Kristen and I talk a lot about eating well-balanced, but unless you have sat down with us or heard the Well-Balanced Plate talk you may be wondering… what does that mean?
The Well Balanced Plate
After reading countless research articles, books such as The Blue Zone Solutions, and a combining over 20 years of professional nutrition experience, Kristen and I recognize the benefits of a mostly plant-based diet incorporating protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fat. Eating them in the proportions shown on the Well Balanced Plate helps you feel full and satisfied, not deprived and ridden with cravings. When we eat foods from nature in this way, we can start to trust and rely on our body and mind to remind us what, how much and when to eat.
The Well-Balanced Plate was created to visually represent a balanced meal or snack.
Mostly fruits and vegetables
Five populations in the world have the highest concentration of centenarians, people living over 100-years, and they all have something in common: a plant-centric diet. You can read all about their lifestyles in the Blue Zones. Many people who’ve read the book assume you have to be a vegetarian to live a long, vibrant life. In actuality, four of the five communities eat animal protein on a regular basis; however, they make meat more of a side-dish rather than the main course.
You’ll notice that the largest section of the Well-Balanced plate is for vegetables and fruit, not meat or carbs. By filling half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables and fruit, you will not only fill up on fewer calories, but also (and most importantly) get the health benefits of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals.
Vary your Veggies
Kristen wrote more about the benefits of fruits and vegetables in an earlier post and encouraged eating a variety. America is a melting pot of ethnic cultures which means we have many food options at our fingertips. Eating healthfully doesn’t have to be boring. Change things up and try a new vegetable or a different way of cooking, such as implementing Meatless Monday or trying an ethnic dish.
It’s not perfect. It’s flexible and enjoyable.
Well-balanced eating is not perfect. First of all, there will always be celebrations, cookouts, holiday parties, etc. when healthy choices are limited, and in those cases, we make the best decisions at that moment. Secondly, food is enjoyable, and it’s okay to indulge when you decide it’s worth it. Ellyn Satter, an internationally recognized dietitian and feeding therapist, sums it up well when she says, “normal eating is being able to give some thought to your food selection, so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food.”
It’s more mindful and less impulsive.
Mindful eating strategies can help us become normal eaters and avoid the point when cravings, emotional eating, and daily life can consistently lead to unhealthy choices that leave our bodies fed but undernourished. Lucy shared HALT, an acronym to explain why our poorest choices tend to happen when we are hungry, angry/frustrated, lonely or tired, and Kristen shared how gathering some DATA can help you cut back on sugar. Another mindful concept is what we call “20% white space“, where we purposefully give ourselves time to check in with our bodies to determine if we are still hungry.
It get’s easier with time
Every time you eat is an opportunity to practice being well-balanced. Eventually, you will no longer have to try so hard because you have practiced for so long.
It means ditching the diet and striving for self-care.
The media keeps reminding us that two out of three American adults are considered overweight or obese, and there’s this pressure to be thin like the women we see in magazines. This messaging, along with the fad diet industry, is creating a culture full of body shame and food guilt. That feels demoralizing.
Many people come to Well-balanced Nutrition with a goal to lose weight. We know that diets don’t really work. Instead of focusing solely on the food, we help people identify the behaviors and patterns that prevent them from reaching a healthy balance. We talk about making small behavior changes to create a compound effect which will result in more energy, confidence, and yes, typically a lower number on the scale. We use weight as a tool, but with the understanding that weight is only a small part of your health picture. Ultimately, we want our WBN tribe to eat well because it feels good and allows them to live a full life not just for that number on the scale.
A way of life
Well-Balanced Nutrition is more than a plate; it’s a way of life. If you have sat down with Kristen or Lucy, you know we talk about much more than what you eat. We ask about who buys and prepares the food, what your typical day looks like, how much sleep you get, your stress level and so on. We even take note of your personality, attitudes, and beliefs. We consider all these things when we work with you to create a well-balanced plan. Each of us comes to the table with a different story, but we all have a desire to be our best selves.
To sum it all up, well-balanced eating means ditching the diet mentality where foods are either good or bad, clean or dirty. Restriction, shame, and guilt should not be the norm. Instead, shift your focus to eating more natural foods and tuning into your body and mind. Eat mostly plants and do something every day that makes you feel good and can help you live your best life.
Sally was feeling sluggish and exhausted all day long. No matter how healthy she was eating, she always felt hungry, craved sweets and even experienced shakiness in between meals. It was frustrating, to say the least.
What could possibly be going wrong? A closer look at her diet and it became clear that her healthy eating patterns were full of unwanted sugars and sometimes lacking in healthy fats. She didn’t realize it but added sugars were in almost everything she was eating. Foods that seemed healthy on the surface were actually not very nourishing and she lacked balance at her meals. After cleaning up her habits a bit and focusing on more natural foods she was feeling more sustained and her cravings were significantly decreased.
Your turn. Are you ready to clean up your eating environment? Spring is when we tend to open our windows at home, clean out all the dust and clutter from the colder months and welcome in fresh air, good energy and sunshine. Below is a checklist of things you can do to clean up your eating habits and food environment, starting with your pantry and countertops. Pick one or check them all off, it’s up to you!
Ditch the cereal and switch things up with an egg and veggie omelet, our high protein cookies or a Greek yogurt parfait. Protein is just as important at breakfast as it is at dinnertime. We should evenly distribute our protein intake throughout the day instead of overloading at our last meal. Cereals just don’t have much protein to offer and often contain lots of sugar. If you need more convincing, a Cornell study found that women who had breakfast cereal sitting on their counters weighed 20-lbs more than their neighbors who didn’t. At very minimum, keep your cereal tucked away in your pantry. Use it to make a fun trail mix or as an afternoon treat.
Find at least 2 foods in your pantry (or fridge) with added sugars and seek alternatives to these products. Start checking the ingredient lists on your foods and you will soon realize that sugar, much like salt, is added to just about everything. Some surprising places you will find sugar is in your pasta sauce, mustard, mayonnaise, barbecue sauce, fat-free salad dressings, and canned beans. Added sugars are also abundant in yogurt and whole grain products. Women should keep their added calories to 6 teaspoons or 25 grams per day.** If we aren’t careful all those little doses from unsuspecting places can add up! Then we won’t have room for a teaspoon in our coffee or a piece of dark chocolate. (GASP!) We don’t want to miss out on that, now do we?
Keep your favorite junk foods out of the house or at least hard to reach. Out of sight, out of “stomach.” There are certain foods that we tend to overeat, especially when stress hits. These foods are different for everyone. You might not be able to resist ice cream, while someone else may be more tempted by a bag of potato chips. Whatever foods seem to tempt you the most, should be the ones you keep out of the house. These foods aren’t forbidden, we just don’t want to make them readily available and convenient. But what if you have hungry kids or unwilling family members? Keep all tempting snacks in a hard to reach, inconvenient cabinet – not at eye level. Wrap items in the freezer, like ice cream, in aluminum foil. They will be less tempting when you can’t see the package.
Only keep 1-2 sodas in your fridge at one time and make water easily accessible. Occasionally, a sweet drink is fine but when you are doing it regularly you are putting yourself at risk for health concerns and sugar crashes. To cut back keep sodas off your counter and only one or two in your fridge at a time. In the same study mentioned above, those with soft drinks sitting out on their counter weighed 24 to 26-lbs more than those who didn’t.
To end on a positive note: those who had fruit on their counter weighed LESS and likely ate more fruit. So, clear off those countertops, hide the junk and put the nourishing fruit on display!
It’s all about setting yourself up for well-balanced success. Bring on the good energy and life-sustaining eating habits! Happy cleaning!
Food For Thought: Will any of these spring cleaning tasks work for you? Why or why not? Which one(s) will you try today? Comment below.
*These suggestions are based off research from Brian Wansink, author of Slim By Design. Check it out!
**The American Heart Association recommends reductions in the intake of added sugars. A prudent upper limit of intake is half of the discretionary calorie allowance, which for most American women is no more than 100 calories per day and for most American men is no more than 150 calories per day from added sugars.
Who would have thought we’d be here? Suffering as a nation. Hunkering down for the safety of one another. Trying to stay connected while social distancing. Working, teaching, and schooling from home. Praying for the essential workers who are on the front lines and keeping the world going to the best of their ability.
During this crazy time, Well Balanced Nutrition is here to support healthy habits, provide clarity around food choices, and help you overcome stress eating. We know that change is tough. Adjusting to your new normal at home may be challenging. That’s why we are here to support our communities in Durham and Clemmons, North Carolina. We have the wellness tools and strategies that will help bring a bit of balance back to your life, help you feel comfortable and in control around food, and manage the stress and anxiety that this situation brings.
How can I keep my food safe during COVID19?
The Nutrition Source from Harvard Health has the low down on food safety. This article provides the answers to your questions including how long does coronavirus live on surfaces?
Try These Strategies for Managing Emotional Eating
We asked and we heard you say that being so close to your kitchen all day long is hard. The fun snacks are calling your name and the stress can lead you down a slippery slope of emotional eating. Here are some strategies you will find helpful as you try to manage those urges. Remember to be kind to yourself! We are all human and Well Balanced eating is not fail-proof. (Start here. If you are new to Well Balanced Nutrition or just need a refresher, start here with What the Heck is Well Balanced eating?)
Meditation is a great way to feel all the feels, release some of the anxiety and find your center again. Several companies have shared free resources to help you continue or start a mindfulness and meditation practice during COVID.
Running out of fresh Fruits and Veggies? How do you maintain a colorful diet full of produce when you are trying to avoid multiple trips to the store? One solution is to have your produce delivered! Below are several options or you may have a local farm near you that has a delivery box.
Hungryroot – get prepped veggies, sauces, and proteins delivered to your door
Winston – Farm Fresh Box to pick up at Saturday’s Cobble Stone Farmer’s Market.
Still feeling overwhelmed? We understand. This is hard. If what you really need is someone to walk you through these wellness strategies and take it one baby step at a time, we can help you feel more Well Balanced and supported through our virtual nutrition coaching services. Reach out today for an appointment.
Lucy incorporates her passion for fitness, delicious food, and playing in nature to relate to her audience.
She’s on a mission to spread the good news of fruits and vegetables; however, we know it’s so much more than that. Lucy’s presentations have inspired hundreds to think about their health and wellness in a new way.
Lucy delivers entertaining workshops, presentations, and other speaking engagements that motivate audiences to reach their potential through fun and practical nutrition and wellness habits.
A few presentation examples include:
What the Heck is Well Balanced Eating Anyway?
Meal Planning Made Easy | The Ultimate Success Guide to Becoming a Meal Planning Pro!
Feeling Addicted to Sugar or Salty foods? | 3 Steps to Conquer Cravings
Out to dinner last week I had the opportunity to put mindful eating into practice in the restaurant setting.
I enjoyed each crunchy bite of salad combined with a tasty piece of seasoned shrimp, savoring the taste and textures as I munched and chatted. By the bottom of the bowl my taste buds had grown bored, but I felt comfortably full.
Then it came time for the waiter to ask if we wanted dessert… It was a free meal and I still had a few dollars on my card and said “those salted caramel pretzel bites sound pretty good. Sure, what the heck!” When dessert arrived I was aware of how full I felt and asked the waiter to bring a box because no way was I going to finish those sugar-coated pretzel bites. Funny story, after my dinner partner and I parted ways I proceeded to devour not only the rest of the pretzel bites but also the brownie that he left behind. Oh, did I mention that there was ice cream too?
Okay, now that I’ve got you all thinking about these delicious foods on a Monday morning I will explain the lesson behind this experience, hoping it will help you avoid a similar situation.
At dinner I decided to “be good” and get a salad with shrimp when I actually wanted sweet potato fries and a beer. I set myself up for failure or more precisely for dissatisfaction, which led me to what I call the dieters reward trap. This is the belief: “that because you’ve been so good you should have a tiny treat because really, what’s the harm?” Well if you’re like me and find when you start eating sweets that your brain won’t let you stop until it’s ALL gone then the harm is a few hundred empty calories and maybe an upset tummy.
Food for thought:
Have you ever experienced something like this?
I’m not saying you should never eat a brownie and ice cream because I believe there’s room for treats in anyone’s diet.
My hope is you can be spared from making a similar mistake and just get what you want while still aiming for balance. (i.e. a baked potato instead of fries if that will fulfill your craving).