What You Need to Know to Plan for Optimal Eating
Are you looking to improve your eating habits? Want to make sure you are eating the right amounts of different food groups? If so, we can help you understand how to plan your menu so you eat the right balance of veggies and fruits, grains, and protein. Planning ahead is one of the best ways to ensure you stick to your healthy eating habits. When you know what you are going to make and which ingredients you need, your time in the grocery store will be focused. It will also help you avoid impulse buying and can save you money. And, it will ensure you are eating the right amounts of different food groups so your overall diet is as healthy as can be.
Before we begin, we’d like to provide a quick review of carbohydrates (carbs), which are found in most foods. When consumed, carbs are broken down in your body and turned into glucose, which is then converted to energy. This energy fuels physical activity and all of your bodily functions. It stands to reason, then, that the healthier the carbs you eat, the more energy you will have.
The two types of carbs are called complex and simple. Complex carbohydrates are the ones found in veggies and fruit, whole grains, and many sources of protein. Foods high in complex carbs are also usually high in fiber, vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, and other nutrients. Because they take longer to digest, you feel full and have energy for longer periods of time. They also don’t quickly raise your blood sugar level or cause blood sugar spikes when you eat. Simple carbs, on the other hand, are processed and usually high in sugar. They are found in white bread, white rice, pastries, and a host of other items lining the shelves in the grocery store. Also called simple sugars, they provide a quick burst of glucose/energy, but leave you feeling the crash shortly after. This becomes a roller coaster ride for your body. The cycle of high sugar than low sugar continually throughout the day can be extremely exhausting on the body’s energy.
Again, the healthier the carbs you eat, the more energy you have. And who doesn’t need more energy? So let’s take a look at what a healthy meal rich with complex carbohydrates includes.
50% Vegetables and Fruits:
50% of your meal should be veggies and fruit with the focus on vegetables. Think variety and color, and experiment with different recipes to find lots of interesting and flavorful ways to prepare them. Shoot for all the colors you can – asparagus, tomatoes, bananas, carrots, beets, turnips, apples, pumpkin, and raspberries. While an unlikely dinner combination, it’s an example of all the colors you can choose from. Remember that potatoes are not included as a healthy vegetable because of their impact on blood sugar.
25% Whole Grains:
25% of your meal should be whole grains. Some solid options include barley, oats, quinoa, brown rice, wheat berries, and items made primarily of whole wheat, such as pasta and some breads. Whole grains are high in fiber. Fiber helps slow down the digestion process, which allows for maximum absorption of nutrients, and it also leaves you feeling full longer.
25% of your meal should consist of protein. Lean protein such as chicken and fish are good choices, as well as high quality grass fed or organic lean beef. All types of eggs, nuts, beans, and seeds are also good sources of protein. Avoid processed meats such as bacon and sausage, as they are high in fat, calories, and salt. Grilling, baking, and braising are the best ways to cook lean meats.
Take note that these percentages are just a rough idea for an individual. Some people may need less grains and more protein or vice versa to have balanced hunger, energy and cravings throughout the day. The idea is to have energy without hunger, low energy and cravings. Some individuals may need more fats than others. You will have to work to find the formula of food that works for you to make you healthy and feel your best daily.
So now that you know the amounts you should eat to best balance your healthy diet, it’s time to think about planning a menu that includes these things. Spend some time planning out the next week. Check out new or familiar recipes that incorporate the above information, and strive for variety to keep your meals interesting. Don’t forget to include healthy snacks in your plans. Once you know what you want to cook, make a shopping list, and stick to it. You can do this! Your body and your health will thank you.
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