What makes a meal balanced?

meal balanced
meal balanced

Parker/2017

What makes a meal balanced? Good question. There are so many different styles of eating at this point. And that food pyramid with the colors just doesn’t make sense when you’re planning your meal. Also, it’s different for kids. How much of protein, veg, and carbs should we be eating? Consider that a meal is so much more than just consuming food. It’s about nourishing your mind, body, and spirit.

 

Unbalanced

I recently had a coupon for one of those food delivery services where they give you the recipe and you make the food. I thought it would be fun to try for my 13-year-old son to cook the meals. He actually loved it and felt so proud making the meal for the family. The food was quite tasty, but I found it wasn’t very balanced. It was also heavy on the carbs. For example, we had a cod stew that was served with pizza bread. I actually roasted some fresh spring asparagus to go with the meal. The stew had cod and potatoes in it, which was fine, but the meal was just screaming for something green.

I’m sure they’re appealing to the general population of carb addicts when they plan their meals, as all three of the meals we received were heavy on the carbs and light on the veggies. And they didn’t offer gluten-free options, so it’s not going to be a long-term solution for us, but it was fun to try something new. I looked at a few of them and it’s been impossible to find pescetarian, organic, gluten free meals. If anyone has found such an option, let me know.

[tweetthis]I always tell my patients to have ½ to ¾ of their plate in veggies and ¼ in protein.[/tweetthis]

Make it Balanced

I always tell my patients to have ½ to ¾ of their plate in veggies and ¼ in protein. If you really need a grain such as brown rice or quinoa, then that fills the other ¼ of the plate. I do serve grains to my son but I don’t prefer to eat them myself. I’m fine with getting my carbs from the veggies. Also, I have to say, as I age, I find I need fewer carbs from grains, as they just seem to add weight to me. I often tell my patients.

It’s the only way I’ve been able to maintain my weight for the last 13 years after having a child at 40. Patients who have kids in their late 20’s and early 30’s seem to have a much more elastic body that bounces back with even a decent waistline. Patients like myself who have children later in life, bounce back more slowly. Rest assured, you can regain and maintain your body, but it will take work and letting go of former food habits.

Mealtimes

Ok, back to meals. If you have kids, mealtime is an important part of life. There are many studies that show sitting down and having a meal as a family, even if it’s with 1 parent, has huge ramifications on the child’s growth, social development, and success in school. Who knew that meals can mean so much more than just consuming nutrients? Remember, you don’t have to cook a Julia Child level of meal in order to have a family meal. You can order a box service like I tried or you can make something super simple in just 20 minutes. Who doesn’t have 20 minutes to make a family meal that makes such a huge impact on a child’s development? If you need super simple meal ideas, email me at Donna@donnaAcupuncture.com

Food Advice

I love Michael Pollan’s advice on food. He says,” eat food, not too much, and mostly plants.” And let’s talk about plate size. There was a study done on movie goers. They were given a free bucket of very STALE popcorn. Some were given a large and some a small tub. The buckets were weighed before and after the movie. It turns out that those who were given the larger size ate more of the popcorn. Remember, the popcorn was very stale, so the taste was not a factor. The researchers recreated the experiment in several different theaters, in different states, and with different types of movies. The results were always the same. Bigger size equated with larger portions consumed.

Here’s the takeaway, eat from smaller plates. If you use a smaller plate, you will consume less. This is also great for kids who really don’t need a huge plate and will find a small plate more appealing and satisfying. Translate this to drinking cups as well. Smaller portions of sweetened drinks for kids will be more satisfying than that same small portion in a large glass. If you must drink fluids with your meal, make it water, and keep it to 4 ounces or less. This will help your stomach digest the food better as you won’t be diluting the stomach acid needed to properly digest your meal.

Meal Planning

When you plan your meal, think of the veggies first and plan your meal around those. I like 2 veggies per meal or 1 veggie and a salad. Then what is the protein that will go with that meal? Maybe bake chicken breast or quick sauté of thin fish such as sole in butter and lemon. For kids, you can add some grains with the meal like brown rice, quinoa or even those new pasta made from lentils. Do your best to make as much of the meal from whole foods and stay away from the processed versions. And always eat your meals sitting down together. Mealtime is a great time to connect and process the day’s activities. It’s a time when you and your child may share stories about your day.

In our home, we have a fun deck of cards that have questions on them that help initiate conversations. We also have a basket on the table with a pen and small pieces of paper. It’s our appreciation basket. When something happens to any of us that we really appreciate, we take a moment to write it down and put it in the basket. We pull them out at the end of the year and write them on a large piece of paper that is then put in the hallway for all of us to read as we pass by. You can create any kind of mealtime ritual that works for your family.

Like I said, even if it’s only 1 parent that sits down to share a meal, that is better than a child eating along and you eating later. If you like to eat later, you may be eating too late for good digestion. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the ideal time to have dinner is between 5-7 pm. Most kids do the best eating around 6 pm. Make that your mealtime as well. If your spouse or partner gets home after 7 pm, just leave out a plate for them to enjoy on their own. I can’t stress this enough. So many of my patients eat too late and then go to bed too late as a result. Working in harmony with your internal clock with only enhance your health and well-being.

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