Do you know if your meal is balanced? And what does a balanced meal actually look like?
When I work with clients I teach them how to compose their meals in a way that is supportive to their goals and their health.
There are current dietary recommendations, such as the government food pyramid and the composition of your plate.
The “basic four”
For a long time, nutrition has been centered around the “basic four” food groups:
- dairy products
- cereal grains
- fruits and vegetables
However, the approach of the “basic four” can be misleading. Many people believe that the four components are equally important categories of food, and that animal, bird, or fish meats, as well as milk, butter and eggs, are crucial parts of a good meal. All of these foods, of course, can be used and are nutritionally helpful, but only in modest amounts – not as 2 out of 4 of the main food groups and not at the level currently consumed by the average person. Clearly consuming a diet that consists to 50% of these foods is not health promoting.
Growing children might need more animal protein and fat to support their growth, however they need far fewer of these high-protein, high-fat foods, than you might think.
The Food-Based Dietary Guidelines in Europe
The dietary guidelines for each European country slightly differs. The main guidelines about the food groups however are quite similar:
Consume more vegetables and fruits, whole grain cereals, and less meat (specifically red meat) and dairy.
The quantities recommended however differ in each country and are also influenced by seasonal, cultural and climate differences.
The problem with the food pyramids you see in the guidelines however is that the recommendations are difficult to implement in our busy lives. How much meat should we really consume? How much dairy is too much? There is conflicting and confusing information about that.
A more helpful guide might be the healthy plate recommendation.
I invite you to read the guidelines and draw your own conclusion.
The new basic four
This can be a helpful step towards transitioning to a healthier diet. The new basic four consists of:
- whole grains and legumes
- proteins and fats (includes nuts and seeds for vegetarians, and milk, eggs and meat for the omnivore).
You can see how this helps shift the focus towards healthier foods and gives some information about the quantity of proteins and fats that should be consumed.
The vegetables, whole grains and legumes are the most significant group and should be the largest part of the diet. The protein and fat foods are really secondary groups and combined. However they are also important to balance out the diet.
Fruits, nuts, seeds, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes should constitute the majority of the diet, at least 80% to 90%. Adults eating much more than 10% to 15% of their diet in the form of animal foods should reevaluate their choices, as the high-fat and low-fiber content of these foods can be detrimental to health in the long run.
The few exceptions to this, where a diet higher than this amount of animal products (mainly fish or poultry with vegetables) would be for weight loss or in the cases of intestinal yeast or overgrowth, where it is important to temporarily reduce the foods high in natural sugars and starches.
The specific individual proportions of these groups vary somewhat from person to person and season to season.
Online nutrition guide to a healthy lifestyle
I go more in depth on how to make healthy choices that fit your lifestyle and goals in my online program which comes with plenty of information on nutrition, such as the importance of macro-nutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, fats), and the quantity and quality of these foods for optimal health. I also discuss vitamins and minerals, individual nutrition, seasonality and climate.
Here’s what you’ll learn in this course:
- What is healthy food? Some nutritional foundations
- Creating new food habits
- Building a healthy diet
- Food shopping and storage
- How to compose your meals / meal preparation
- 4 week meal plan
- Grocery shopping lists
- Over 40 recipes
In the end of this program you will have a much better understanding on how to make healthy choices without any stress. The program also comes with a 4 week meal plan, grocery shopping lists and over 40 recipes for you to try at home.