A well-balanced meal plan can enable you to take control of your health and weight. Following the USDA's dietary guidelines will help you build simple meals that fit your lifestyle, while also meeting your body's nutrient requirements. The USDA suggests that you create your meals around the five key food groups: protein foods, grains, dairy, fruits and vegetables. The MyPlate food guide illustrates filling half of your plate with fruits and vegetables, one-fourth with protein foods, one-fourth with grains and having a glass of milk to drink.
If you like to start your day with something savory, poach a couple of eggs and then serve with sauteed spinach, mushrooms, and a slice or two of whole-grain bread. This meal will give you protein, healthy fats and slow-releasing energy. If you prefer something sweet at breakfast, a bowl of steel-cut oats boiled in milk or nut milk, topped with berries and natural yogurt will give you the protein, fat and energy you need to get the day off to a good start.
A balanced lunch will help you get through the afternoon without the energy crash that sends you racing to the vending machine. Diced chicken breast, stir-fried in coconut milk with your favorite vegetables and spices can make for a hearty meal, especially when served over brown rice. For something you can easily throw together and meets the USDA's recommendation for a few servings of fish each week -- drain canned tuna of its water, and mix into a satisfying salad with greens, baby tomatoes, a little Parmesan and serve with crusty whole-grain bread.
A tasty option for dinner is chili con carne. Brown lean ground beef, add canned tomatoes, garlic, chili, kidney beans and mixed herbs for a satisfying dish. If you want to add dairy, add shredded cheese or sour cream -- low-fat dairy is the best if you're watching your waistline. Alternatively, grill a salmon fillet in lemon juice with your favorite vegetables and serve over quinoa for a zesty end to the day.
Although your meals should fill you up enough to last until your next meal, you might want a snack every now and then, as well. Choose healthy, natural foods over processed snack foods; this includes fruit, a handful of nuts, a small tub of low-fat yogurt, or a couple of pieces of dark chocolate. A balanced meal plan can also feature an occasional glass of wine or a scoop of low-fat ice cream in the evenings.
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: Food Groups
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Egg, Whole, Cooked, Poached
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Oats
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: What Foods Are In The Protein Foods Group?
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: What Foods Are Included In The Dairy Group?
- Medline Plus: Snacks For Adults