Preggo Health Nut

Pregnant and fit is not an oxymoron.. its possible!

How to Make Sure You Are Eating a Well-Balanced Meal

on September 23, 2012

Eating a well-balanced meal can positively affect your health and general mood throughout the day. It’s the best way to help you get healthy, lose weight (if needed), and just have more energy for the day in and day out tasks you have. In this post, I’ll give you some guidelines for choosing the right kinds of foods according to the USDA Food guide and how much of each type of food you should eat. And I’ll try to give modifications for those of you who have special diets (ie Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten-free).

So, lets start at the point that makes most sense… the grocery store! (Real quick here is my input on organic vs conventional… if you can afford organic- do it! If you can’t just get what you can afford! If there are organic products on sale that you can afford, get them, if not don’t worry about it, eating healthier wholesome foods is more important than breaking the bank to eat organic. (P.S. on pinterest I found a cool way to wash your fruits/ veggies to get the chemicals off.. check it out!) Anyway.. back to the grocery store…
First, lets go over the food groups and how/ what foods to choose from each… then I’ll give you a basic guide for how much you should be eating. And last, I’ll try to give you pointers to help you pick foods that fit your lifestyle and dietary needs (as best as I can without knowing your life details!):

Grains– When selecting from the grain group, be sure to make at least half whole grain products (check the ingredient list to make sure it is in fact whole grains). Choose things like: Amaranth, barley, brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur, millet, oats, quinoa, rye, and whole grain- breads, cereals, pasta, and crackers; air-popped popcorn is another good choice. Enriched breads, bagels, cereals, pastas, rolls, tortillas are good as well (but whole grains are better). Try to limit biscuits, cakes, cookies, cornbread, crackers, croissants, doughnuts, french toast, fried rice, store bought muffins, pancakes, pastries, pies, pre-sweetened cereals, taco shells, and waffles- some of these items when made homemade with whole grains, less sugar, and less fat are okay.
*A brand I typically choose for bread products is Nature’s Own.. I haven’t found anything wrong with them so far. Also, with bread products check to make sure they don’t contain high fructose corn syrup.. you should only be getting a small amount of sugar per day, and if everything has HFCS in it… you’ll be getting more than you realize! So, basically try to choose mostly (if not all) Whole Grain cereals, pastas, rice, and breads!

Veggies– Within veggies, there are sub groups-

  • Dark Green- broccoli and leafy greens such as arugula, beet greens, bok choy (good in salad!), collard greens, kale, mustard greens, romaine lettuce, spinach, and turnip greens.
  • Orange and Deep yellow- Carrots (fresh carrot juice), pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and winter squash (acorn, butternut).
  • Legumes- Black beans, black-eyed peas, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), kidney beans, lentils, navy beans, pinto beans, soy beans, and soy products (tofu, etc), and split peas.
  • Starchy veggies- Cassava, corn, green peas, hominy, lima beans, and potatoes.
  • Other veggies- Artichokes, asparagus, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, beets, brussels sprouts, cabbages, cactus, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, iceberg lettuce, mushrooms, okra, onions, peppers, seaweed, snow peas, tomatoes, vegetable juices, and zucchini.

Make sure to choose a wide variety between each of these sub groups and eat them several times a week. Try to choose fresh veggies that you prepare your self so that you can make sure they are as nutrient dense as possible. Avoid adding lots of cheese, sugar, salt, etc. (My favorite way to eat veggies is cut up with ranch- Ranch dressing isn’t necessarily the best for you but if you limit it to only a tablespoon or two and it’ll help you eat your veggies… go for it! If you can sub hummus for the ranch.. even better!) Try to limit your intake of baked beans, candied sweet potatoes, coleslaw, french fries, potato salad, refried beans, scalloped potatoes, and tempura veggies (these are not very nutrient dense).

Fruits– Consume a variety of fruits (and limit fruit juice.. even 100% juice, to less than a half of your recommended intake of fruits). Limit (or cut) your intake of canned or frozen fruit in syrup, juices, punches, ades (powerade, gatorade), and fruit drinks with added sugars.

Meat. Poultry, Fish, Legumes, Eggs, and Nuts– When choosing products out of this category, (whether you are an omnivore, vegetarian, vegan, etc), make low fat/ lean choices. Also, when preparing them, use as little (or none at all) added fats. Make choices like: Poultry (with no skin), fish, shellfish, legumes*, eggs, lean meat (fat trimmed beef, game ham, lamb, pork), low-fat tofu, tempeh, peanut butter (the no sugar or oil added kind), nuts (almonds, filberts, peanuts, pistachios, walnuts), or seeds (flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds). Limit: bacon; baked beans; fried- meat, fish, poultry, eggs, or tofu; refined beans; hotdogs; lunch meat; marbled steaks; poultry with skin; sausages; and spare ribs.

*What is a legume??? I used to always wonder this when I heard this word so.. if you don’t know, a Legume is a variety of beans and peas, including: Adzuki beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, fava beans, garbanzo beans, great northern beans, kidney beans, lentils, lima beans, navy beans… (navy beans, navy beans, meat-ball sandwich… sloppy joe, a slop sloppy joe, ya!… oops sorry, old school SNL sketches always slip into my mind some how!)… peanuts, pinto beans, soybeans, and split peas.

Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese– Make fat-free or low-fat choices when choosing dairy products. If you are lactose intolerant or your just trying to avoid dairy products, choose alternatives that are high in calcium content. Choose things like: fat free or low fat milk and milk products like buttermilk, cheeses, cottage cheese, and yogurt, or choose dairy free products like fat-free soy, or almond milk. Limit- higher fat and whole milk and products (cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, etc), milk products with added sugars (chocolate milk, ice cream, pudding, sherbet, etc).

Oils and Fats– Oils and fats are often something that is completely cut out of a diet because it is touted as 100% bad! But, in moderation fats and oils are needed for the body to process. Getting excess than the daily recommended amount is when it gets bad. When choosing these, pick ones like: liquid vegetable oils (canola, corn, flaxseed, nut, olive, peanut, safflower, sesame, soybean, and sunflower oils), mayonnaise, oil-based salad dressings. Unsaturated oils that occur naturally in foods is in this category as well, those foods include- avocados, fatty fish, nuts, olives, seeds, and shellfish.

You should limit (or quit altogether if you can) intake of food and beverages that contain solid fats and added sugars. Such as, fats added to butter, cream cheese, lard, sour cream, and shortening; added sugars such as brown sugar, candy, honey, jelly, molasses, soft drinks, sugar, and syrup; and solid fats that occur naturally in foods (milk, meat, etc). Also, limit alcohol intake (especially if you are preggo!!! … you should avoid drinking while pregnant!)

Fiber– When selecting foods high in fiber, keep in mind the principle of variety! Ex: The fibers in oats have lower cholesterol, whereas the fiber in bran helps to promote GI tract health. Fiber can be found in lots of varieties of food such as, Grains, Veggies, Fruits, and Legumes. So, if you get a wide variety of all of these categories… your good to go!

So, those were the food categories and what things you should choose from each category. Now here are the recommended daily intakes of each food group: (Depending on your caloric intake.. the range is from 1600 kcal to 3,000 kcal; avg being 2200 kcal):

  • Fruits- 1.5 cups to 2.5 cups (avg- 2 cups)
  • Veggies- 2 cups to 4 cups (avg- 3 cups)
  • Grains- 5 oz to 10 oz (avg- 7 oz)
  • Meat/ Legumes- 5 oz to 7 oz (avg- 6 oz)
  • Milk- 3 cups (for all kcal intakes)
  • Oils- 5 tsp to 10 tsp (avg- 6 tsp).

**For grains- 1 oz serving equals 1 slice of bread, 1/2 cup cooked rice, pasta, cereal; 1 cup ready to eat cereal; or 3 cups popped popcorn.

Last but not least, everyone has some discretionary calorie allowances (for splurges here and there)… anywhere from 132 kcal to 512 kcal, with the average being 290 kcal. Try really hard not to use these if you don’t have too! But know they are there if you need an indulgence here and there! Try to mix things up and choose wide varieties and depending on your lifestyle, choose options that best fit (vegan- legumes in place of meat, almond milk/ soy products for dairy; gluten-free- any of the other listed grains besides wheat basically; vegetarian… check out my post about it).

Hope this information helps and it isn’t too confusing! Sorry its SO long.. but information and knowledge is the key to keeping your health under control!! If I missed anything let me know in the comments below. And, as always if you have any questions… feel free to ask!

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