By Mary Parsons, M.S., R.D.
Eating to lose weight can be a challenge: To be successful, we need to consume fewer calories than we are expending (through both exercise and daily life), but we must not be so restrictive that our metabolism is slowed. When we drastically cut calories, the body fears starvation and attempts to burn as little fat as possible – not what we’re looking for! So while it’s easy to dismiss certain food groups as villains – fat and carbs, for example – it’s very important to eat a balance of all three macronutrients that make up our diet: protein, carbohydrates, and fats.
Protein is an essential part of a healthy meal, and you don’t have to eat meat to enjoy a variety of protein sources, which include beans, soy and dairy products, and many others. But on the same plate, don’t forget to include a source of carbohydrates, which provide immediate energy and help to satisfy hunger. Choose whole grains for more nutrients and for slower absorption due to their high fiber content. And beyond the protein and carbs, including a source of “healthy fat” is something that many dieters overlook, and that can have a big impact on your results. Unsaturated fats are essential to health, and they can help you feel full and satisfied after your meal. Just be aware that fat is more dense in calories than other macronutrients, and too much can add up quickly. For the right balance, try topping your meal with a drizzle of olive oil, a tablespoon of nut butter, or a few slices of avocado.
By asking for veggie recipes, you’re already on the right track! Making vegetables the bulk of your plate is a foolproof way to start a healthy meal. They’re rich in nutrients and low in calories, so by filling up on veggies, we can set ourselves up for success!
Creating a healthy meal is all about combining these building blocks. A tasty balanced dinner can be as simple as black beans simmered with your favorite spices and a generous amount of flavorful chopped vegetables, like onions, peppers, and tomatoes. Serve on a bed of brown rice for more filling fiber, and top with sliced avocado for healthy fat. Don’t be afraid to get creative, mix and match your favorite foods from each category, and pile on the veggies!