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Creating balanced, Nutritious Dinners

Creating balanced, nutritious dinners is simple when you use the plate model

 What’s On Your Plate? It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3! With so many mixed messages around concerning nutrition and health, it can be tricky to work out just what makes a ‘balanced meal’. The good news is there’s a simple formula you can use to help give your family the balance they need for good nutrition. It’s called ‘1, 2, 3’ and it applies principles of the ‘plate model’ of healthy eating1 developed by nutritionists.

First, stock your kitchen with the right ingredients

The first step in creating balanced meals is to have the right ingredients in your fridge, freezer and pantry.

  • Protein foods such as lean meat, skinless chicken, fish, seafood and eggs. Vegetarian options for protein food include tofu and legumes (such as lentils, kidney beans and chickpeas). Protein is the building block for all cells in your body.
  • Carbohydrate foods such as rice, pasta, bread, cereals, noodles and potatoes. Carbohydrates provide you with the energy that your brain and muscles need to work properly. Where possible, choose wholemeal or wholegrain varieties for extra fibre.
  • Vegetables include fresh, frozen or canned vegetables. Vegetables provide a whole range of nutrients like dietary fibre and folate, while also adding colour, flavour and texture to your meals. Imagine the foods on your dinner plate divided into six portions. Ideally, one portion should be a protein food, two portions should be a carbohydrate food and three portions of your plate should be vegetables.

What’s On Your Plate? It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3!

Next, fix the portions

Now that you have the right ingredients, let’s find out how much of each you need. The serving recommendations for protein, carbohydrate and vegetable foods are based on average requirements for an adult. It’s important to remember that the amount of protein and carbohydrate food required can vary depending on your age or activity level. The portions we suggest to the right can be used as a guide.

  • SA generally eat more than enough protein each day to meet their daily needs. According to the Nestlé Rainbow Health Monitor, South Africans only need a small amount of protein at dinnertime. One portion of protein is about the amount that will fit in the palm of your hand, and this should be the amount that takes up about a quarter of your dinner plate.
  • Carbohydrate foods About half the energy we need each day should come from carbohydrate foods. For dinner, a quarter of your plate should be taken up with carbohydrate foods like pasta, bread, rice or potatoes.
  • Vegetables You need five serves of vegetables every day for good health, so having three serves at dinner means you’re over halfway there! One serve of vegetables is equivalent to about half a cupful, so three serves is 1½ cups. To put this into perspective, three serves should fill up half of your dinner plate. It’s important to include a variety of different coloured vegetables in each meal so you can get the different nutritious benefits of each.

Nutritious balanced meals are as easy as 1, 2, 3 when you use the plate model. Try using this method next time you cook dinner and you’ll be eating a nutritious, balanced and delicious meal before you know it!when you know you’ve had healthy snacks days during the week.