I’m going to let you in on a little secret – planning a day of balanced meals doesn’t have to be complicated. No, seriously! All you have to remember is that each meal and snack should have some protein, fiber, complex carbohydrates and a little bit of fat. This combination of nutrients is absorbed slowly, provides lasting energy, and prevents the rapid spikes and drops in blood sugar that can follow a sugary meal or snack. Today, I am going to walk you through a healthy menu for a whole day that includes three meals and a few snacks.
First off, by starting your day with a balanced breakfast – ideally within an hour of waking up – you will rev up your metabolism and ensure you are not ravenous by lunchtime. Here are a few simple options that include a good balance of protein, fiber, complex carbohydrates and fat:
- A cup of fiber rich, whole grain cereal or oatmeal prepared with soy or low-fat milk, and some fresh fruit.
- A 2-egg omelet with vegetables (spinach, tomato, onion, mushrooms, and peppers are all great options), some feta or mozzarella cheese, and a slice of whole-wheat toast or a whole-wheat English muffin.
- A smoothie made with some low-fat yogurt and/or milk, fresh or frozen fruit, and some nuts or nut butter. You can even toss in leafy greens to boost the vitamin and mineral content!
Whatever you do, don’t skip breakfast – it makes an important contribution towards your daily intake and it plays a key role in maintaining a healthy weight.
A mid-morning snack is optional. If you eat a larger breakfast, you may not feel hungry until lunchtime. However, if you’re feeling a bit hungry and lunch is still two or three hours away, a light mid-morning snack will tide you over. Generally, I find that I have to eat something every few hours to avoid getting too hungry. Just try to make every snack count with nourishing options. You could, for example, try a serving of plain yogurt mixed with one-half cup blueberries and a little honey.
Lunch is often something you eat at work or school, so you may want to opt for a portable meal. You could try:
- A sandwich made with two slices of whole grain bread, two or three ounces of lean turkey breast, a few slices of avocado, a tomato slice or two, and some lettuce, a hummus and roasted veggie wrap, or a PB & J on whole grain toast.
- An entrée salad made with your choice of greens and whatever vegetables you like, a protein, such as grilled chicken or tuna – or beans, chickpeas, and edamame if you prefer a vegetarian option, and some healthy fat in the form of chopped nuts, avocado, cheese and/or a drizzle of olive oil. Just make sure not to overdo it on the toppings and dressings!
A mid-afternoon snack is also optional. A piece of fruit with a spoonful of nut butter or a cup of raw vegetable with hummus can provide you with the right a combination of nutrients to keep you feeling satisfied and energized until your next meal. If you’re the kind of person that feels their sweet tooth calling at around 3pm, swap your chocolate or granola bar for a handful of dried apple rings with a few almonds or walnuts. Dried fruit is naturally sweet, and combining it with nuts stabilizes the release of their sugars so you stay energized for longer.
Dinner is a time when it’s easy to over-eat, especially if you haven’t eaten much during the day, so watch your portion sizes. A good rule of thumb to ensure a balanced meal is to fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables and/or leafy greens, one quarter of your plate with protein (such as skinless chicken, baked fish, or a lean cut of red meat) and one quarter with a whole grain (such as brown rice, quinoa, or barley) or a starchy vegetable (such as potato or corn).
A light evening snack may help you sleep but avoid heavy, greasy snacks or foods high in refined sugars. Try a piece of fresh fruit, or a little cheese and some whole grain crackers.
And there you have it – a day of balanced eating that will keep your energy levels stable and prevent excessive hunger!
Barb practices a holistic approach to health and wellness, which means that she looks at how all of the areas of her client’s lives – activity level, eating habits, stress, relationships, and work – are interconnected. She then helps them work towards the results they desire, such as such as achieving an optimal weight, reducing cravings, incorporating more healthy foods into family meals, and minimizing fatigue, in realistic and enjoyable steps! Barb doesn’t believe in magic pills or fad diets, and has seen firsthand how dramatic results can be achieved through simple nutritional and lifestyle improvements!
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