What the heck is Well-Balanced eating anyway?

What the heck is Well-Balanced eating anyway?

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.

Ready to start eating well-balanced? “Lettuce” help! 😉

Spring clean your eating habits: a checklist for your pantry and countertops

Spring clean your eating habits: a checklist for your pantry and countertops

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!

  1. 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.
  2. 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?
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

What’s the Best Diet? The Ultimate Guide to the Five Most Popular Diets in 2024: What They Are, How They Work, and How They Can Impact Your Health

What’s the Best Diet? The Ultimate Guide to the Five Most Popular Diets in 2024: What They Are, How They Work, and How They Can Impact Your Health

Are you curious about popular diets that everyone is buzzing about? You’ve probably heard of keto, paleo, intermittent fasting, veganism, and the Mediterranean diet. But what exactly are they, and how do they work? And most importantly, are they good for you and your goals? In this article, we will compare these five diets and tell you the pros and cons of each one. We will also give you some tips on how to pick the best diet for you and your lifestyle.

Keto: The Low-Carb, High-Fat Diet

The keto diet is a diet that limits your carbs and emphasizes the addition of more fats. The idea is to put your body into a state of ketosis, where your body burns fat instead of glucose (sugar) for energy. Reaching this state by following the keto diet may help you lose weight fast, as well as improve your blood sugar, inflammation, and brain function [1] [2]. But the keto diet also has some downsides, such as possible nutrient deficiencies, digestive issues, higher cholesterol levels, and a higher risk of kidney stones [1] [2] [3]. These downsides may make keto a risky choice for individuals with diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, or pregnant or breastfeeding women. 

It’s also important to mention that for many, sticking with this diet long-term is very difficult. It excludes several healthy foods and requires a lot of forethought to stick to such a low-carb diet. This could lead to “yo-yo dieting,” and we know that rapid weight loss fluctuations are associated with increased mortality. 

There are several health conditions for which keto is absolutely contraindicated, such as Porphyria and genetic deficiencies like fatty acid beta-oxidation defects. [18] Other contexts haven’t had much, if any, keto research, and caution is warranted, such as with pregnancy and eating disorders.

Paleo: The Ancient Diet

The Paleo diet is a nutritional approach that mimics the dietary patterns of our ancestors during the Paleolithic era before modern farming practices. This diet promotes the consumption of whole foods like meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables and avoids grains, beans, and dairy while limiting refined sugars, processed foods, and oils. This way of eating can be very satiating due to the hunger-crushing properties of the foods you will be eating (protein, fiber, fats).

A paleo eating pattern may help you lose weight, lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, reduce inflammation, and prevent chronic diseases [4] [5]. In general, the paleo diet can be a good option for people with allergies or intolerances to certain foods. Despite limiting grains, beans and dairy, it can still be a very Well Balanced diet. However, it also has some drawbacks to be aware of. The paleo diet’s strict emphasis on whole foods can make it restrictive, expensive, difficult to follow in social situations, and lacking in some nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D [4] [5] [6].

Intermittent Fasting: The Time-Restricted Diet

Intermittent fasting is a diet that changes when you eat rather than what you eat. Individuals following this dietary plan alternate between periods of fasting and eating. There are different ways to do intermittent fasting, such as eating within an 8-hour window every day (16/8), eating normally for 5 days and cutting calories to 500-600 on 2 days (5:2), or fasting every other day (alternate-day).

Like other diets, intermittent fasting can lead to weight loss from eating fewer calories. It can also improve blood sugar levels, insulin sensitivity, inflammation markers, and brain health [7] [8]. On the other hand, intermittent fasting can also have some negative effects that make it risky for people with diabetes, low blood pressure, eating disorders, and pregnant/breastfeeding women. These negative effects include intense hunger pangs, headaches, fatigue, irritability, mood swings, and binge eating [7] [8] [9].

Vegan: The Plant-Only Diet

The vegan diet excludes all animal products like meat, fish, eggs, dairy, honey, and gelatin. The vegan diet can improve your health, lowering your chance of getting heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and some cancers. Veganism can also help you lose weight and improve your digestion, and it has the added bonus of protecting the environment [10] [11] [12].

The vegan diet is not without its challenges, though. Many individuals following this diet struggle to get enough protein, iron, calcium, vitamin B12, and other nutrients that are primarily found in animal foods [10] [11] [13]. In some places or situations where vegan food is hard to find or not available, you may find the vegan diet too difficult to follow. Going vegan requires careful planning, supplements, and learning to avoid potential problems or deficiencies.

Mediterranean: The Healthy and Tasty Diet

Focusing on whole, plant foods, the Mediterranean diet is based on the traditional eating patterns of people living in countries around the Mediterranean Sea, such as Greece, Italy, and Spain. The Mediterranean diet emphasizes consuming fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts, with some fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. It also promotes healthy fats such as olive oil and nuts while limiting red meat, processed foods, added sugar, and salt. The Well Balanced approach is most in line with this way of eating.

The Mediterranean diet is widely known as one of the best diets in the world, as it can lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, and dementia [14] [15] [16]. It can also help you lose weight, improve your mood, and enhance your longevity [14] [15] [16]. The Mediterranean diet is easy to follow and adapt to different cuisines and tastes.

How to Choose the Best Diet for You

As you can see, there is no one-size-fits-all diet that is guaranteed to work for every individual. Each diet has its benefits and drawbacks, and the best diet for you depends on your goals, needs, and preferences.

Before committing to a diet, check out these tips to help you choose the best for you:

Talk to your doctor and a registered dietitian before starting any new diet, especially if you have any health issues or take any medicines. Your doctor can help you check your health status and advise against any contraindications to a diet you may be considering. A registered dietitian can further assist you in deciding what nutrition plan is appropriate, create sensible action steps, and help you monitor and continue your progress. 

Consider your lifestyle and preferences. Choose a diet that fits your schedule, budget, culture, and taste buds. A diet that is too restrictive or incompatible with your lifestyle will be hard to stick to and may cause more harm than good.

Do your research and educate yourself. Learn about the pros and cons of each diet, the science behind them, and the possible risks and benefits to your health. Be sure to look for reputable sources of information, such as peer-reviewed journals, government websites, or registered dietitians. Avoid falling for fad diets or miracle claims that sound too good to be true.

Experiment and find what works for you! You don’t have to follow a single diet strictly or forever. You can try different approaches and see how they affect your weight, health, and well-being. Consider mixing and matching elements from different diets to create your own personalized plan. One of our dietitians can help you with this process until you have a very individualized plan. The most important thing is to find a beneficial diet you enjoy and can sustain long-term.

In Summary

Many popular diets today claim to help you lose weight, improve your health, or achieve other goals. However, not all diets are created equal; some may be more suitable for you than others. The keto diet, the paleo diet, intermittent fasting, the vegan diet, and the Mediterranean diet are some of the most popular diets today, and each one has its pros and cons. To choose the best diet for you, you should consult your doctor, meet with a dietitian, consider your lifestyle and preferences, do your research, and experiment with different options. Finally, remember that the best diet is the one that you can stick to and that makes you feel truly good!


[1] Masood W et al., Ketogenic Diet – StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499830/

[2] Crosby L et al., Ketogenic Diets and Chronic Disease: Weighing the Benefits Against the Risks https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2021.702802/full

[3] Diet Review: Ketogenic Diet for Weight Loss | The Nutrition Source | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-weight/diet-reviews/ketogenic-diet/

[4] Manheimer EW et al., Paleolithic nutrition for metabolic syndrome: systematic review and meta-analysis https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26269362/

[5] Masharani U et al., Metabolic and physiologic effects from consuming a hunter-gatherer (Paleolithic)-type diet in type 2 diabetes https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25828624/

[6] Genoni A et al., Long-term Paleolithic diet is associated with lower resistant starch intake, different gut microbiota composition and increased serum TMAO concentrations https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31433748/

[7] de Cabo R et al., Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Health, Aging, and Disease https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31881139/

[8] Antoni R et al., The Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Human and Animal Health: A Systematic Review https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26374764/

[9] Cioffi I et al., Intermittent versus continuous energy restriction on weight loss and cardiometabolic outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29105901/

[10] Melina V et al., Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27886704/

[11] Dinu M et al., Vegetarian, vegan diets and multiple health outcomes: a systematic review with meta-analysis of observational studies https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26853916/

[12] Orlich MJ et al., Vegetarian dietary patterns and mortality in Adventist Health Study 2 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23836264/

[13] Rogerson D, Vegan diets: practical advice for athletes and exercisers https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28924423/

[14] Sofi F et al., Adherence to Mediterranean diet and health status: meta-analysis https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18786971/

[15] Singh B et al., Mediterranean Diet, Its Components, and Cardiovascular Disease https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30779631/

[16] Lourida I et al., Mediterranean diet, cognitive function, and dementia: a systematic review https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23850343/

[17] Romaguera D et al., Mediterranean dietary patterns and prospective weight change in participants of the EPIC-PANACEA project https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20810976/

[18] Kossoff EH, et al., Optimal clinical management of children receiving dietary therapies for epilepsy: Updated recommendations of the International Ketogenic Diet Study Group https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29881797/ 

Wellness Resources to get you through COVID-19

Wellness Resources to get you through COVID-19

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?

Food safety, nutrition, and wellness during COVID-19 | The Nutrition Source

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?)

Keep Moving to Manage Stress

If you need a reminder of why it is so important to keep moving and stay active at home, remember that walking can:

  • Be an effective antidepressant in mild to moderate cases of depression
  • Protect an aging brain against memory loss and dementia
  • Support Vitamin D levels
  • Boost your circulation and increase oxygen supply to the brain

And that’s just to name a few reasons why walking is like a miracle drug.

Also, check out these online workouts: Gym closed? Here are some free or discounted workouts to do at home

Manage All The Feels with Meditation

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.

Boost Immunity with Fruits and Vegetables

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.

When you use up your fresh produce, don’t feel bad about eating frozen and canned produce. Both are healthy options. Read why below…

If you buy more fresh produce (and other food items) than you can eat, make them last by sticking them in the freezer. Here is a resource to help you know what foods you can freeze and how.

Keep Meals Interesting

Working with an extra tight budget now? Check out Struggle Meals. You’ll find super budget-friendly dishes in these free cooking episodes. Not too mention, he is so fun to watch!!

What are some healthy pantry foods?

Check out our healthy pantry staple checklist HERE.

Here are 4 more resources to help you cook from pantry staples.

How can I stay/be healthy through COVID-19?

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.

Motivational Speaking

 Are you looking for an enthusiastic, energetic, and interactive wellness presentation? You found it! 
Motivational speaker
Speaker wanted
Speaker for hire
Keynote speaker
Guest Speaker
Public speaker
Inspirational speaker
Conference speaker
Wellness speaker
Nutrition Speaker
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Self-Care Speaker
Health and Wellness Speaker
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Women speakers
Event speaker

Lucy Hayhurst, RD, LDN, is a trained motivational speaker and experienced dietitian with a heart for making nutrition fun and attainable. She is the author of TGIM: Start Happy, Stay Healthy – A workbook for Making Monday Awesome!

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:

    1. What the Heck is Well Balanced Eating Anyway? 
    2. Meal Planning Made Easy | The Ultimate Success Guide to Becoming a Meal Planning Pro!
    3. Feeling Addicted to Sugar or Salty foods? | 3 Steps to Conquer Cravings

Book a call to chat about your event!

Or you can reach out at [email protected]