10 Simple Food Combinations That Give You a Balanced Meal

These food combinations will help you feel full and energized until the next meal.

Have you ever had a meal and felt like something was missing? Like after you had it, you were immediately hungry? It was probably because the meal lacked some type of macronutrient. There is a lot of data to show the importance of pairing different foods to include all major macronutrients at the same meal. This is because each macronutrient plays a vital role in your blood sugar, energy and hunger levels.

Carbohydrates are our primary source of fuel and provide instant energy, as well as store energy as glycogen in muscle and liver tissue. Protein builds muscle and provides essential amino acids that serve as the building blocks for other proteins, enzymes, and hormones within the body. Fats provide essential fatty acids such as omega-3 fatty acids and are also necessary for absorbing fat-soluble vitamins. Protein and fat have also been known to help with reducing hunger by decreasing the hunger hormone “ghrelin” and being long-lasting forms of energy. Because all three are so important, it is encouraged to include them all on your plate for a healthy, balanced meal.

What does a balanced plate look like?

One easy way to reflect what we mean by a balanced plate is showing the Harvard Healthy Plate. You can see that half the plate should be fruits and vegetables, a quarter protein, a quarter complex carb and it should contain a healthy source of fats. Below are some examples of each category.

Whole grains (¼ plate)

Whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, oats/oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa

Lean proteins (¼ plate)

Chicken breast, turkey breast/ground turkey, pork tenderloin, fish (salmon/tuna/trout), plant-based protein (tofu/tempeh/seitan), eggs/egg whites

Vegetables (½ plate)

Artichoke, asparagus, bean sprouts, beets, brussel sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, eggplant, greens, hearts of palm, leeks, mushrooms, okra, onions, peppers, sprouts, squash (spaghetti & zucchini), tomato

Fruits (½ plate)

Berries, mango, pineapple, apple, pear, grapes, stone fruit, bananas, melon

Healthy Fats: (1-2 Tbsp.)

Nuts, seeds, peanut butter, nut butter such as almond butter, avocado, olive oil, avocado oil

To show you how easy it is to build a balanced meal, here are five food combinations to try for breakfast and lunch.

Breakfast: (P = Protein, F = Fat, C = Carb, F/V = Fruits/Veggies)

  • Breakfast Bowl: quinoa (C) + spinach (V) + hard boiled eggs (P) + olive oil (F)
  • Toast: wheat toast (C) + avocado (F) + white beans (P) + microgreens (V)
  • Smoothie: protein powder (P) + chia seeds (F) + kale (V) + banana (C/F) + 1 cup almond milk + 1 cup ice
  • Overnight Oats: steel-cut oats (C) + unsweetened plant-based/non-fat milk (C) + seeds (chia/flax) (F) + collagen (P) + cinnamon to taste
  • Yogurt Bowl: Greek yogurt (P) + high-fiber cereal (C) + slivered almonds (F)

Lunch: (P = Protein, F = Fat, C = Carb, F/V = Fruits/Veggies)

  • Tuna Salad: greens (V) + fingerling potatoes (C) + tuna (P) + olives (F)
  • Tofu Wrap: sprouted wheat wrap (C) + bell peppers (V) + hummus with olive oil (F) + sliced baked tofu (P)
  • Salmon and Quinoa: salmon (P) + brussels sprouts (V) + quinoa (C) + pumpkin seeds (F)
  • Chicken and Rice: rotisserie chicken (P) + broccoli (V) + avocado oil (F) + rice (C)
  • Chickpea and Roti: chickpeas (P) + roti bread (C) + eggplant (V) + olive oil (F)

As you can see, it is easy to build a balanced plate! Refer to the Healthy Plate guidelines to make some pairings of your own. You will notice a huge change in your energy levels, hunger levels between meals and most likely overall productivity!

 

Gabriella is a registered dietitian living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She currently works in corporate wellness as a dietitian and overall wellness coach. She also runs a food blog called Macrobalanced, where she shows people that healthy and balanced eating can be interesting and tasty! She enjoys all things fitness from lifting heavy weights in the gym to hitting the barre. Nothing is off limits as long as sweat is involved. When she is not cooking or sweating, she is playing with her dog Maui, a lively German Shepherd. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook.