Every meal, ranging from breakfast to dinner, is essential to stay in shape all day long. But what should you eat at breakfast to feel full? What ingredients should one eat to feel energized all afternoon? What about diner, so that you sleep well? Here are a few tips to help you eat healthier meals.
What is a balanced diet?
Eating well means eating everything, but in appropriate quantities. More specifically, you should favor foods that are considered good for your health (fruits, vegetables, starchy foods, fish, meat) and in turn, limit fatty, sweet and excessively salty foods (sweets, sodas, cold cuts, chips,cakes, etc.).
Dietary balance is achieved in the long term, not a single day or a single meal. This is why no food is forbidden or miraculous. Indeed, if one evening you eat a large meal, you will only need to eat more digestible meals the following days to rebalance your diet.
A balanced day should consist of at least 3 meals:
If this doesn’t seem to be enough, then there’s nothing stopping you from having a balanced snack. Of course, you should limit sweet and/or highly processed products and instead favor dairy or cereal products as well as fruits and nuts.
Relying on nutritional recommendations
There are a number of nutritional recommendations set in place regarding the different types of foods that should be consumed in order to come as close as possible to the ideal dietary balance.
Fruits and vegetables
Nearly everybody has already seen or heard this message: “5 a day”. This recommendation actually means eating at least 5 portions of fruits and vegetables a day (in total). But what is a portion? Here is the answer:
- A serving of vegetables is at least 80g, whether cooked or raw. You therefore need at least one portion at each meal, if possible three per day (1 starter and 2 side dishes). Nonetheless, there is no limit to the consumption of fresh vegetables.
- A portion of fruit is at least 100g (up to 150g), whether it be raw or cooked. It is recommeneded to eat 2 to 3 portions per day.
Also, try to vary the color of the fruit and veg you have. Pigments in fruits and vegetables are often powerful antioxidants. They are also rich in vitamin C and a are a great source of fiber.
According to dietary recommendations, an adult should consume 1-2 dairy products a day. It is therefore key to diversify the sources: milk, cheese, yogurt.
Nevertheless, the quantity of cheese consumed should be limited as it is a food that is rich in saturated fatty acids, fats that are harmful to the body when consumed in excess. One portion of cheese is around 30 to 40g.
Starchy foods include:
- cereals and their derivatives (wheat, rice, corn, oats, rye, barley, flours, semolina, breads, pasta, bran)
- tubers (potato, sweet potato, yam, cassava)
- legumes (chickpeas, peas, white beans, lentils).
The important takeaway is to include some form of starchy foods in each meal while varying the sources. Also, don’t forget thatquantities should be adapted according to your daily activity as well as your level of appetite.
Foods that are sources of animal protein include: meat, fish, eggs and dairy products. Here are the various recommendations in regards to the consumption of these foods:
- Limiting red meat to 500g per week per person, prefer lean meats and cuts (chicken, turkey, escalope, tenderloin, defatted ham, chicken/turkey ham, veal).
- Eating fish at least twice a week, including one portion of fatty fish (sardines, mackerel, herring, salmon). Fatty fish is rich in omega 3 which is essential for the good functioning of the cardiovascular system.
- Consumption of eggs should be limited to 6 per week and per person, this includes eggs eaten in recipes such as quiches or cakes.
Vegetable protein sources include legumes (lentils, kidney beans, soybeans, beans, flageolets, peas), whole grains and nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, peanuts). Here are the various recommendations in regards to the consumption of these foods:
- eat legumes at least twice a week
- limit soy products to 1 a day (juice, tofu, tofu steak, soy protein, …)
- wholegrain cereals should be consumed every day while taking into account each individual’s digestive tolerance
- a small handful of nuts can be consumed every day.
It is a shame that these foods are alwats seen as being extremely harmful as they remain essential to the functioning of our organism. There are many sources of fats: butter, cream, oils, animal and vegetable fats. Accordingly, Here are the various recommendations in regards to their appropriate consumption:
- a source of lipids at each meal
- olive, sunflower, sesame, grape seed, coconut oils should only be used for cooking.
- rapeseed, flax, walnut and camelina oils should be used exclusively for seasonings
- you should consume a maximum of around 4 to 5 tablespoons of oil per day
- butter should be limited to about 10g (it can replace a daily tablespoon of oil)
It is recommended to drink approximately 2 liters: 1.5L of drinkable water and 500ml of food water (fruits and vegetables, dairy products, fish, soups, smoothies) a day. The adult body is made up of of 60% water, so it is very important to consume enough water to meet your needs. Water also plays key roles in the body: it allows chemical reactions within cells, drains waste and evacuates it. Water itself is lost through breathing, perspiration and urine.
If you are struggling to drink enough water, there are a number of ways that you can make water more exciting!
You can enjoy water thanks to homemade iced tea: brew 2 tea bags of your choice in a liter of water, add lemon or red fruits ans simply leave it to cool down in the refrigerator overnight.
You can also make try flavoring your water with fruit, some cucumber, mint or simply some lemon.
What is a balanced breakfast?
Breakfast is the first meal of the day. It is the end of a period of 8 to 12 hours of fasting (sleep). It is therefore key as your body needs energy to start a long day.
A balanced breakfast helps reduce fatigue, increase memory and concentration all while reducing any snacking habits.
If you don’t have time for breakfast, opt for a breakfast on the go. Take a cereal bar, yogurt drink, or fruit with you and eat it on your daily commute or before starting any work.
What is a blanced meal?
A good meal, for both lunch and dinner, should be composed as follows:
– 1 portion of raw or cooked vegetables (80 to 100g)
– Meat, fish, or eggs (about 100g)
– One serving of starchy foods: wholemeal bread, pasta, rice.
The amount of side dishes (starchy foods and vegetables) should be higher depending on your level of physical activity and your appetite.
– 1 dairy product: a piece of cheese (30g) or some yogurt.
– 1 raw or cooked fruit for dessert
From time to time, you can treat yourself to a sweet dessert such as a pastry or some chocolate instead of fruit.
Here are some examples of delicious menus:
Menu #1: Cold Lentil Salad
- 1 glass of gazpacho
Main Dish (cold lentil salad)
- 120g of smoked salmon
- 150g cooked green lentils
- 1 half shallot, minced
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- some chopped chives
- a dash of lemon juice
- 150g of watermelon
Menu #2: Pasta and beet salad
Main Dish (cold lentil salad)
- 100g of beet
- 150g of cooked. pasta
- 1 soft-boiled egg
- 3 crab sticks
- 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
- 1 tsp wine vinegar
- some chopped spring onion
- a yogurt
- 120g of plums
Menu #3: tasty snack
- 1 to 2 slices of wholemeal bread
- 1 tablespoon almond butter (or peanut butter)
- 1 sliced banana
- a cup of tea
Menu #4: balanced snack
- 1 yogurt
- 1 nectarine
- 2 spoonfuls of oat flakes
- 1 cup of tea
- 1 teaspoon of honey
Finally, remember that a balanced diet goes hand in hand with regular and varied physical activity. The important thing is to eat a little bit of everything, to diversify foods, cooking, and colors all while enjoying the moment.
Article written by Romane Guerot, dietician at Foodvisor.