Mixing and Matching Food Groups

Balance. That is pretty much they key word that people use to describe a healthy diet since there is no real consensus on what a healthy diet exactly is. But, I know that that is a little too vague and some more guidelines are helpful for creating well-balanced eating habits. It is impossible to tell you exactly what and how much to eat since that varies too much person to person, but there is a good way to keep the daily balance when it comes to snacks and meals.

This guide to balance refers to food groups. Remember that famous food pyramid? Yep, those are the food groups I am talking about. While that pyramid has now been redesigned into a plate (which I don’t really like, but that is for another blog post), the idea is still the same. The main food groups you should incorporate into your diet are grains, protein, vegetables, fruit, dairy, and fats. Fats are left off of the plate because most foods that I would consider healthy fats also fall into other categories (e.g. avocado could be classified as a fruit and nuts could fall into the protein category).

Food pyramidmy plate

Snacks
The key here is to incorporate two to three food groups into each snack. This allows the body to get nutrients from different sources and digest at different speeds. One food group will usually digest faster (giving you more immediate energy) and the other will digest more slowly (keeping you full longer).

Want some snack ideas?
-Yogurt and granola (dairy and grain)
-Apple and peanut butter (fruit and fat/protein)
-Hummus and celery or carrots (protein and vegetable)
-Cheese and crackers (dairy and grain)
-Avocado Toast (fat and grain)
-Oatmeal and berries (grain and fruit)

Meals
For meals, you want to combine three to four food groups (you could even try to do all five!). This allows for lots of variety (which means lots of different nutrients) and helps you meet your daily servings of each food group. It can also prevent over eating by helping you fill up on foods like vegetables before digging into the main, usually more calorically dense, part of your meal. Plus, it is important to get all the vitamins and minerals in vegetables that are sometimes forgotten during typically protein and grain rich meal times.

Need some meal inspiration?
Breakfast:
-Eggs and avocado toast (protein, fat, and grain)
-Yogurt with berries and granola (dairy, fruit, and grain)
Lunch:
-Sandwich with protein (egg salad, turkey, tuna salad) and veggies with hummus (grain, protein, and vegetables)
-Grilled chicken salad with quinoa and an apple (protein, vegetables, grain, and fruit)
Dinner:
-My favorite black bean burrito lettuce wraps with brown rice (protein, vegetable, and grain- also add avocado/guacamole for a healthy fat)
-Baked salmon with whole-wheat pasta and a side of edamame (or other vegetable) (protein, grain, and vegetable)

Vacation Eating and The Hunger Scale

Vacation usually means lots and lots of delicious treats! I love trying new foods so going to new restaurants and countries with new types of food is so much fun for me. Vacation also usually means a week or two of indulging and then its back to a relatively well balanced diet. My dilemma… I have quickly realized that this “vacation” is not just a week or two. I am abroad for over four months so having loads of sugary treats everyday is not the wisest decision. The past week has made me discover that just because I am in a foreign country does not means I can eat whatever I want, all of the time.

Over the weekend, some friends and I took a quick trip to Brussels, Belgium. I don’t know what you think about when I say Belgium, but the first things that came to my mind were chocolate, waffles, and French fries. With only 48 hours, we all took advantage of these amazing treats… so much so that we all felt pretty sick for the next few days. While a few days of salad, vegetable overload, and some trips to the gym got me feeling right back to normal, I have realized that this pattern of overeating and then “cleansing” does not make me feel my best.

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Belgian Waffles!

The biggest thing that I have forgotten about in all of this is the hunger scale. This guide here is a good way to know when and how much you (and I) should eat. If “1” is starving and “10” is miserably full, you should always be between 3 and 6/7. I know that recently I have been hitting 9/10 (and possible an 11 in Belgium!) way too often and it doesn’t feel good.

hunger scale.png

It is probably going to be difficult to say no to the homemade cakes my host mom makes, along with the flakey chocolate-filled pastries on every street corner, but if I want to survive these four months without endless stomach aches, I have to remind myself that I am going to be here for quite some time, and I don’t have to stuff my face with everything that is in front of me. (But, of course, a treat or a bite here and there will never hurt!) I also have to remind myself how much better I will feel if I don’t go to bed feeling like a roly-poly every night.

My New Oatmeal Obsession

I have always struggled to eat a good breakfast. I’m simply don’t really like to eat a lot in the morning. Most of high school I went without breakfast or just grabbed some fruit for the car ride. While fruit is not a bad option, I always found myself hungry after an hour or two and was starving by the time lunch came around.

I recently got very frustrated with this vicious cycle on not wanting to eat breakfast and then being hungry all morning. I thought there had to be something that was healthy, quick, and filling.

I tried yogurt, eggs, and granola bars but nothing really made me feel great or kept me full. The only thing I hadn’t tried: Oatmeal.

Unless it was in a cookie, oatmeal always kind of freaked me out. The mushy texture reminded me of baby food and was very unappetizing, but I decided I would give it another try.

I went to the grocery store and stared at the shelf of a zillion oatmeal choices reading every box to see what would be the best choice. I wanted something that had little sugar and wasn’t highly processed. I found Better Oats Oat Revolution Steel Cut Instant Oatmeal with Flax (I got the Maple and Brown Sugar variety) to be a good option. It only had 5 ingredients and had added flax for and extra fiber and Omega-3 boost.

Oatmeal Pic

The next morning was the big taste test. I had no expectations and almost had to force the first mushy spoonful into my mouth. Much to my surprise, it was not nearly as bad as I had expected. In fact, I wanted another spoonful. It wasn’t too flavorful so for someone like me who doesn’t like to eat in the morning, it was great. That day was the first in many years that I went to work/school without my stomach rumbling at 10:00am, and I was actually shocked that I didn’t feel the need to inhale as much as I could during lunch.

Since that day a few weeks ago, oatmeal has been my breakfast pretty much every day. I am definitely looking forward to be able to sit through my morning classes at school without counting down the minutes until lunch.

Overall:

  • I am now obsessed with oatmeal!
  • Make sure you buy instant oats so they are quick and easy to make
  • When choosing an oatmeal, make sure it has minimal sugar (Quaker Dinosaur Eggs and many other brands are loaded with sugar)
  • Add fruit or spices to make your oatmeal more flavorful
  • Add flax (if it’s not already included) for extra fiber to keep you full