A meal map is just that. It’s a template that will guide you to make the best food choices for your health. If you are following healthy advice such as, “eat five servings of fruits and vegetables daily,” or “eat fish twice a week,” then you are sort of following a meal map already. Sometimes it nice to know how to boil all the health information down into a user friendly version of what a day should look like. In a perfect world we would all be eating 10 servings of fruits/vegetables every day to prevent disease. We would all be reducing our intake of red meat and increasing our intake of fatty cold water fish to support our brains.
On top of all the foods we should be eating there are many that we should be avoiding. I’m sure I’m not telling you anything new when I say to avoid sugar. It’s one of the biggest causes of weight gain and chronic disease. That of course is sitting right next to processed foods on the shelf of food evils. When I say processed foods, I’m talking about foods that have never occurred in nature at any point in their lives. Or, they contain a mega list of ingredients that are man-made as well. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve never seen a twinkie tree. Why would you eat food that isn’t food?! No other species on the planet would do that. We cannot continue to eat these things and expect to get healthier or not develop some sort of chronic disease or illness.
Maybe you were brought up on sugar sweetened cereals, neon colored mac and cheese and ramen noodles. Maybe these types of foods are all you’ve known and you feel just fine. Why change now? Because now you have choice and knowledge, that’s why. If you have never attempted to revamp your diet or just aren’t sure where to start, a solid meal planning map will be super helpful.
Try out this pattern and see how it works for you. If you are diabetic or have blood sugar issues you will need to balance your carbs accordingly and possibly reach out to a healthcare provider for medication management.
Every meal has:
3-5 oz protein+1 serving of healthy fat+ 1-2 servings of plant foods (at least). 1 serving of whole grain per meal is optional. The combination of protein and fat at meal time is a great way to stay full for hours while having consistent energy levels.
Alright great! So what does that look like in terms of food? Well, let’s look at breakfast since that tends to be the most imbalanced meal of the day for most of us. Protein can be traditional breakfast foods like eggs and dairy or non-traditional as well. Many countries have chicken and fish for breakfast! Protein keeps you full and satisfied so you won’t be reaching for a snack mid-morning. So maybe you end up eating two eggs (protein) that you made sunny side up using 1 Tbs of olive oil (healthy fat). Then you had a cup of berries (1 plant food) and a slice of whole wheat toast (1 whole grain). Another option might be a smoothie. Blend together 1 small frozen banana (1 plant food), 2 TBS peanut or almond butter (protein), 1 Tbs of chia or flaxseeds (1 healthy fat) and 1 Tbs of cocoa powder.
How about a serving of oatmeal (1 grain) topped with blueberries (1 fruit) and walnuts (1 fat) and 1-2 hardboiled eggs (protein) on the side?
You can be as creative as you want, as long as you follow the map. If you are having one pot meals just make sure they follow the same guidelines. For example a chili recipe can include chicken (protein), beans (1 plant food), tomatoes and onions (1 plant food), and avocado (healthy fat). You can also serve it with a ½ cup of rice or quinoa for the optional grain serving.
Healthy fats include olive oil/canola oil, avocado and nuts. Use 1-2 Tbs of oils, ¼- ½ of an avocado or an ounce of nuts. Beans are a protein and a plant food! Double dip there! Your protein portion should be about the size of the palm of your hand. You can absolutely eat more fruits and vegetables; the recommended 1-2 servings is a minimum not a goal!
So there you have it. When you are thinking about your meals think: where’s my protein? What is my fat? Do I have any plants? If you can do that then you’re on your way to sustainable change. Give it a try for a few days and see how you feel. What do you have to lose?