The first step toward a healthy lifestyle is appropriate meal planning. Eating healthy does not involve starving, nor does it involve loading up on proteins alone. If we've learnt anything from Michelle Obama's MyPlate, it is this: Meal planning is as simple as filling your plate the right way. Today we're taking a look at how you can better plan your meals and enjoy the benefits of a timely approach to health. So make way for the vegetables, fruits, grains and dairy.
What does a well-portioned meal look like?
Michelle Obama's MyPlate is a useful food icon to model all your meals. It tells you which foods are important for your body in which quantity. '50% of your plate should be full of fruits and vegetables.The rest should consist of protein, grains (half of which should be whole) and low-fat dairy' (via).The Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, an organization of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, promotes MyPlate as the right path toward appropriate nutrition.
Our very own Indian National Institute of Nutrition advises all Indians to eat balanced meals that include these food groups: Carbs, fats, and protein. Do remember that when we mention carbs, we are talking about good carbs like whole grains, brown rice and beans, and when we mention fats, we're talking about good fats like unsaturated fats.
Let's look at some meal planning strategies:
The reason why meal planning is so important is because it determines how well you stick to your resolve of eating right. Poor meal planning, as most crash dieters experience, only leads to unbridled hunger pangs and before you know it you're three pizzas down and in a world of self-loathing. So begin with the simplest part of meal planning -
- Decide which bad foods you simply can't do without. Slot them in for just one or two meals per fortnight. This ensures that you don't crave it too much, and that you don't suffer too much in its absence.
- Decide which good foods you actually like. There must be a fruit, or a vegetable or a meat preparation that is healthy and that you are particularly fond of. Is it a vegetable stir-fry, grilled fish fillet, pulses in thick and hearty broth? Factor these in for regular meals.
- Supplement unhealthy food with healthy food. Even when you absolutely do cave in, don't eat the unhealthy dish by itself. Add a side order of a fresh salad, drink a glass of skimmed milk, or eat a fruit an hour before the meal.
- Set realistic meal plan goals. Don't change your cuisine, food orientation or meal timings too drastically.
- Follow the plate division rule for each meal. Half your plate must have fruits and vegetables, and the other half must be split between grains and protein. If you must drink something with your meal, let it be fresh and low-fat dairy or a vegetable juice that isn't high in artificial sugars and additives.
- Make sure that you eat every 2-4 hours, depending on how light or heavy the last meal was.
And these rules apply to each meal - breakfast, lunch or dinner. Ideally, even snacks should be split between at least two food groups. So a toast with some protein on it would work well. A fruit with some dairy topping would work well. You'll find that when you combine food groups in appropriate quantities, your digestive system and appetite fall into place. There will be no more sudden hunger pangs, no waking up with an upset stomach, and no bloating. Ultimately, practise makes perfect. Start your own healthy meal planning today, and you will realise how easy right nutrition and healthy eating is.
*Image courtesy: © Thinkstock photos/ Getty Images
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