We have a unique perspective here at Lemond Nutrition in counseling so many people each year between all our dietitians; it really allows us to keep a pulse on the challenges of eating right. One thing we are seeing is that folks are still confused on the very basics of what makes up a meal.
Meal Anatomy Makes All the Difference
Are carbs good, and if so, which ones? What protein, and do I have to eat meat to be my healthiest? The most popular fad diet (keto) almost pushes protein completely off the plate and ushers in mostly fat. No wonder why folks are more confused than ever!
We’ve tried many things with our clients over the years in helping them eat right and the thing that continues to work well for most people is plate setup. If you know the anatomy of a meal and snack, you can pull together a super- fast meal and snack at the snap of your fingers. That’s what is most desperately needed is the skill of doing this over and over, day after day. They don’t necessarily need more recipes because truly, many don’t have, or want to make the time. For those wanting to manage weight and health in the new year, this works well because it involves no calorie counting and no weighing or measuring while keeping things balanced and fully satisfying. As dietitians that are now more sensitive than ever of eating disorder triggers, this is the best approach behaviorally for all.
Whether you want to manage your weight, maintain or maximize the energy from a meal – this plate setup works best for most every scenario with ease. We know that having a combination of carbohydrate, protein and fat is the most satisfying and energy inducing for the body.
Traditional American Breakfast Is Wrong
Think about the very basic traditional breakfast of cereal and milk. Cereal and milk are two food groups, and when analyzed nutritionally, it is a very high percentage of carbohydrate. Even if you choose a low sugar / high fiber cereal, the percentages are still high (although better quality) carbohydrate when looking at the combination. Why is that important? It’s not because we are against carbohydrates. Not at all. It is because a high carbohydrate meal is not typically as satisfying.
Most people would agree that cereal and milk doesn’t satisfy them for a full 4 hours, right? Well, try adding a side of scrambled eggs (fat & protein) on the side. Now that meal will satisfy longer. It also allows for more overall calories at breakfast, so your appetite is reasonable at dinner. Repeat at lunch, then you get to dinner. See how that works?
The reality is that people are so busy these days, and the best skill to have in-between those times you didn’t meal prep, meal plan or shop for dinners, is the plate setup knowledge. In all the recalls that I’ve done on typical daily intake, most of them do this at dinner – but not at breakfast or lunch. Instead they eat one thing at breakfast (if anything) and then eat super light at lunch and they wonder why they are so hungry at dinner. Let’s get back to the basics this year instead of falling for yet another fad diet with extreme eating. No more beating a dead horse. Let’s go through how this thing works!
Power Plate Meals & Snacks
Here at Lemond, we call our meals “power plate” meals. A meal is powerful if it has all the essentials to meet macronutrient and micronutrient needs without having to count nerdy numbers or measure portions. The power plate is satisfying and the most energizing because of the mix of carbohydrate, protein and fat. For the most part, we tell folks to set a basic-sized plate (12") up and eat slowly until satisfied. When eating full meals and snacks with this anatomy, this naturally keeps a person from overeating. We recommend eating every 4 hours, so if the time between any one meal is > 4 hours, we recommend a power plate snack (see below).
But first, the power plate meal is as follows:
Power Plate Meals (3-5 food groups)
#1 Choose Your Protein (1/4 of plate): It’s best to get your protein in dosing vs. all at once. For adults, we recommend 20-30g protein per meal. What does that look like?
3-4 ounces of lean / extra lean meat, fish or poultry OR a combination of vegetarian proteins. Use our vegetarian trick of 7’s chart to get within your range. This can include dairy, eggs, beans, nuts, seeds and various types of soy. Vegeatrian works well, and even if you don't want to do full vegetarian, we challenge you to sprinkle some vegetarian meals in throughout your week. It will actually save you money!
~7 Grams of Protein
1 egg, extra-large
½ cup Kefir
#2 Choose Your Grain or Starch (1/4 of plate): That could be a starchy vegetable like potato or corn or it could be pasta, rice or bread. Keep at least half your grains whole throughout the day. Whole wheat is not the only whole grain! Head over to The Whole Grains Council to get tons of ideas.
**In our experience, leaving the grain/starch off the plate often leads to overeating or snacking on less healthful things later. So we say, don't skip this part!**
#3 Choose Your Fruits and vegetables (1/2 plate): We suggest the non-starchy vegetables on this other half of the plate. Vegetables have various amounts of starch, but we make it easy and say that if it’s not potato or corn, it goes on this half of the plate.
In order to make this food tasty, add healthy oils moderately to make the flavors come out.
We must get back to the basics and feel empowered to put a quick meal and snack together. Here are a list of no recipe breakfast, lunch and dinner setups:
Whole wheat English Muffin, eggs, cheese
Plain Greek yogurt with berries, whole wheat bagel with peanut or almond butter
Protein cereal, milk, fruit of choice, nuts, seeds or cheese stick
Breakfast wrap, whole wheat tortilla with eggs, cheese peppers, onions; 100% orange juice
Lunch or Dinner
Make your own Bento box: pick a veggie, ruit, tortilla/meat/cheese roll up
Rotisserie chicken without skin, Roasted red potatoes, grilled zucchini
93-95% lean beef burger with whole wheat bun and veggies; side of fruit
Lunch or Dinner (Vegetarian)
1 cup lentil soup topped with an ounce of mozzarella cheese and a mixed green side salad with an ounce of sunflower seeds; side of fruit
Big salad with mixed lettuce, spinach, chickpeas, Edamame, quinoa, almonds, raw vegetables, oil and vinegar; whole grain roll
Tofu stir fry with bell peppers, onions, Bok choy, snow peas, mushrooms, ginger and brown jasmine rice
Black bean burger, cheese avocado, grilled mushrooms; side of fruit
Power Plate Snacks (2 food groups)
#1 Choose Your Protein: we recommend that the typical adult get around 7-10 grams of protein in a snack.
#2 Choose Your High Fiber Carbohydrate: pick a serving of a fruit, vegetable or whole grain.
Now you have the basics that most people are still trying to figure out. We've been doing this for many years, and the experience along with the science out there makes plate setup work for optimal health. Promise! So when life gets crazy, know that throwing quick things together in the food group categories allows you to put a full and satisfying meal or snack together without feeling like you have to default to takeout. This will save you money while keeping you eating right even when you haven’t gathered those recipes for the week. This is what I do all the time in my own life, so I know it works!
Need more help? Contact us and one of our dietitians can sit down and guide you based on her life’s demands. In-person and virtual appointments available. Give us a call at 888-422-8070.