“I am finding balance and joy in being flexible and adventurous in my eating habits.”
It’s right there in the description of what fuels A Nourished Life… but what does it even mean? Well, I am glad that you asked. People love to throw around the words “balance” and “moderation”. People love to talk about how they are finally achieving their nutritional and lifestyle goals using words like “flexible”. So, that’s great, but what does this mean to someone trying to maintain healthy eating habits?
Merriam Webster defines the word “balanced” as: being in a state of balance/having different parts or elements properly or effectively arranged, proportioned, regulated, considered, etc.
Ok, we are going to briefly remind ourselves about food groups, yes, food groups- elementary school flashbacks, any of you 90’s kids? I promise, this will be quick.
Food plate guides were created to make balancing food choices much easier. The plant-based food plate is a little different from the traditional food group plate and it should be.
Here are two visual examples if you’d like to take a look: Plant Plate (http://www.theveganrd.com/vegan-nutrition-101/food-guide-for-vegans/) and MyPlate (https://www.choosemyplate.gov/MyPlate).
I’m going to link a few helpful sites here so you can familiarize yourself with what portions look like: http://www.brendadavisrd.com/the-vegan-plate/ . Here is one more for you: http://blog.foodnetwork.com/healthyeats/2013/02/22/portion-control-use-visual-cues-to-remember-serving-sizes/ . I encourage you to find your own resources, too. The internet is a full of them– just be sure they are from credible sources.
I have learned by experience that plant-based eating is relatively simple, but can sometimes take some thought and planning when you just start out.
Grains are easy: bread, rice, pasta, potatoes and the like. Fruits and vegetables are also pretty straightforward. We’ve already talked about protein (legumes, nuts, and seeds… etc.,) already. If you haven’t read it check it out here: https://hayleypfleghaar.com/2017/07/17/whats-the-deal-with-plant-protein/ .
Perfect. You found that you knew these already. SCORE!
A balanced meal will have these things in the proportions close to what is represented by the graphic. If you are an animal protein eater, it will look a little different, but you will still have the general macronutrients (carbs, protein, and fats) .
Now, what? The graphic above is a great launching pad. It is not the ultimate, perfect, I’m-finally-going-to-be-so-stinking-healthy model, though, and you’ll constantly find new and different recommendations.
Land in the happy middle. Find someplace in the middle of what everyone is recommending. Some suggest an iron or calcium supplement. Some experts suggest three servings of fruit, and some say four. You are going to have to do some of your own research to make the best decision for you. As long as you fall within the generally accepted ranges and your body will be happy.
One goal I have in sharing the with you is to increase plant food intake, not drive ourselves nuts (ha-ha, nuts are a plant protein- see what I did there) trying get in the perfect number of servings of everything. Why are we not trying to do that? Because you would EXHAUST yourself and NEVER EVER DO IT PERFECTLY.
I don’t mean to be a downer here, but you wouldn’t make it. I wouldn’t make it. Nutrition is always changing as new research is being published. The recommendations are always evolving, and it can be very frustrating. Just when you figure out your eating patterns some expert with a bunch of letters after their name has to come along and mess it all up!
So, what are regular people like you and I to do when this happens? I would accept the new guidelines (I’m talking official, government issued guideline, here), do your best with them, and keep in mind what is always recommended even when others things change:
- more fruits,
- more veggies,
- more lean meats,
- more plant proteins,
- more whole grains.
Ok, back to the word “balanced”. This is what balanced eating looks like for me. I am mainly a plant-eater. 85% of the time I run on plants. Sometimes I cook Thai peanut chicken and veggies: https://hayleypfleghaar.com/2016/12/29/slow-cooker-thai-peanut-chicken/. On occasion, I make my favorite salmon dish: https://hayleypfleghaar.com/2016/07/26/indian-spiced-salmon/ . I also enjoy ice cream from time to time. The biggest lesson I have learned is that balanced eating is a process. It’s about changing our perspective of what food is.
Food fuels our functions. If you are running a diesel engine, for instance, and you fill it up with regular old gasoline, well, you are going to have some problems. The same goes for our body, our engine, if you will. I know, totally lame analogy, but stay with me. The more processed, high saturated fat, high salt foods we offer our body, the less efficiently it will function. WHY? These are not the best foods for our bodies nor are they being eaten in the proper amounts.
That is not to say that some saturated fat and some salt are not okay, even necessary. Of course they are! They are still food ingredients and are present in many things that we eat. It’s just that the general public eats far too much of these ingredients, and are, or will soon be, reaping the health consequences.
So why not educate ourselves? Why not learn to eat well, to eat mindfully, balanced and to enjoy certain things in moderation, if it means our years may be longer and less disease-ridden?
My reason for plant-based, healthy, well-balanced, delicious dishes is to give my body more of the vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients that nutrition authorities have been suggesting for decades. That is my outlook. It doesn’t need to be yours. You can eat animal foods and lead a perfectly healthy life.
The real difference is made in how you balance all of it, how you balance all nutrients!
So, what can you do today to create balance eating habits:
- Familiarize yourself with MyPlate or the Plant Plate visual guides to eating linked above.
- Make sure you know your portion sizes and what your body needs every day also linked above.
- Think about how you can start incorporating more veggies, fruits, whole grains, lean protein, and plant protein in your daily life. And give it a try.
- Follow healthy blogs, or visit the library to find some healthy recipes—and get cooking in that kitchen!
- Have PATIENCE and GRACE with yourself. Yes, you can eat that double chocolate chip cookie. Yes, you can go to that potluck and not stress about the lack of vegetables. It’s hot outside, get yourself that scoop of ice cream you’ve been excited for. The important part is that you are making healthy choices MOST OF THE TIME. Your ultimate habit should be healthy food, snacks and meals. The cookies, ice cream, potato chips etc,… are the treats that are reasonably enjoyed, not the main habit or way of eating.
What are your balanced eating thoughts and tips???