Building Balanced Meals on Campus
Choosing a healthy meal can be hard when there are so many options at your fingertips. That’s where Health Canada’s plate model can help: a handy tool that can help you build your meals. I personally use this when I prepare or choose what I am going to eat at breakfast, lunch and dinner. This tool will help provide essential vitamins and nutrients and keep you feeling full for longer.
Canada’s food guide encourages you to have plenty of vegetables and fruits, eat protein foods, and choose whole grain foods.
A big change is the shift from portion size to proportion, using your plate as a guide:
- 1/2 of your plate with vegetables and fruits
- 1/4 of your plate with protein foods
- 1/4 of your plate with whole grain foods.
Fruit is a great option at breakfast and veggies are easier to get in a lunch and dinner. For snacks, pair protein with your fruits or veggies or whole grains. Find my blog post on snacks here.
Everyone has varied caloric needs, so proportion sizes may look different for many people — this is where intuitive eating comes in: paying attention to eating when you are hungry and when you are full.
So why is Health Canada encouraging these types of foods?
Vegetables and fruit have important nutrients such as fibre, vitamins and minerals. Eating more veggies and fruit is linked to lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Vegetables can be steamed, raw (like a salad or veggies and dip) or even in a soup. Fruit is best when eaten whole (to get that fibre!), cut or in a smoothie for example.
Protein foods are essential to recover, repair, and rebuild muscle, tissue, skin, nails and hair. Little side note- eating too much protein does not mean you will build more muscle. Too much protein, carbohydrates or fat is stored as fat in the body. Read the fueling up blog to learn more.
Did you notice the new food guide combined milk and alternatives and meat and alternatives into one category called protein? It also encourages choosing protein from plants more often due to the health benefits and lower environmental impact. Plant protein foods include: beans, lentils, chickpeas, nuts, seeds, tofu, fortified soy beverage for example. Check the salad bar or true balance for beans, chickpeas and tofu that are often available. Animal protein sources include: fish, shellfish, eggs, poultry, lean red meat including wild game, milk, yogurt, kefir and cheese.
Whole grains have important nutrients such as fibre, vitamins and minerals. The higher fibre content in whole grains compared to refined grains helps to keep you feeling full for longer, keeps you regular and can lower cholesterol. Health Canada recommends a minimum 25g fibre per day for women and 38g for men – It keeps your bowels regular and keeps you feeling full for longer! If you’re interested in learning more, click here to read the article “Fibre is Your Friend”. Whole grain foods include options such asoatmeal, whole grain bread, whole wheat pasta, or brown rice for example. These have more fibre than white grains such as white bread or white pasta.
Eating three meals and snacks as needed throughout the day provides consistent energy throughout the day. The dining halls and retail locations accommodate a wide range of dietary needs including allergies and dietary needs. Check our dining hall hacks blog for other tips and tricks to navigate the dining halls!