by | May 30, 2023 | 0 comments

A Simple and Healthy Meal Planning Template to Create a Balanced Meal

By now, you know that eating well-balanced meals is essential for maintaining good health and vitality. Doing so provides us with the necessary nutrients to fuel our bodies and support overall well-being, including better brain health, better hormones, better body composition, more energy, longer lifespan (and healthspan!), better gut health, and so much more.  And you can probably look back on your day and give it a general assessment (did I have any veggies?  Was all of my food fried?  Did I snack too much, or not enough, for me?) … but how do you know whether any given MEAL will keep you full and satisfied until the next one, or will leave you dragging, needing some coffee or a nap, and feeling hungry an hour later?  The simple Healthy Meal Planning Template that I’m going to share with you today is the answer!

In this blog post, we will explore how to create a delicious and nutritious meal by skillfully combining (at least!) one serving of protein, two servings of vegetables, and one serving of healthy fat. While grains and extra carbohydrates are optional, we’ll also discuss some wholesome choices. So let’s dive into the art of mixing and matching options to form a well-rounded plate of goodness!

The Power of Protein

Protein plays a crucial role in our diet, as it helps build and repair tissues, supports a healthy immune system, and aids in hormone production. To ensure you’re getting enough protein in your meal, ensure that you get at least one palm-sized serving of protein on your plate.  Consider options such as:

  • Lean Meats: skinless chicken breast, turkey, fish, or lean cuts of beef or pork are great sources of nearly pure protein.
  • Eggs: Hard-boiled eggs, omelets, or egg whites can be protein-packed options.
  • Dairy (if it works for you!): yogurt, cottage cheese, or even milk can be sources of protein, but watch out! See this post for more on dairy and inflammation.
  • Plant-based Proteins: Include legumes like lentils, chickpeas, or black beans. Non-GMO tofu, tempeh, and edamame are excellent sources too. If you’re vegetarian, these get big thumbs up!  If not, be mindful that most of these are just as much (or more) carbohydrates than protein, so just keep that in mind.
  • Protein supplements: powders and bars can be helpful in a pinch or as an addition, but we’ve got to read labels! See this page for some of my favorites!

Most of my clients are undereating protein.  See this post for more on how to calculate how much protein you need based on your goals and current situation.

The Bounty of Vegetables

Vegetables are rich in essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber, making them an indispensable part of a balanced meal. Embrace variety and color to maximize nutritional benefits – the more colors on your plate, the more phytonutrients! To ensure you’re getting enough vegetables in your meal, ensure that you get at least two fist-sized servings of veggies on your plate.  Here are some vegetable options to consider:

  • Leafy Greens: Spinach, kale, Swiss chard, or romaine lettuce provide an array of vitamins and minerals.
  • Cruciferous Vegetables: Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage are packed with antioxidants and fiber.
  • Colorful Veggies: Bell peppers, tomatoes, carrots, and sweet potatoes offer a range of phytonutrients and vibrant flavors.

The Importance of Healthy Fats

Contrary to popular belief, not all fats are bad for you. Healthy fats play a vital role in supporting brain function, promoting heart health, and absorbing fat-soluble vitamins.  To ensure you’re getting enough healthy fat in your meal, ensure that you get at least one thumb-sized serving of healthy fat on your plate. Incorporate the following healthy fat options into your meal:

  • Avocado: Enjoy slices of avocado or guacamole as a creamy and nourishing fat source.
  • Nuts, Seeds, and Nut Butters: Almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, or flaxseeds are packed with healthy fats and provide a satisfying crunch.
  • Olives: olives are some of my favorite snacks! I love these packets.
  • Olive Oil: Use extra-virgin olive oil as a dressing or for light sautéing. Olive oil is the most widely studied oil and has tons of health benefits, but many other oils are great, too!  See this post for more on cooking oils.

The Role of Grains and Extra Carbohydrates

While grains and extra carbohydrates are optional, they can provide sustained energy and additional nutrients. In general, most people will do well with a maximum of ½ cup serving of these per meal, but if you’re super active or looking to increase bodyweight, more is optimal, and if you’re more sedentary or looking to shed weight, you don’t need them at each meal.  If you choose to include them, consider these wholesome options:

  • Legumes: Chickpeas, black beans, or lentils provide a good amount of carbohydrates along with protein and fiber.
  • Sweet Potatoes: These nutrient-rich tubers serve as a delicious and nutritious source of carbohydrates.
  • Fruit: Fruit is full of fiber and antioxidants that make it a very healthy addition to a meal! Enjoy it at the end of the meal for better blood sugar control and to stave off sweet cravings!
  • Whole Grains: Quinoa, brown rice, and other grains offer fiber, vitamins, and minerals. These are far better for you than refined grains, which are grains ground into a flour and baked into something else (like bread, pasta, crackers, muffins, etc., all of which are OK in moderation, but aren’t the foundation of a healthy plate!)

A Simple and Healthy Meal Planning Template to Create a Balanced Meal

How do I put all of this together?  Give me some examples of healthy plates made with the meal planning template.

Simple … snag a palm-size of protein, two fist-sizes of veggies, and a thumb-size of fat as the base of your meal, then customize based on what tastes good or what your body needs.  Here’s an example of a healthy day of eating put together with this meal planning template:

  • Breakfast: egg scramble with berries. Saute at least 2 fist-sizes of spinach, asparagus, and mushrooms (veggies!), then scramble in 2 eggs and 2 egg whites (protein!).  Top with ¼ avocado (healthy fat!), some salsa, any herbs you like, and serve with a cup of berries (bonus carb!) on the side.  Enjoy some coffee with collagen too, because a day isn’t complete without coffee! 😊
  • Lunch: Tuna Niçoise Salad out at a restaurant. Even eating at restaurants, it’s pretty simple to follow this meal planning template!  The Niçoise Salad has more than 2 fist-sized servings of veggies (mixed greens, green beans, and cherry tomatoes, let’s say), at least a palm of protein (tuna), and at least a thumb of healthy fat (olives on the salad and olive oil for dressing). And you didn’t even have to cook!
  • Snack: Choose a healthy snack from my Megan Recommends page!
  • Dinner: Lettuce Wraps are one of my favorite ways to make a simple stir-fry feel fancy. Sauté together some ground turkey (protein!), water chestnuts, bell peppers, onion, and garlic (veggies!), and liberally add seasoning (maybe coconut aminos, ginger, and Chinese Five Spice).  Drizzle with sesame oil (healthy fat!) after cooking and serve in romaine lettuce “boats”!  Don’t forget a square of dark chocolate after dinner, because to me, a day isn’t complete without chocolate!

A Simple and Healthy Meal Planning Template to Create a Balanced Meal

What about all the other stuff?  How do I adjust this to me?

Beyond this simple guidance, it gets a bit more complicated!  How much ice cream fits in your diet, whether you need more protein or healthy fat than this, and how often to snack honestly depends on the person.  There’s good news, though, I can help.  To get all the information you need to customize it yourself, check out my Revitalize Health Accelerator.  Or, for a more hands-on approach, talk to me about 1-to-1 nutrition consulting.

Here’s the bottom line

Crafting a well-balanced meal that meets your nutritional needs can be an enjoyable and creative process. By skillfully mixing and matching options, you can ensure you’re getting one serving of protein, two servings of vegetables, and one serving of healthy fat. Remember to embrace variety and color, choose lean protein sources, load up on nutrient-dense vegetables, and include healthy fats for optimal nutrition. While grains and extra carbohydrates are optional, consider wholesome choices that provide additional nutrients and sustained energy. Nourish your body with a well-rounded plate, and most importantly, enjoy!

Now it’s your turn!  What is a healthy meal you’ve had lately that fits this formula?

🎙️ Want to hear about this topic in audio format? → Check out the podcast episode here!


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Megan Lyons Headshot

Hi! I'm Megan Lyons,

the voice behind The Lyons’ Share. I love all things health, wellness, and fitness-related, and I hope to share some of my passion with you. Thanks for stopping by!
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