What Constitutes a Healthy Meal?
A simple definition of a healthy meal can be the one that helps to maintain or improve your overall health. Lately, healthy eating has been associated with harsh dietary limitations or depriving yourself of things you like to eat. Instead, a healthy diet should boost your mood, increase your energy levels, and improve/maintain your overall health.
The irony of today’s world is that there are tons of diet plans out there, but still, the number of unhealthy individuals is on the rise. On one side, we have an alarming 42% of the US population suffering from obesity. On the other hand, one in every 200 women in the United States suffers from anorexia. Therefore, one thing is for sure that all these diet plans are not improving the overall health status of our nation. The issue is conflicting and complicated information.
Healthy eating is not complicated and let me say if you stress over all the different information and find it hard to stick to so-called diet plans you are probably doing yourself more harm than good.
To make it easy for you, below, we discuss the different fundamentals of a healthy meal:
Proteins are the building blocks of our bones, muscles, cartilages, and skin. Our body also uses proteins to build and repair cells and tissues. They also support our mood and cognitive function. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein to meet our basic nutritional requirements is 0.36 grams per pound or 0.8 grams per kg of the body weight. Therefore, a 70-kg man will require around 55 grams of proteins per day.
Protein from animal sources including meat, poultry, dairy, eggs, and fish is considered good sources of protein as they have all the amino acids your body needs. We can also get protein from grains, nuts, vegetables. and beans.
Proteins should be a good part of your diet if you are working out to building muscles. To help with this, check out Lean & Tasty’s Workout Meals for the best proteinaceous meals.
Fats provide us with energy and support cell growth. Moreover, they protect our organs and keep our bodies warm. They are also important in the production of hormones. For fats, Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 recommends that about 20-35% of your daily calories should come from fats. Out of these, saturated fats (bad fats) should not exceed more than 10% of your daily calories.
So, if you are on a 2000-calorie-per-day diet, you can have 44 to 78 grams of fats. But, saturated fats should not make be more than 20 grams.
Saturated fat is found in things like butter, cakes, biscuits, sausages, bacon, cheese, ice cream, milkshakes, chocolates, chocolate spreads, etc.
The natural sources of good fats include avocado, whole eggs, fatty fish, nuts, chia seeds, dark chocolate, extra virgin olive oil, etc.
During digestion, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose and that is our body’s source of instant energy. Carbs are also the energy that runs our brains, kidneys, muscles, and central nervous system. If you are a normal healthy individual, The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that carbs should make up 45-65% of your daily calories. Thus, if you are on a 2000-calorie-per-day diet, carbs should make up 900 to 1300 of your daily calories.
Carbs have gotten a bad reputation over the years and especially if you are trying to lose weight they are considered a big no. In reality, just like fats, not like carbs are bad.
Carbs can be divided into two major groups; simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates break down easily and occur naturally in foods such as dairy and fruits. They are also found in processed foods such as candies, syrups, and soft drinks. As they break down easily, they cause a spike in blood sugar levels. Complex carbs, on the other hand, take longer to digest and cause a slow release of sugar. Complex carbs are found in peas, whole grains, beans, and vegetables.
In simple terms, simple carbohydrates are bad for your weight loss and health goals, and complex carbs are the ones that you can include in your diet.
Apart from these three major fundamental components, our body also needs micronutrients in the form of vitamins and minerals.
MyPlate Food Guide For A Healthy Meal
For an easy understanding of what constitutes a healthy meal, The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) initiated the MyPlate food guide.
This guide illustrates different food groups needed to provide the necessary building blocks for healthy eating. These include fruits, vegetables, grains, protein-rich foods, and low-fat dairy.
From these, fruits and vegetables should account for just over half of an adult’s 8-inch plate with vegetables making up the slightly larger portion. For selecting the fruits and vegetables, the rule is to boost variety and try to add as many colors as possible.
The grains portion of the MyPlate model provides complex carbs and fiber and has little fats and cholesterol. Grains should make up around a quarter of your plate. For grains, choose whole grains rather than refined or processed grains.
Protein foods will make the rest of the plate and in this, it is better to choose lean or low-fat choices such as chicken and fish.
Dairy products constitute the smallest size in the MyPlate diet guide and you can include low-fat cheese and yogurt. In this, it is important to include calcium-rich sources such as cow’s milk and soy milk and avoid sources with little to no calcium such as butter and cream cheese.
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