Your childhood probably echoes with people nagging you about this. You may even find yourself saying it to your own kids. ”You have to eat a well-balanced meal…was that a well-balanced meal, Mister?…you can have dessert after you’ve eaten a well-balanced meal…”
Did you ever stop to wonder what that really means? What kind of balancing act is your meal supposed to be performing?
The simple answer is that a well-balanced meal is one that achieves a well-balanced body and a well-balanced mind. When it comes to women’s weight loss, this balance is one that achieves optimal fat burning, steady energy levels, good health, a clear mind, a sense of well-being and positive self-confidence. The women’s weight loss eating plan that creates this internal balance controls for: 1) the number of meals you eat, 2) the amount of food in each of those meals, and 3) the balance of macronutrients that comprises each meal.
Balance Your Meals In Order to Keep Losing Weight
It may go against all of your weight-weary intuitions at first, but research has found that eating several small meals a day – rather than three or fewer meals a day – actually reduces obesity risks and cholesterol levels while increasing weight loss, metabolism, energy levels and lean muscle mass.
The reasoning behind the success of this mini-meal eating pattern is connected to the human body’s survival instinct. When eating only one or two meals a day – even if they are large meals – your body must adapt itself to going for long stretches without food. This encourages your body to slow down your metabolism, in order to store more of the calories you give it so you can make it through long gaps of time without fuel. On the other hand, when eating small meals every two or three hours, your body comes to expect frequent re-fueling. This eating pattern encourages your body to adapt by raising your metabolism to burn more calories rather than storing them. Eating small meals at regular intervals also helps to stabilize your blood sugar, provides you with a steady stream of energy, and curbs hunger and cravings.
The optimal number of meals per day for women’s weight loss is about 5 or 6 small meals, every two or three hours.
Balance Your Portions To Lose Weight
Once you’ve decided on how many meals a day you will be eating, you can start to get a better idea of how to properly portion your food in each of those meals. Divide the number of daily calories your eating plan has allotted you by the number of meals you will eat per day. For example, if you are aiming to eat about 1500 calories a day and 5 meals a day, then aim to eat about 300 calories in each meal.
Or – since most of us don’t tend to walk around with a food scale in our hand bags – you can learn to roughly eye-ball what a portion-controlled meal looks like. Divide a 9 – 10 inch plate in to two halves, and divide one of those halves into two quarters (this is as mental exercise – don’t actually go slashing up your dinnerware – although some people find it helpful to purchase/create a “weight loss” plate that actually color codes these divisions for you). In the first quarter of the plate, place your serving of lean protein. This serving will be about 3 to 4 ounces of lean poultry, steak, fish, yogurt or cottage cheese, approximately the size of your balled-up fist. In the other quarter of the plate, place a serving of high-fiber whole grains (such as quinoa, amaranth, oats, whole grain pasta, brown rice, etc.) or a high-fiber starchy vegetable (such as sweet potato, squash, beans, green peas, parsnips, potatoes, etc.) approximately ½ – ¾ of a cup’s worth. Fill up the remaining half of the plate with non-starchy vegetables, like dark leafy greens, red peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, celery, asparagus, etc. Then add some healthy fats to your veggies or whole grains, like a few slices of avocado, 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil or unrefined flax seed oil, 1 tablespoon of nuts, etc.
Balance Your Macronutrients For Weight Loss
Portioning out your meals like this will help you achieve an optimal balance of macronutrients – proteins, carbohydrates and fats are the big 3 – in each of your meals. Eating the right balance of macronutrients will help you calibrate your body’s internal chemistry, hormones levels and blood glucose. This gears your body up to burn fat, feel energized, experience mental clarity, and benefit from a strong body and immune system.
The ideal macronutrient ratio that you should aim to create in each meal is 40% lean protein, 40% complex, low-glycemic carbohydrates and 20% healthy fats.
Complete protein contains the building blocks for body tissues, organs and muscles, and is essential for proper hormone regulation, enzyme synthesis and immune function. Eating protein helps to encourage steady blood sugar and fat burning, while also helping with appetite control. Aim to eat about 0.8 – 1 gram of protein per pound of your body weight. Ideal sources of lean protein include lean poultry, steak, fish, low-fat cottage cheese and yogurt, eggs, etc. A high-quality protein powder is a great way to ensure that you are getting enough protein in your daily diet without adding additional fat, and is one of the best weight loss supplements for women.
Carbohydrates are the body’s go-to fuel source. They are also necessary for proper brain function, mental clarity, positive mood balance and healthy sleep patterns. However, it’s important to make sure that you are choosing the right types of carbohydrates for women’s weight loss and good health. Refined, simple carbohydrates (think sugary foods, foods made from refined flour, etc.) can trigger the release of insulin hormone, food cravings, fat storage, depressed immunity, mood swings, and spiking and crashing energy levels. On the other hand, complex, low-glycemic and nutrient-dense carbohydrates (think whole vegetables and fruits, high-fiber whole grains, etc.) help to encourage a slower release of insulin, appetite control, weight management, strong immunity, positive moods and more sustained energy levels.
Fats are also essential to your body. They are crucial for normal growth, development and healing, and they protect your cells, organs, skin, eyes, nails and hair. Healthy fats help to keep your immune system strong and can protect you from cardiovascular problems. Fats help to regulate your hormones, your moods, your digestive system, your appetite and – contrary to popular belief – a percentage of fat in your daily diet is essential for effective weight loss. Aim to consume raw, unsaturated and unrefined sources of fat, like extra virgin olive oil, flax oil, avocado, nuts and seeds, fish oil, etc. Saturated fats, like coconut oil, butter and animal fat, are also important to consume, but in small, limited amounts. Fats to avoid completely are trans fats, which are unsaturated fats that have been chemically altered through hydrogenation or high heating, such as margarines, shortenings, fried foods, packaged baked goods, chips and crackers, etc.
Understanding how to create a well-balanced diet, comprised of the right foods in the right amounts and ratios, is essential to get you on your way to a beautiful, healthy and happy body.