Healthy Eating Basics: Building Healthy Meals

Healthy Eating Basics: Building Healthy Meals

Overview

You don't need a recipe to build healthy meals. Let your tastes and time be your guide. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • Think of the food groups.

    These include grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy products, and proteins, like meat, fish, poultry, beans, and tofu. They pack in many nutrients, colors, flavors, and textures. Think of these as the basic parts of any healthy meal. Mix and match the food groups for more variety on your plate.

  • Break your meal into parts.

    Think of your plate like it has 4 parts: 1 part for whole grains, 2 parts for vegetables and fruits, and 1 part for proteins. With this method, half your plate will include vegetables and fruits.

  • Make whole grains the base.

    Whole grains can take up one part of your plate. As the base of your meal, whole grains set the stage and can change your meal from sit-down to handheld. Here are three examples we'll use to build healthy meals.

    • Oatmeal
    • Whole grain tortillas
    • Brown rice
  • Choose your vegetables and fruits.

    Vegetables and fruits can take up two parts of your plate. These can be fresh, frozen, canned, or dried. And think about using different colors and textures to get a variety of nutrients. What would really pop? Vary the colors or play with texture. Try pairing creamy and cooked with crunchy and raw.

    • Oatmeal + blueberries and sliced banana
    • Whole grain tortillas + cooked spinach, red bell peppers, and onions
    • Brown rice + green lettuce and sliced red cabbage
  • Pick a protein.

    Protein can make up one part of your plate. Choose lean meat, poultry, fish, beans, peas, lentils, tofu, nuts, seeds, or eggs.

    • Oatmeal + blueberries and banana + chopped nuts
    • Whole grain tortillas + cooked spinach, red bell peppers, and onions + eggs
    • Brown rice + green lettuce and sliced red cabbage + chicken or tofu
  • Add flavor with herbs and spices.

    Herbs and spices punch up the flavor of your meals. Add them while cooking vegetables or proteins. Or try sprinkling herbs and spices on top before serving. Use what you have and what you like.

    • Oatmeal + blueberries and banana + chopped nuts + cinnamon
    • Whole grain tortillas + cooked spinach, red bell peppers, and onions + eggs + dried oregano
    • Brown rice + green lettuce and sliced red cabbage + chicken or tofu + garlic
  • Select a sauce—if you want.

    Once your meal is built, you can add more flavor with sauces. This is an extra step that can really pull a meal together. Add a drizzle to a dollop.

    • Oatmeal + blueberries and banana + chopped nuts + cinnamon + milk
    • Whole grain tortillas + cooked spinach, red bell peppers, and onions + eggs + dried oregano + salsa
    • Brown rice + green lettuce and sliced red cabbage + chicken or tofu + garlic + peanut sauce
  • Get your garnish on.

    A garnish can add visual appeal, texture, and flavor to your dish. What will make colors and textures pop? Use what you like and what you have. You're the boss.

    • Oatmeal + blueberries and banana + chopped nuts + cinnamon + milk + toasted coconut
    • Whole grain tortillas + cooked spinach, peppers, and onions + eggs + dried oregano + salsa + chopped cilantro
    • Brown rice + green lettuce and sliced red cabbage + chicken or tofu + garlic + peanut sauce + sliced green onions

Credits

Current as of: February 26, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Lesley Ryan MD - Family Medicine

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