When it comes to healthy eating, the key is cultivating balance between foods that are nutritious and foods that are delicious. In an ideal world, everything we eat would be both.
But of course, we live in the real world, not the ethereal ideal world, so we sometimes end up eating foods that aren’t our favorites, but that nourish us for lasting well-being. So, when I sit down to eat, I try to build my meals with a balance of nutritious ingredients along with those that I know taste delicious. (My secret recipe for delicious everything is to add cheese, but that’s neither here nor there.)
First of all, I want to make clear that this framework represents how I eat most of the time. What this means is that I sometimes don’t eat this way. Usually, structuring my eating with this framework makes me feel satisfied, energized, and comfortable in my skin, so it doesn’t feel rigid or restrictive in any way. But sometimes, it doesn’t feel right for a given meal or snack, and in those instances I don’t eat this way. The point of this framework isn’t rigid adherence, it’s food freedom. It’s to help me stay consistent with habits that make me feel good, and at the same time having the freedom to do otherwise when that’s what is going to make me feel my best.
All that being said, let’s dig in!
3-2-1 Meal Planning
Most days, I strive to eat three balanced meals, two snacks, and one fun food. (The fun food is usually part of a meal or snack, but sometimes I add it in as extra!) Eating enough food with enough regularity helps keep my blood sugar steady, and eliminates the need for either proactive or reactive overeating.
Reactive overeating results from getting way too hungry, and eating so much so quickly that I end up eating past fullness. Proactive overeating is overeating in anticipation of future restriction so that I don’t get way too hungry by the time my next opportunity to eat rolls around.
Pie Chart Plate Proportions
The current recommendations from the USDA are to fill half our plates with fresh fruits and vegetables, so that’s what I do. I accomplish this in a variety of ways, most often by incorporating roasted vegetables as a side dish. (If you need vegetable recipe inspiration, check out my Super-Easy, Fool-Proof Method for Making Mind-Blowing-Delicious Vegetables). I also add extra vegetables to soups, sauces and casseroles, and substitute them for other meal components, like pasta.
To fill the rest of my plate, I strive for at least one serving each of protein and carbohydrates. Most of the time, I choose animal protein, and I tend to prefer sweet potatoes, Ezekiel bread, and quinoa for my choice of sides. Or, I skip out on carbohydrate sources with the main meal and enjoy them even more as dessert!
I cook with fats and use them in my sauces, so usually getting enough healthy oils isn’t an issue for me. My favorites are grass-fed butter, avocado oil, extra virgin olive oil, and sometimes coconut oil.
Savor the Flavor
Steamed broccoli and dry toast are boring. So, I don’t eat those foods! As often as I can, I prepare my meals and snacks from ingredients I love, and with cooking methods that I know make food taste good! I love grilled meats, roasted vegetables, and oven-fried sweet potatoes. I don’t really like rice, so I choose higher-protein, higher-fiber options like quinoa. I love macaroni and cheese, but I don’t feel great when I eat it on a daily basis. So, I incorporate the most delicious aspects of rich foods (like cheese) into my standard daily diet. For example, I love making quinoa and cheese (a twist on macaroni and cheese) and stir-fried cauliflower rice (rather than regular fried rice.) Making my nutritious choices as delicious as possible keeps me from feeling deprived. I certainly enjoy my favorite foods with regularity, but keeping them in moderation keeps me feeling my best.
Which nutrition habits keep you feeling your best?