Maintaining Nutritional Balance
Life is busy! We are trying to manage jobs, school, kids, sports, family, fitness, and so much more on a daily basis. Food gives us fuel to get us from one task to another. However, it can be hard maintaining a balanced diet with such busy schedules. How much protein should I eat day? Did I eat enough carbs today? Did my meal include enough fat? Nutrition can be complicated but there are strategies we can use to make eating a healthy diet a bit simpler. Let’s discuss one easy strategy anyone can use to help portion and balance each meal
Counting calories, tracking macros, and weighing food are common tools individuals use to track daily meals. It can be challenging to monitor whether we are eating enough or too much each meal. However, our own hand is a great tool for portioning and balancing our meals. Each meal contains an assortment of macronutrients, nutrients we use in large amounts. These nutrients are better known as carbohydrates, proteins and fats. The food we eat supports our internal systems and in turn affects our body composition, performance, recovery and overall well being. Fats, proteins, and carbs are all necessary for fueling our bodies and keeping us running inside and out! Now let’s look into how we can use our hands to estimate serving sizes and promote balanced meals.
The picture shows how we can use different parts of our hand to portion our food each meal. A serving of protein, such as chicken or steak, should be roughly the size of your palm. The recommended serving size for non-starchy vegetables, such as carrots, broccoli, zucchini, is equivalent to the size of your fist. The area of a cupped hand is the recommended serving size for carb sources, such as bread, rice, and quinoa. Finally, the size of your thumb is a good indicator of a proper serving of fat, such as nut butters, oils, butter. It is recommended each meal contain roughly 1-2 palms of protein, 1-2 fists of non-starchy vegetables, 1-2 cupped handfuls of carbs, and 1-2 thumbs of fat
What are some healthy options for each category? Here are some quality food sources for each category to help fill up your plate:
Carbs: white and brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, oats, potatoes, beans and legumes, noodles, pasta
Fat: avocado, nuts, nut butters, coconut oil, olive oil, cheese, butter, cream, whole eggs, fatty fish (salmon, herring), fattier cuts of beef and pork
Protein: chicken, turkey, beef, bison, fish, eggs, dairy (Greek yogurt, cottage cheese), beans and legumes, tofu
The above list is just a start and there are tons of great options for each category at the store and local market. Remember—always looked for fresh, minimally processed foods when possible. This will help maximize your nutrient intake!
Using hand measurements is one simple way to balance carbs, protein and fats each meal. However, keep in mind we are all unique individuals with different lifestyles, nutritional needs, and diet preferences. Age, sex, activity level, and health status will impact your daily energy requirements. For example, the recommended portions will differ between a high school athlete training daily and a 65-year-old male exercising 3x/week and working a sedentary job. Finally, it’s important to find a system that works for you. One way of eating may work for you but not your best friend! If using your hand as a tool for portion control and balance keeps you energized, awesome!! If tracking macros gets you to your health and fitness goals, go for it!! No matter what, it still comes down to making sure each meal contains a variety of all the macronutrients necessary for fueling and energizing your body each day