How to Build a Healthy Meal

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It is important to include all the food groups in each meal.  This is to ensure that your body gets all the nutrients that the different groups have to offer, for optimal health. The key food groups are fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and proteins. Try to limit sugars, saturated fat and sodium. Here are some tips on how to build a healthy meal:


Vegetables and fruits are a great source of nutrients and fiber. Aim to include dark-green vegetables (such as spinach, broccoli and lettuce) everyday. Eat a variety of fruits but don’t overdo it. Fruits can be high in simple carbohydrates (sugars) and can cause blood sugar levels to spike. Stick to the serving size of  1 piece of fruit OR 1/2 cup of fresh fruit or fruit juice OR 1/4 cup of dried fruit as a snack or dessert. 


Try to make at least half the grains you eat whole grains. Choose these over processed grains like white bread, white pasta or white rice.  Whole grains provide more nutrients (like fiber) and can help to keep blood sugar levels more stable.


When choosing proteins, opt for the lean options such as lean beef, chicken, turkey, eggs and pork. Remove excess skin and fat. Try to make the protein on your plate a white meat, like fish, at least twice a week. Avoid deep frying and smothering foods in heavy gravies or sauce - this will add unnecessary fat and calories to otherwise healthy choices 


There is space to be creative when it comes to planning your meal. Switch things up so that you don't get bored. Try new flavors and textures and look online for inspiration!  Learn about which foods can be easily swopped out for others -  ask your Care Coach to send you our "Food Exchanges" information sheet if you need help with this.  


Always keep in mind the amount of food you put on your plate. Rather start with less and eat slowly – this gives your brain to realize that you are full. After you have finished, wait 10 minutes. If you are still hungry, then have a bit more. Don't make it your aim to finish what is on your plate. You can always keep extra for leftovers. 


After a meal, it is natural to want some sort of dessert. You can indulge in desserts in the form of fruit salads or low-fat yogurts. If you want something warm, try a baked apple or pear with a sprinkling of cinnamon. Don't deprive yourself, but rather find healthier ways to deal with cravings. 


Written by Dr Ruusa Shivute | Health Window


1. Williams MH, Rawson ES, Branch JD. Nutrition for health, fitness and sport. 11th ed. New York: McGraw Hill Education, 2017. Chapter 1: Introduction to nutrition for health, fitness and sports performance; p. 4-33.

2. Williams MH, Rawson ES, Branch JD. Nutrition for health, fitness and sport. 11th ed. New York: McGraw Hill Education, 2017. Chapter 2: Healthful nutrition for fitness and sport: the consumer athlete; p. 37-87.

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