you like. You can also add some lean protein. However, avoid grains and extra starchy vegetables and definitely avoid the bad carbs!
Saving Room for Dessert
It’s OK and usually a good idea to allow yourself an occasional dessert, such as once a week and on special occasions. For most, it’s just not realistic to eliminate dessert/treats entirely. Attempting to do so usually ends with will power giving way to binging, with the resulting feelings of frustration and guilt.
If at all possible, plan for dessert by eating fewer carbs during the preceding meal, ideally by eliminating any starchy carbs. And, of course, don’t go overboard! Choose and enjoy a modest dessert or treat with your meal.
.Tip: if you want additional desserts throughout the week, consider fresh berries, peaches, nectarines or even a banana (or all of them together!) topped with whipped cream. Whipped cream adds a touch of sweetness but is light and the fruit is full of fiber, antioxidants and nutrients.
Striking a Balance with Dietary Supplements
We often get asked what supplements we take or recommend taking regularly. We’re not talking about the nutrition systems that are part of the Healthy U programs–these are usually temporary measures that aid in achieving a goal or goals. What we’re talking about here are lifetime, daily health routine-type supplements.
There are tons of supplements that claim to do everything under the sun, but we recommend just three that have proven to be beneficial for everyone:
1. A good multivitamin
Even though you’re eating a much greater breadth of healthy, natural foods as part of the Healthy U program, unfortunately, unless you grow the food yourself and control what goes into the soil, the soils in which most of our food is grown these days has been depleted of essential trace vitamins and minerals. A quality multivitamin can help make up for these deficiencies in your diet and help you to get more benefit from the food you eat. Get Adult Multivitamins…
Probiotics are the “good” bacteria in our stomach and digestive system that help regulate the digestive process. They provide lots of benefits including boosting your immune system, improving digestion, and regulating weight and hunger (so you feel full longer). A quality probiotic supplement helps ensure you have a good balance of these essential bacteria. Get Probiotics…
3. Omega 3 Fatty Acids (fish oil)
Unless, you eat fatty fish such as Salmon three or four times a week, everyone can benefit from a quality fish oil based, omega 3 supplement. There are just too many established health benefits to ignore, including increased brain function, healthier blood pressure and heart, reducing inflammation–which contributes to so many common ailments from asthma to Alzheimers–and reducing insulin resistance which contributes to weight gain and type 2 diabetes. Get Omega 3’s…