When cooking dinner, many people think in terms of calorie counting or what they’re “craving” at the time. Food can be broken down into basically two categories: Energy (calories from fat, carbohydrates and protein) and Nourishment (the nutrient density of the food; vitamins and minerals contents). When determining your menu plan we recommend first to think of “Nourishment”. It’s the nourishment aspect of your meal that contains the vitamins and minerals needed for the thousands of metabolic reactions occurring in the body. But, you also need the “energy” portion of this equation so that your cells have the fuel to drive these metabolic reactions.
Keep in mind; foods do not contain ONLY calcium or ONLY carbohydrate or ONLY protein. Foods are a mixture of a little bit of everything.
Yet, individual foods are typically known for the largest percentage of energy or nourishment that it provides. For example, when we say “nuts are a great source of quality fats”, we are communicating that they contain a large percentage of fat per volume. However, nuts are a good source of protein as well. So, you can use nuts to boost the protein or fat content of your meal.
When choosing what you’ll eat for your bigger meals like breakfast, lunch or dinner, we suggest this standard thought process:
- Nourishment: Choose at least 2 fruits and vegetables. This can be a combo of 1 fruit and 1 vegetable or 2 vegetables. You can choose more vegetables for the meal if you like but your biggest meals need to include at least 2 servings from the fruit/vegetable category. Try to mix it up! Don’t eat the same fruits and vegetables all the time.
- Protein: you must have protein with every meal. 25-35% of the meal needs to be of a protein source. Protein can come from plant based sources like beans, seeds, nut, sprouts, and quinoa or it can come from animal based sources like fish, eggs, chicken, turkey and possibly small amounts of red meat if OK’d by your nutritionist. If you have a normal serum ferritin and normal serum iron, then 4-6oz of red meat should be OK for you to consume on a weekly basis.
- Carbohydrates: this is your main energy source. It’s the primary fuel that your cells prefer. Depending on your activity level and diabetic status, we recommend 40-60%. Carbohydrates come from many food sources but when thinking in terms of a side dish of carbohydrates, we are implying mashed potatoes, pasta, rice, whole grain bread, or couscous. Your fruits and veggies are also a good source of carbohydrates.
- Fats: there should always be some source of fat in your meal. Fat contains many nutrients such as A, D, E, and K and is required to absorb certain nutrients like CoQ10. You meal should contain anywhere from 15-25% fat. If your meal contains animal proteins, then there will be some fat consumed from the meat. Other quality sources of fat to consider are raw olive oil (use it to dip your whole grain bread in! Yum!), coconut butter (cook with it, spread on corn on the cob, spread on whole grain bread or crackers), avocados, seeds and nuts.
Balancing your meals can be pretty tricky sometimes but if you follow our 4 principles, you’ll come pretty close! Happy eating!