A healthy dinner plan can help you avoid making unhealthy last-minute food choices. Organize your dinner plans by creating weekly menus and making a shopping list based on your meal plans. Consider trying new varieties of fruits, vegetables, grains and proteins, and choose whole foods over processed foods more often.
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A balanced dinner includes two to three servings of fruits and vegetables, a serving of whole grains and a lean protein option. Include 1 cup of milk with your dinner if you need help getting the recommended amount. Adults need the equivalent of 3 cups of milk daily, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest using a small dinner plate, reserving the largest portion for vegetables, fruit and whole grains.
One cup of vegetables is the equivalent of two servings, with the exception of raw leafy greens which count cup for cup as a serving. One slice of whole wheat bread, 5 whole wheat crackers or 1/2 cup brown rice, whole grain pasta or bulgur constitute a serving of whole grains, according to the USDA. One serving of lean protein is approximately 3 oz. poultry, meat or fish, or 3/4 cup cooked dry beans.
Nutrients in vegetables vary by color and variety so include more than one color of vegetable on your dinner plate. Pair carrots with spinach, sweet potatoes with broccoli or a salad with tomatoes, for example. Consider serving less common grain varieties such as millet, quinoa or amaranth. Other options include a whole wheat roll or 6-inch whole wheat tortilla. The American Heart Association recommends serving fish at least twice a week for heart health. Other healthy protein options include chicken or turkey breast, lean bottom round or legumes such as black beans, chick peas or white beans.
A balanced diet helps you manage your calorie intake and get the nutrients you need for good health. Eating the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables potentially reduces your risk for developing chronic diseases including stroke, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers, according to the CDC. The National Institutes of Health reports that increasing fiber, specifically fiber from grains, helps protect against diabetes, according to the National Institutes of Health. Eating two to three sources of protein a day provides enough for healthy cell function, according to Medline Plus.
A healthy and balanced diet consists of at least three meals a day. To reap the benefits of a balanced dinner, include a healthy breakfast and lunch in your eating plan. Your total calorie intake is also an important factor in your diet. Consult the My Pyramid Food Intake Patterns to identify how many servings you need from each food group daily to meet your calorie goal.