A balanced dish: create your own “healthy and good” dishes, without giving up flavor and…going nuts! Here are my tips and also, some useful “hacks and tricks”.
Today, we’ll go over a really important subject, for those who want to reap the benefits of following a healthy diet and support an active and positive lifestyle, that is spoken about very, too little. This being how can we create a “balanced dish”?
If you’re among those who hear the word “balanced”, when speaking about nutrition and run away in terror, thinking about weighing every ingredient, down to the gram, following complicated, mathematical formulas and logging all of it in a weary notebook… Have no fear: I feel you!!
In fact, my philosophy is that nutrition is a completely natural thing and for this reason, living it in an “artificial” way, made of measurements and calculations is just another weight and struggle, that is often times, counterproductive. Because it risks, turning something that, before anything else, should always continue to be pleasurable, into something “forced”.
This is why, today, we won’t talk about grams, calories or other “numeric” things: this is unnecessary!
Instead, I’ll pass some practical tips to you (big and small), to help you build your balanced dishes, simply and naturally, while being full of flavor and nutrients and without imbalances …including excessive and unnecessary limitations!
Are you ready?
GROCERY SHOPPING…HOW WHOPPING!
The first secret to creating and bringing fourth simplicity, in your delicious and balanced dishes, is… beginning from the groceries!
Realizing any dish, without having the right ingredients in your home, becomes almost an impossible feat: but, having a wide variety of fresh, well-chosen and thought out components, at your disposal, beforehand, makes all of the difference in the world..
This is why, I’d recommend shopping in a“smart way”. Here are some tips:
- Think about your menu a little bit in advance and avoid going shopping while being hungry, so that you don’t fill your cart with elements that you don’t need— or that you won’t want to admit to buying— and you’ll always know what you need. This is fundamental, especially when using fresh ingredients!
- Write a list of what you need to buy and bring it with you: you can write in a notebook or a ledger, or, if you’re more technological, there are lots of different kinds of colorful and fun apps, all there to help you out.
- If somebody else is going shopping for you, your trusty app will be really useful: you can share your list in real time, with so much detail… this way, you also won’t receive 10 phone calls, where you need to explain everything over and over again!
Now that you have everything necessary to make your dishes good and healthy… half of the ”work” is already done!
The other half lays in knowing how to put them all together, in a balanced way, so that they contain the right nutrients, are irresistible to the palate and there is no giving up of fragrance or aesthetic satisfaction, two components, fundamental to maintaining the goodness of food, that are, all too often, neglected !
“But Alice, aren’t these too many things all put together?”
I can assure you that they are not!
In reality, if we always keep a few simple notions in mind and don’t go forwards “blindly”, making good and healthy dishes, is a lot easier than most people think!
ONCE UPON A TIME, EVERYTHING HERE WAS GREENERY
Obviously, all of our individual, nutritional needs, depend on many factors, like age, gender and physical activity, but, there are some very simple, general rules, that can help guide us in the right direction, instinctually, without ever having to count grams, calories and measuring every ingredient, like a nutty alchemist.
The first rule is really simple: “green is better”! In reality, the ingredients don’t even need to be “green”, because, fruit and vegetables, are every color of the rainbow, but you understand me… The important thing is eating as much of them as possible! (Excluding potatoes for the moment, we’ll come back to them.)
In any case, about half of your meal should always be made up by our “green friends”, mainly vegetables (⅔) and slightly less fruit (⅓). Obviously, I’m not saying that you should put some cut up pieces of apple in your pasta with tomato sauce…Fruit can also add a really good, sweet conclusion to a meal or a snack.
Remember that eating many different kinds of fruits and vegetables, of different shapes, colors, textures and flavors, is really important, along with their respective seasonalities and if they come straight from your garden, (or from a local farmer and without losing your mind over foods with a “bio” label on them, in supermarkets), you’ve hit the jackpot!
In this way, your dishes won’t only always be beautiful and interesting, but you won’t have to worry about which types of phytonutrients and micronutrients compose your produce: you’ll consume everything you need, naturally! (Unless you have certain deficiencies that need to be compensated for, in which case, they would require a little bit of special thought, care and attention.)
I recommend that you don’t cook your vegetables for too long: in most cases, sautéing and steaming, for about 5-10 minutes, is ideal, in order to highlight the natural flavors found in your food and preserve the majority of of the nutrients!
INVINCIBLE CEREALS AND HOW TO TAME THEM
Now, let’s go on to talk about “cereals and pseudo-cereals” that should represent ⅓, of the composition of your dish.
We’re talking about foods like barley, emmer, wheat flour derivatives, rice, millet, potatoes (there they are!), quinoa, buckwheat, rye or sorghum bread, amaranth and many others. All to be preferably whole wheat.
Let’s understand each other: there is no need to throw your loaf of white bread , that you have at home, out of the window, as if it were about to explode, from one moment to the next, but, it would be better to not exclusively eat refined flours, 3 times a day, 7 times a week (how many do). ).
“Ok Alice, cereals are good, but they take ages to cook! I don’t have a ton of time!”
You’re right… but only partly. Some cereals are exclusively “tough as bones”, but with a dash of organization you’ll be able to tame them, even in your day to day life.
Before anything else, I recommend that you always soak them, to prep them for use, it takes a moment and you can do it whenever you want and this’ll cut down significantly on cooking time!
This important step down, you can cook them while doing other things at home (but remember to put on a timer!), or make them in larger quantities, whenever you have the chance,keep them in the fridge and then eat them throughout the week, in your cold dishes, like bowls and salads, but also, in your hot dishes, finishing them off in the pan or, however you like.
Ok, this is a good time to talk a little bit about that friend, that’s always at and talking about, the gym ((I know you have and love them too!), that are convinced that eating even one gram of carbohydrates at night, outweighs all of the hard work and time they put in, with exercise and discipline, during the day…
This here, is. a false myth to bust.. Or, better, a misunderstanding: if we really talk about fitness” professionals”, people who live in search of obtaining the lowest possible, body fat concentration, this “rule” could have something to back it up. But, just because their lifestyle regiment is so “ extreme” and this creates a need for them to develop an extreme nutrition plan. I don’t recommend living like this and find it completely unhealthy.
For regular people like you and me, for a nutritional system that’s healthy and balanced, it doesn’t really matter what time you consume your macronutrients. You can free your mind from that thought and relax: a dish that’s balanced and healthy, remains so, whether you eat it for lunch or dinner.
The important thing is to maintain balance in your nutrition, throughout the day: if you only had pasta for lunch, you can balance that out, in the evening with having more protein and vegetables. But you could switch it up and do the opposite if you wanted to too, without worrying about it very much.
There you go… one less problem!
THE “PROS” OF PROTEIN
Finally, less than ¼ of your dish should be made up of a protein, of animal or vegetable origins, with preferences for ingredients like fish, white meats, eggs, dairy, legumes andnuts.
The only thing I’d sayis don’t overdo it with red meats and aged cheeses: a well- known and true notion (they’re not all false myths!), that is all too often ignored.
Obviously I’m not telling you to never enjoy that meat dish again, or to say no to a picnic with your friends because all they have are prosciutto and cheese sandwiches… Both would be choices that go against the idea of maintaining the “balance” that we’re talking about! Simply put, I recommend that you don’t make these foods daily staples is all.
Let’s go over the chapter of “fats”, that even though, they have a terrible reputation, play a fundamental role in our nutrition and therefore, the right dose, of the good kinds, needs to be omnipresent.
For example, you can incorporate them into your meals as condiments: 1 or 2 spoonfuls of extra virgin olive oil (or other, unrefined oil), can surely add fragrance and flavor to a dish and there’s no reason to go without it!
If you want, you can use different sources of fat, like avocados, for example (100g of its pulp equals, more or less, 1 spoon of oil: here you can find my tips on this!), or seeds, like flax seeds — and many other kinds— and even nuts.
Let’s finish with the one, fundamental “ingredient” of any balanced dish, otherwise known …water!
I recommend that you drink lots of it and to have it more than any other beverage (surely before sugary, carbonated ones) or even alcohol. When you want something a little bit “different”, a complementary alternative, are probiotic drinks, like the “mysterious” Kefir.
Here we go! Now you really know everything that you require, to create your dishes in a balanced, simple and “natural” way, without using any mathematic tables and extremisms.
There’s nothing left for me to do but invite you to experiment and to say… buon appetito!
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