Nearly two months ago, I posted “The Mighty Calorie!“, where we explored the fact that eating as little as 250 extra calories a day could result in packing on an extra 24 pounds per year. So what parts of your diet can you look at to try to cut down those sneaky extra calories? Two places in particular: what you eat and how much you eat. This week, we’re going to touch on the first of those two problems.
The average diet today isn’t nearly as balanced as it should be. To make my point, ask yourself something: how do you plan your meal? Do you think about the meat item as the “main” item of your meal? Do you plan the rest of the meal around whatever meat selection you’ve made, especially for lunch and dinner? If so, you’re not alone…most people do! When you go out to eat, do you have the meal with two chicken breasts (typically six ounces each) or the twelve ounce steak if you’re celebrating? Do you commonly see menus and meals that have 1/4 pound to 1/2 pound burgers available? Again, most people do, and most people enjoy those meals. However, as I mentioned in my last post, “Get Past Your Diet Failure!“, the highly recommended DASH diet recommends that you only eat six ounces of meat per day. Again, think on your average meal. If you’re like many, you eat six ounces of meat per meal, if not more. There’s certainly no balance there.
Let’s look at vegetables. Did you know that there are five different classifications of vegetables? Dark green (such as kale, spinach, and broccoli), starchy (such as potatoes and corn), red and orange (such as squashes and peppers), beans and peas (such as kidney beans and split peas), and the “others” catch-all (such as green beans, beets, and zucchini). Do you eat from all five groups, or are you again like most, sticking to a select few, like corn and potatoes? Again, look at restaurant meals, and note that most of them have potato (be it mashed, baked, or as french fries) as the primary vegetable, not vegetables like kale, squash, lentils, brussels sprouts, beets, or turnips. That’s definitely not balanced.
Finally, let’s look at fruits. How often do you include fruit as part of your meal, besides breakfast? Some restaurants may offer a fruit cup as a side, but not very many do. Most people try to get their fruit through desserts–but I assure you, that blueberry pie has much more negative aspects (high-calorie, high-fat, high-sugar) than positive. Again, no balance.
So what’s the solution to get more balance in your meals? In my opinion, the idea of MyPlate. MyPlate is the next step after the outdated food pyramid model. It’s a visual example of what types of foods should be on your plate every meal. MyPlate’s largest recommendation, as you can see to the right, is that half of your plate every meal should consist of fruits and vegetables. The other half should be roughly split between grains (such as rice, breads, and pasta) and your protein (meat). Lastly, a dairy item should definitely be included–but don’t limit yourself to milk! Have some yogurt topped with fruit for dessert, or add a bit of cheese to your meal.
So, next time you sit down to a meal, take a look at your plate. Does it match MyPlate? If not, what could you do to nudge your plate to match up a bit more? Next week, we’ll talk about a related topic to MyPlate–portion sizes. As always, if you have any questions or comments, leave them below!