Building Balanced Meals: 3 Ways

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How to Build a Balanced Meal

Learning to build a balanced meal takes a bit practice. Once you learn a few tips though, you’ll find it easy. First, you identify which foods fit into which macronutrient category (fat, carbs, and protein). Then, you ensure you’re getting enough of each macronutrient. And, finally, you find meals that are practical, delicious, and supportive of your wellness goals.

In this post, Chef Dawn and Chef Kenzie will go through 3 separate strategies for building balanced meals in various scenarios.

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How to Build a Balanced Meal

Strategy #1: Use our Guides and Infographics

When writing Always Hungry?, Chef Dawn and Dr. Ludwig created guides to help you build your own meals. You’ll find an Infographic Variation and a Table Variation – choose the one that works best for you. Print it out to hang on the inside of a cabinet in your kitchen or post on your fridge.

Examples: Here are a few combinations based on the guides…

  • Meal 1: Roasted pesto chicken and white beans with side steamed vegetables
    • Chicken thigh w skin (4-6 oz uncooked) = Higher protein, higher fat
    • Pesto (1-2 tbsp) = Fat
    • Beans (½ cup) = Slow carb
    • Lots of non-starchy veg!
  • Meal 2: Scrambled eggs with cheese and vegetables – paired with a side of berries
    • Scrambled eggs (3 pcs) = Lower protein, higher fat
    • Small amt. oil for scrambled eggs = fat
    • Cheese (1 oz) = additional higher protein fat
    • (No additional fat needed – comes from eggs and cheese)
    • Non-tropical fruit or berries (1 cup) = slow carb
    • Lots of non-starchy veg with the eggs!
  • Meal 3: Simple berry and peanut butter smoothie
    • Protein powder (1 oz – about 22-25 grams of protein) = protein
    • Coconut milk (2 tbsp) = fat #1
    • Peanut butter (2 tbsp)  = fat #2
    • Berries (1 cup) = slow carb
    • Small amount of milk and additional water, to desired consistency

Strategy #2: Use a Formula – Equal Grams of Carbs, Fat, Protein in Each Meal

In Phase 1, you can achieve 50% fat, 25% carbohydrate, and 25% protein meals by aiming for the same GRAM amount in each macronutrient of a meal (for example: 30 grams protein, 30 grams fat, and 30 grams carbohydrates). This “formula” will get you right into Phase 1 ratios every time.

Note if you are slightly “off” in gram amounts, you will likely still be within the Phase 1 ratio range (for example, 26 grams fat, 32 grams carbs, and 25 grams protein still winds up in Phase 1 ratios). Remember that these are just average size meals, some larger meals may be closer to 40-40-40 ratios, some smaller meals might be more toward 25-25-25. Although tools like My Fitness Pal or Cronometer don’t typically show macronutrient percentages for each meal, they will typically show gram amounts of macronutrients for each meal. 

**Word of caution with My Fitness Pal and other food logging sites: Many of these platforms allow individuals to input their own recipes and nutritional information. This leads to some values that are quite inaccurate. 

Strategy #3: Plate Method

Let go of calculating and use this more visual method. Although this strategy may not land you exactly within P1 or P2 ratios, it will get you quite close – and it will ensure you have fats, complex carbohydrates, proteins, and vegetables. The plate method is 100% visual  so it allows you to be more intuitive rather than calculating with ratios. You might find that this method gives you just the ratios you need, whatever they end up being at each meal.

Here’s How it Works:
Visualize your plate divided into equal quarters. One quarter should be filled with protein. One quarter should be filled with complex carbohydrates. Two quarters should be filled with vegetables (non-starchy). On top, add 1-2 tbsp LIQUID fats (oil, butter, nut butter, fatty sauces, etc.) OR ¼ – ⅓ cup SOLID fats (avocado, nuts/seeds). Use the lower end of the fat range (ie 1 tbsp liquid fat or ¼ cup solid fat) if you have a high-fat protein and use the higher end of the fat range if you use a low-fat protein. See the Equivalents Table on pages 49-51 of Always Delicious to see which proteins are higher or lower fat. 

Again, this strategy may not land you in perfect ratios… However, if you feel good with the ratios you eat using this method, they’ll be perfect for you. This is also great way to familiarize yourself with a variety of nutrients and start to learn how to build balanced meals. This is also a great strategy to use at restaurants when ratios/grams may be impossible to calculate. 

Eager to Make Some AWESOME Changes with a Supportive Community?

Check out Kenzie’s online Always Nourished community where she provides additional support with the help of some incredibly inspiring fellow “AH-ers”.

Learn more HERE >> 

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