Half of a balanced meal should include fruits and vegetables.
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Creating a balanced meal doesn't demand a lot of time, measuring or worrying. The elements that should be in every meal simply mirror the same general food groups used to build a nourishing, nutritious diet. If you keep the major food groups in mind and visualize filling a specific portion of your plate with foods from each group, you can easily come up with healthy meals every time.
Begin With Fruits and Vegetables
Every time you prepare a meal, half of your plate should hold fruits and vegetables. The total amount you need depends on the calories in your diet, but the recommendations for those who eat 2,000 calories daily provide a good guideline. At that number of calories, you should eat 2 cups of fruits and 2.5 cups of vegetables daily, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010. You don't have to eat fruits and vegetables at every meal as long as you get them over the course of a day. Try to vary the vegetables to include the range of colors because each different color group has its own nutritional strengths.
Grains at Every Meal
Grains should account for 25 percent of your meal. Whether you're eating cooked brown rice, an English muffin or bread for a sandwich, choose whole-grain products as often as possible, but be sure at least half of your grains are whole grains, advises ChooseMyPlate.gov. Whole grains provide dietary fiber that you won't get from processed grains, such as white rice. Buying whole grains can be tricky because some terms you'll encounter, such as вЂњmixed grainsвЂќ and вЂњwhole wheat,вЂќ do not always mean it's a whole-grain product. Look at the first ingredient on the label. It should be a grain labeled as вЂњwholeвЂќ or вЂњ100 percent whole.вЂќ
Put Proteins on Your Plate
The remaining 25 percent of your plate should contain some type of lean protein. Choices for lean protein include some cuts of beef, beans, fish, fat-free dairy products and white meat poultry without the skin. Beans and lentils are good sources of protein and fiber, yet they are low in fat. Lean cuts of beef include 90 percent lean ground beef and the round, chuck and tenderloin cuts. You can also eat one whole egg daily if your cholesterol levels are normal, or go with egg whites for protein without the fat. At least two of your meals every week should include fatty fish, such as trout, mackerel, tuna and salmon, to be sure you get heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Healthy Dairy and Beverages
A balanced meal should also include dairy foods, according to University Health Service at the University of Rochester. ChooseMyPlate.gov recommends that adults should get 3 cups of dairy products daily. Adding a cup of milk to your meal is a good way to fit dairy into your day. When you purchase any type of dairy product, go with low-fat or fat-free brands. That way you'll get the same nutrients without extra fat and calories. If you drink another type of beverage, avoid any that contain added sugar, whether your choice is a soda, sports drink or fruit drink.