What exactly makes a meal healthy? A healthy meal will look different for different people in different seasons. Consider the varied nutrient needs, time restraints, and wellness goals for a pregnant mama, a marathoner set on a PR, and a busy CEO. Though all three meals will look different, they do share some qualities that make them healthy:
- A healthy meal combines fiber, complex carbohydrates, protein, and fat to provide essential nutrients and promote satiation during the meal (signal to stop eating the meal) and satiety between meals (keeps us full between meals).
- A healthy meal provides energy to meet our needs. This energy can be part of fueling before or after exercise, sustaining us through stressful days, or helping us to maintain breastfeeding or pregnancy demands. A healthy meal resides in the larger context of an adequate diet.
- More than nutrition, a healthy meal speaks to our soul and taste buds too. Of course, we need nourishment - but we also need to enjoy a delicious meal. The meal needs to be satisfying. Healthy meals should match our food budget and time constraints so we can repeat them regularly - making them sustainable.
A healthy meal is much more than a formula. There is no prescriptive macronutrient distribution for the perfect meal. So many factors play into what we need at each meal that it's impossible to craft a one-and-done template for all meals for everyone during every season. Meals look different depending on training goals, season of life and motherhood, and overall health goals.
Honor your body and your tastebuds by including a variety of plants into your regular meals. Make sure you are not under-fueling by incorporating adequate energy at your meals to meet your energy demands. Your healthy meals may change as your seasons change, your energy demands change, and your goals change. Embrace consistent nourishing practices so you're enjoying healthy meals regularly!