WHEN CONSIDERING A HEALTHFUL WAY OF EATING IT’S EASY TO SHINE THE SPOTLIGHT ON WHAT KINDS OF FOODS TO EAT - BUT THIS IS ONLY ONE BITE OF THE APPLE!
That’s because great health isn’t just built by the quality of foods we eat, but the quantity of intake too. We talked about this at length in the seminar and now its time to get down to the nitty gritty details. Welcome aboard!
While it’s important to celebrate nutrient-rich foods within our diet as often as possible, we also want to consider the quantity, aka how much we’re having - hello portion size! Portions doesn’t equate to dieting or restriction, like we may assume; but is more about ensuring we’re getting in the right amount, or appropriate serving size, from each food group at main meals. Scroll down to see what your ‘ideal plate’ looks like.
WHAT ARE FOOD GROUPS?
All foods contain nutrients necessary for good health, but differ in their nutritional composition i.e. the nutrients they contain, and in what amounts. Foods that contain similar nutritional profiles are often grouped together in one of the four food groups below:
Includes: colourful veggies e.g. spinach, lettuce, kale, capsicum, cucumber, carrot, tomatoes, beans, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, corn, asparagus, brussel sprouts and eggplant.
Why they’re great: these types of foods are extremely rich in micronutrients aka vitamins, minerals and antioxidants (iddy-biddy nutrients vital for good health), and are a good source of dietary fibre and water (contributing to overall fluid intake). They’re also lower in calories, meaning we can enjoy larger portions without taking in excess calories that impact weight.
STARCHY VEGETABLES AND GRAINS
Includes: potatoes, kumara, pumpkin, rice (brown/wild/basmati), quinoa, buckwheat, millet, pasta, ryvita, wraps, rice cakes and bread.
Why they’re great: these types of foods are richer in energy (due to their higher carbohydrate content); dietary fibre, vital for a happy healthy gut; and certain micronutrients, especially b-vitamins, key in energy production.
While carbohydrates are necessary for health, not all should be considered equal. For good health, and weight-loss, consider both quality and quantity of your carbohydrates. We recommend minimising processed refined carbohydrates (e.g. white bread, cakes, biscuits…), as they release energy quickly into our bloodstream, promoting fat-storage rather than fat-burning. For sustainable energy and weight-loss enjoy carbohydrates that release their energy slowly. As a general rule of thumb, the more fibre-rich (and ideally less processed!), the slower the release.
Includes: animal-based products e.g. beef, lamb, chicken, pork, salmon, tuna, white fish, eggs; and plant-based products e.g. tofu, tempeh, edamame, chickpeas, lentils and beans.
Why they’re great: they’re made up of amino acids, the body's building blocks - we use these to create bodily structures, like our muscles, skin, hair, nails, hormones and immune cells! They’re also slow to be digested, keeping us full for longer in between meals.
Includes: oils (olive, coconut, avocado), seeds, nuts, avocado, nut butter, whole mayonnaise, hummus and cheese.
Why they’re great: rich in essential fatty acids (dietary fats we cannot make ourselves and so must get them from the foods we eat!) that help modulate inflammation, and play an important in brain and heart health. They’re also a fuel source for the body, and important for the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients (e.g. vitamin A, D, E and K).
BUILDING NUTRITIOUS + BALANCED PLATES
When building a nutritious plate at meal times aim for it to contain foods from each of the four food groups. When it comes to portions; while there isn’t a one-size fits all model, a great place to start is aiming to have:
About 50% of your plate or two handfuls of greens or non-starchy veggies
20%, or a fist-size or less, of starchy veggies or grains
20% or a palm size of protein-rich foods
10% or a few thumb sizes of fat-rich foods
This will help ensure you’re getting in a good balance of nutrients to help keep you healthy and meet nutritional needs.
KEEPING IN MIND INDIVIDUALITY
As we’re all different, determining our own unique dietary intake from each food group is best to approach with a little trial and error. Maybe you feel better with a little less starchy carbs and a little more veggies - that’s totally fine! Or maybe if you’re a bit more active, you’d be fuelled better with more protein and carb-rich foods.
Remember: we all have different needs. You do you.
FIVE BALANCED PLATE MEAL IDEAS
Below are tried, tested and loved dinner ideas that put the balanced plate idea into motion in your kitchen!
Healthier fish and chips: prepare oven-grilled fish (top with lemon slices before grilling). Serve with oven-roasted homemade chips (cut potatoes into chips, sprinkle with salt and a drizzle of oil, and oven bake until crispy), and fresh salad.
Sesame pork stir-fry: stir-fry pork strips with sliced zucchini, green beans, carrots and mushroom. Saute with onion, garlic, ginger and spring onion to get the flavours going, then later introduce fresh herbs, chilli or reduced-salt soy sauce. Serve with egg noodles (or vermicelli noodles for gluten-free) and top with sesame seeds.
Quick roast chicken: drizzle a tray of chicken pieces (e.g. thigh/drumsticks) and diced root veggies (e.g. kumara, potato, carrot) with oil, a sprinkle of salt and dried oregano/rosemary. Roast until cooked through. Serve with boiled peas and corn.
Homemade kebab with tzatziki sauce: fill 1x wraps with 1-2x tbsp of hummus, a palm-size of grilled chicken, beef or lamb, a handful of salad (lettuce, grate carrot, cucumber slices and tomato slices) and 2x tbsp of homemade tzatziki sauce (mix yoghurt, mint and lemon juice)
Grilled chicken, pumpkin and pesto salad: preheat oven to 180 degrees and line a baking tray with baking paper. Dice pumpkin, toss with oil and salt and pepper, place on baking tray and oven bake until cooked (30-40 minutes). Meanwhile, pan-fry chicken breasts until cooked. Add to servings bowls a few handfuls of salad greens (e.g. rocket or arugula), cooked pumpkin, a palm-size piece of grilled chicken and a heaped tbsp of store-bought pesto. Sprinkle salad with sunflower/pumpkin seeds.
This blog was written especially for our friends at Westpac NZ, who we’re excited to be assisting with their workplace wellbeing this year. It’s thrilling to see a company go the extra mile for their staff!