We're always being told to eat a balanced diet to lose or maintain our weight, but we're tired of looking down to the same old plate with some boring baked chicken, plain steamed broccoli and a cup of brown rice. What happened to flavor? Do balanced meals always have to be so bland? Why can't food be delicious and nutritious? Well, the truth is they can be! Eating right doesn't mean eating boring food all the time, it just means we have to be more conscious of what we're eating and how we're cooking it. The trick is knowing what to make and how to make it.
We all know there's a certain balance we're supposed to maintain during meals and snack times. We know part of that balance is getting whole grains and vegetables, but what else do we need to know? What ingredients can come together to astound our taste buds without packing on the pounds? Can we be satisfied with healthy meals or are we all doomed to bland flavors and roughage? If you're ready to start eating balanced meals and are on the hunt for tasty ideas, look no further! Here are 22 pictures of well-balanced meals that come packed with plenty of flavor:
22 Eat Plenty Of Colorful Vegetables
According to choosemyplate.gov, vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories. They don't have cholesterol and are important sources of many of the nutrients we need to support a healthy body. Most vegetables are great sources of protein and fiber and they contain necessary nutrients like Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and potassium.
If your doctor is telling you to ingest more of these nutrients, skip the vitamin pills and just buy some vegetables - they're affordable and tasty!
To top it off, if you eat plenty of vegetables, you'll have a greater chance of lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of developing kidney stones and you can also decrease bone loss as you get older.
21 Enjoy Fruit With Breakfast (Or With Any Meal, Really)
Most people believe that the best time to eat fruit is with breakfast because fruits are full of sugar. If you eat your sugary fruit with breakfast, then you'll have all day long to burn those extra calories. Makes sense, right? Well, the truth of the matter is there is no scientific evidence supporting the ingestion of fruit at any particular time of day or night really makes any difference whatsoever. If you're bad at getting in your daily requirement of fruits and veggies, it sometimes just makes more sense to enjoy some fruit with breakfast and your daily vegetables with your more savory meals, but there's no reason to strictly stick to fruit only with breakfast.
20 Balanced Meals Don't Involve A Lot Of Sauce
When you're really trying to eat a balanced diet, you'll start to read labels. You aren't necessarily doing this to count carbs or calories - you just really want to know what's in your food to see if you're getting enough (or refraining from eating too much) nutrients.
The thing is, when you start reading labels you figure out pretty quickly how unnecessary most sauces are.
They're usually either packed with sugar, fat, or sodium, neither of which should be ingested in large quantities. The next time you think about topping your food with sauce, think about whether you truly need it or at the very least, try to use very little.
19 Don't Fry Your Fish Dish
Fish is an excellent source of omega-3 fats, they're a lean meat that is high in protein and they often contain other nutrients like Vitamin D and selenium. According to one Harvard nutrition piece, "Eating fish once or twice a week can reduce the risk of stroke, depression, Alzheimer's disease and other chronic conditions." While these benefits sound amazing, it's important to note that deep frying your fish will not only add a considerable number of calories to this otherwise healthy meal, but it will also add extra fat. If you're balancing your diet, go with grilled or smoked fish instead of battered and deep-fried. Your body will thank you for it.
18 It's Okay To Decrease Your Carb Intake - Just Don't Cut All Carbs
Cutting carbs from your diet can show immediate results, and who doesn't like that? The trick, of course, is if you ever reintroduce carbs to your diet, you're very likely to gain everything you lose right back.
According to WebMD, by cutting out carbs completely, you're also missing out on whole grains, Vitamin B, and folic acids.
You can always take supplements, but so many vitamin suppliers fail to test their own product and most of the nutrients aren't even absorbed at all. Why waste the money and effort when you can just eat a piece of whole grain bread with peanut butter or brown rice?
17 Serve Yourself More Veggies Than Pasta
While cutting out carbs completely isn't a healthy choice, loading up on carbs isn't the healthiest option either. If you eat too many carbs, you'll be too full to enjoy the vegetables and proteins that come with your meal. To balance your meals, enjoy your pasta and rice but make sure you have more vegetables on your plate than empty carbs. Even if you choose whole grain pasta or brown rice, try to balance the meal by enjoying a half cup of grains, one cup of protein and one cup of a vegetable (or a medley of veggies) on the side.
16 Salads CAN Make A Balanced Meal
Salads are tricky meals because of all the hidden calories. Croutons aren't all that healthy and salad dressing can be extremely high in sugars, fats or calories. Is it even possible to enjoy a balanced meal with a salad? According to WebMD, it's totally possible, but the key is to avoid piling on the croutons, cream-based dressings, cheese, bacon, mayonnaise-based dressings, meats, fried meats and veggies, and anything else that is deep fried or dripping in fat.
To balance your salad, make sure you've got plenty of colorful vegetables mixed with a light dressing such as a light vinaigrette or salsa.
Whatever protein you choose to add to your salad should be in the form of a vegetable (like beans) or a lean protein such as turkey, fish, or chicken - and definitely don't get it deep fried!
15 Every Meal Should Have A Small Serving Of Whole Grains
According to Choosemyplate.gov, whole grains are an essential part of our daily diets. The amount of grains you should consume each day depends on your age, gender and level of physical activity. Another important thing to remember is half of all the grains we eat in a day should be whole grains, meaning the packaging literally says "whole grain," not "7 grains" or "whole wheat," neither of which mean the product includes the entire grain. To ensure you're getting enough whole grains, add a little to every meal. Brown rice, whole-wheat flour bread, oatmeal and whole cornmeal are great examples of whole grains to add to your daily meals.
14 Have At Least One Serving Of Dairy With Every Meal
Choosemyplate.gov explains the right amount of dairy you enjoy depends on how old you are. For girls and women older than 14-years-old, three cups of dairy is recommended each day. For boys over 14-years-old, they are also recommended to enjoy three cups of dairy every day.
To ensure you've reached your daily intake, try adding a cup of milk with breakfast, 1.5 ounces of cheese to your lunch and calcium-rich tofu to dinner.
By adding a serving of dairy to every meal, you're ensuring you're getting in at least three servings every single day, as recommended by nutritionists and dietitians across the United States.
13 Make Most Of Your Proteins Lean
It doesn't make sense to try to eat a balanced meal only to enjoy fatty meats with every meal. If you have bacon with breakfast, don't go with ground beef for lunch and meatballs for dinner. All that high-fat meat will clog up your arteries and send you straight to the hospital after a while. Lean proteins include poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, and seeds. There are plenty of ways to season these lean proteins without adding tons of calories, so the next time you go shopping for meals, make sure you also take a look at the numerous herbs and seasonings you can pair with them!
12 Cut Excess Fats From Your Meals
Many trainers, nutritionists, and dietitians will tell you to enjoy raw fruits and vegetables for snacks or to enjoy nuts, a homemade trail mix without the extra candies, or a nice cup of low-fat yogurt. However you enjoy snacking, remember to stay away from high-fatty snacks like cookies, candies, and chips.
When it comes to your meals, forget the french fries, go for a baked potato seasoned with a little salt and pepper instead of butter, topped with low-fat sour cream and green onion.
When enjoying a meal at a restaurant, ask for a side of vegetables without the butter.
Making these small changes can really cut the extra fat from your meals and help balance them properly.
11 Enjoy A Large Breakfast
If you spend the majority of your day stuck in the office or in a classroom, you know you're not going to be burning as many calories as you otherwise would. To help counterbalance this, enjoy a nice big breakfast, a smaller pre-packed lunch, and an average-sized dinner. By enjoying a larger breakfast and smaller lunch, you're energizing your body and keeping from the post-lunch slump at work or in class. For breakfast, make sure to have a nice serving of a whole grain, since fiber gives you energy and can also make you feel more full. Take your time and plan out your breakfast - remember, this really is the most important meal of the day!
10 Balance Sandwiches With Plenty Of Veggies
The bottom line is simple - unless the sandwich meat has come straight from a roasted turkey, rotisserie chicken or fresh off the BBQ, most sandwich meats are extremely processed, even if you purchase them from the deli section of your favorite grocery store.
This means your meat is full of salt, oftentimes more than your daily requirement, and can be full of various fillers.
To balance this unhealthy meat, enjoy a side salad with spinach and colorful veggies. Go the extra mile and ask for whole wheat bread and hold the mayo - go for the mustard and your lunch can be lower in fat and calories while remaining balanced.
9 Enjoy Some Avocado and Whole Wheat Toast With Any Meal, Or As A Snack
According to WebMD, avocados are more than just delicious, they're also extremely healthy! They offer nearly 20 vitamins and minerals per serving, including potassium, which helps control blood pressure, lutein, which is good for eyes, and folate, which helps cells repair and are beneficial for pregnant women. They're also a great source of B, C and E Vitamins. To top it off, they're low in sugar and contain fiber, which helps you feel fuller longer. Yes, they're high in monounsaturated fats, but these fats help lower bad cholesterol so long as you eat it in moderation. They do have more calories than you might expect, so stick to 1/3 of a medium avocado per serving.
8 Start Your Day With Plenty Of Protein
Eating breakfast can be a real challenge if you're not an early bird, but it's definitely worth waking up just a little bit earlier for. Give yourself enough time to prepare a nice meal that includes plenty of protein, such as eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese and lean meats.
It's important to enjoy protein with every meal to ensure our muscles are receiving enough energy.
One other benefit from enjoying protein in the morning is how full protein can keep us. When you enjoy enough protein with breakfast, it offers enough energy to last you through to lunch, regardless of how you spend your morning.
7 Make Your Own Trail Mix - Without The Candy
Nuts are an excellent source of healthy fats and protein, so it's easy to convince yourself that trail mix is a healthy snack. The downside to purchasing pre-packaged trail mix is the addition of too much salt and the inclusion of chocolate chips, other candies or dried fruit, many of which include added sugars. The best way to enjoy trail mix is to purchase unsalted nuts, usually available in individual bins, and mix your favorites on your own. You can add your own seasonings or herbs to get the added flavor without the extra sugars or salt. Of course, for an extra little bit of sweetness, you can add some yogurt pieces as well. Just make sure to enjoy it in moderation.
6 Include Hummus As Part Of A Balanced Meal Plan
Healthline explains hummus contains a wide variety of vitamins and minerals and it's a great source of plant-based protein as well.
Since it has a low glycemic index, which is a scale that measures the ability of various foods to raise blood sugar, it's possible it can also help control your blood sugar levels.
Hummus also contains several ingredients that may help reduce risk factors related to heart disease. The olive oil in hummus also provides a healthy source of heart-healthy fats. It is also naturally gluten, nut, and dairy-free, which makes hummus one of the few ideal foods for any crowd. Add it to any meal for plenty of flavor and lots of nutrients.
5 Watch The Sodium In Your Meals
It's surprisingly easy to meet, and even surpass, the daily recommended amount of sodium for an adult. In fact, WebMD reports 90 percent of Americans eat too much sodium every single day. Surprisingly, only ten percent of salt actually comes from the salt shaker. The CDC reported yeast bread, chicken and mixed chicken dinners, pizza, pasta dishes and cold cuts are the five main foods that give the average person the majority of their salt. Of course, restaurants, frozen meals, and canned foods are also high in sodium. The best way to avoid this additional salt is to enjoy home-cooked meals, enjoy less processed foods and eating more fresh and frozen vegetables.
4 Cut Back On Sugary Snacks
There's no point in eating balanced meals if you're just going to throw it all away on sugary snacks.
While the occasional cookie, cake or candy is fine, enjoying sweet tea with every meal, chowing down on sugary cereals and adding a side of candied yams with dinner is going to tip the nutritional balance of your meals.
It might be hard to cut back at first, but just a little less sugar with each meal can eventually lead to very little sugar on a daily basis. Make it a goal to enjoy sugar in moderation and your body will thank you for it.
3 Enjoy A Poke Bowl Instead Of Sushi
Sushi is delicious and it's definitely grown in popularity over the years, but did you know sushi isn't as healthy as you might think? Even the Food Network admits any rolls with tempura are going to be deep-fried, which adds plenty of bad fats to your meal. The large amount of white rice is also an unhealthy decision. If you add any soy sauce, keep in mind a single tablespoon contains 44 percent of your daily intake, not to mention the sodium that is already added to your roll. If you still want your sushi fix but want something a little healthier, go for a poke bowl, which allows you to choose brown rice instead of white and allows you to decide what kind of protein and vegetables to add.
2 Have A Veggie Pizza Every Now And Then
There's no rule saying you can't enjoy pizza as part of a balanced diet!
The trick is to either enjoy a healthier version of the much-beloved pizza or to enjoy a single slice with a side of vegetables, fruit, or whole grains.
Of course, it's entirely possible to create a dough with whole grain flour and to enjoy vegetables on the pizza itself, but if you'd rather enjoy a healthy pizza on its own, make sure you add plenty of colorful veggies, a little less sauce and cheese, and definitely don't add butter to that crust, no matter how much you love it!
1 Aim For Water, Not Cream-Based Soups
Cream-based soups may have plenty of vegetables and lean proteins in them, but the bottom line is cream-based soups are packed with fat and extra calories. Water-based soups are the healthier option and are easy to create healthy soups. A great example of a healthy water-based soup would be the popular cabbage soup, which many enjoy as a meal while they're dieting. It's okay to have soup with calories, just make sure to balance it by enjoying lean meats and plenty of veggies inside, make sure it's water-based and enjoy a side of a whole grain, such as a whole grain bread roll.