What is considered a balanced meal?

Exactly what is considered a balanced meal can vary between people of different cultures. In the West, in particular, a balanced meal is considered to be a protein in the form of a piece of meat, surrounded by a starch and a side dish, with a roll and a glass of milk. In part, this is because it is conditioned on selecting foods from the Basic Four as outlined in the food pyramid developed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). However, this agency has restructured its guidelines under the new "MyPyramid" to include five basic foods, with much less importance for meat and a greater focus on whole grains, fruits and vegetables. In addition, there are other models of food pyramids that cater to those who prefer an Asian, Mediterranean, Latin American or vegetarian leaning diet.

Regardless of meat-eating status or any ethnic or regional association, a balanced eating plan remains very similar for everyone. In other words, all of these food pyramids promote the message that a variety of whole foods is key and that sugars, saturated fats, and alcohol should be consumed in moderation. In fact, the only real difference between these pyramids is the suggested foods listed in each food group. For example, the Asian food pyramid recommends noodles and rice daily, while the Mediterranean suggests polenta and couscous.

Obviously, the purpose of these pyramid illustrations is to help one choose foods to prepare balanced meals through the reliable method of choosing a few from each group. In addition, the foods recommended in the greatest quantity always form the widest part of the pyramid, which is the base. However, it can be inconvenient and even a hassle to refer to a table just to make dinner every night. With that said, there are some simple guidelines for making a healthy, balanced meal without resorting to pictures or lists.

The second rule of thumb is to include a variety of textures with each meal. This not only provides interest in the diet, but also ensures a variety of whole grains. It's also worth mentioning that certain raw foods provide texture, as well as optimal nutrition and much-needed fiber.

In fact, cooking vegetables can decrease their nutritional value. So, consider a freshly shredded or sliced ​​coleslaw or vegetable salad as a way to get some crunchy, powerful nutrition. For that matter, raw vegetables are a great addition to other foods that help round out a meal, like rice, beans, and pasta dishes.

The final element in knowing what constitutes a balanced meal is the moderation of certain foods. Specifically, sweets, fats, and oils should be consumed less. Also, it is not necessary to include meat in every meal. In fact, most cuts of meat can add considerable fat and cholesterol to the diet and should be limited. This extends to egg yolks as well, which are best limited to just once or twice a week. Excellent sources of protein in place of meat and eggs include legumes, cheese, and dark green leafy vegetables.

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