The 7 basic rules to achieving balance in your main meal of the day

Many people go wrong in their diets simply because they do not know how to balance their food groups – or in posh speak, their macro nutrients in the main meal of the day. Mistakes are also made because they think they need mounds of food to keep them full or because they do not pay attention to getting enough of the right macro nutrients in them for every meal. I have made tons of my own mistakes so here are my seven basic rules:

  1. Your main meal needs to provide around one third of your daily protein requirements. This is about 100g of chicken or fish. If you are not aware of the protein in different products then please email me to ask for a cheat sheet.
  2. The main meal should result in a calorie intake around 400-600ml – if you are trying to lose or maintain weight. Obviously for active people this can go higher BUT – even when I am in active training my evening meal remains low and I make up the required calories with snacks during the day. As we all have discovered, or are about to discover – over 40, we simply do not burn calories as quickly as we like to think we do! Excess taken in at night can quickly turn to fat.
  3. The meal should be rich in vegetables and some fruit. I try to have at least four types of veggies on my plate at dinner and quite large portions too. We are not going to get fat from eating vegetables and the rich variety can a) fill us up due to the high level of fibre in them b) provide lots of nutrients.
  4. I often do not include a specific form of carbohydrate at night. That is to say I do not load my plate up with rice, pasta or bread. We simply do not need these waste carbohydrates, particularly if we are going to bed in a couple of hours. At lunch times I may allow myself some carbohydrates – but I have minimised processed carbs over the years because these are just going to deplete my energy levels during the afternoon. A baked potato or sweet potato can be a good source of carbohydrates as well as being ‘clean’. These rules are good for most of us over 40 – naturally, my rules differ for active kids but even then – minimise the white processed carbs and look for alternative ways to get carbs into the kids.
  5. Recently I have experimented with other interesting complex carbohydrates. These include quinoa, lentils or black rice. For example, quinoa is rather nice with a nutty taste and sprinkled through a salad provides some bulk and interest in a healthy way.
  6. Our evening meal should be finished at 7.30pm if possible. This ensures we do not go to bed bloated or still burning heat-producing calories. If you are a ‘late to bed’ person then maybe you can shift your meal back a little but 7.30pm is good for people that go to bed between 9 and 10pm.
  7. I have often been asked the question – how do I make the vegetables interesting? This is a great question and the subject of a more in-depth article. For the first month of any controlled diet you find boiled or raw veggies OK and then it gets quite boring doesn’t it! The best advice is to add flavour through herbs and spices. For example – turmeric on the sweet potato, a ginger and garlic base in your stir fry or kale, and a mayonnaise made from natural yoghurt, wasabi, lemon and ginger to put on a salad of raw veggies.


Try this basic planning tool:

400-600 calorie meal plannerThe cover photo shows roughly how you can prepare your dinner to provide the macro nutrients (protein, veggies and fats) in the right quantities.

And finally – have a look for some good recipes to get you started, though my best advice is go and experiment and have fun! I use a lot – I type in the ingredient I want to use and see what comes up. I have had some disasters but on my journey I have experimented daily and come up with some winners. I now have at least 4 different ways to eat kale which I will share one day with you too! And I hated Kale 3 years ago!

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