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The perfect plate

What a balanced meal looks like

From SheKnows Australia
Everyone talks about the importance of "balanced" meals, but what exactly is one? To feed your body the protein, carbs and fats it needs (and no more!), here's how to set up your plate.

What a balanced meal looks like

What a balanced meal looks like

Everyone talks about the importance of "balanced" meals, but what exactly is one? To feed your body the protein, carbs and fats it needs (and no more!), here's how to set up your plate.

Load up on vegies

At every meal, at least one half of your plate should be made up of vegetables, so pile them on! Vegetables have a ton of nutrients and next to no calories, so you can eat as many as you want. They are the best thing to fill up on, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. "Greens" are the major powerhouses and leafy ones are the best of the best. When you can, stack your plate with kale, spinach, broccoli and beans. Orange, red and purple sorts are also fantastic. Basically, the more colourful your plate is, the better it is for your health! But if you’re running low on vegies, go for green ones over anything else.

Make room for protein

Protein is the new "it" food in the health world, and it’s no wonder why: It helps to build lovely, lean muscles and boosts energy. It’s also great for repairing muscles and preventing that feeling of all-over soreness after exercise, which is why you always see buff guys slurping protein shakes after the gym — they know what they’re doing! White protein is also broken down quite easily by your body, so it’s less likely to make you feel bloated or sluggish like, say, a massive plate of pasta will. Lean chicken and turkey are excellent choices and fish is the best form of protein you can have. If you can digest red meat well, choose high quality lean beef and kangaroo. Remember, it’s not all about meat: Lentils and eggs are also protein, so sneak those in wherever you can.

Add some carbs

Carbs is a dirty word for many women, but they are actually essential for your health. Before you go wolfing down a bowl of white pasta or enjoy five plates of sushi, there are rules. One quarter or less of your plate should be made up of good carbs, of the wholegrain, whole weat or rye variety. That means all white carbs are out — including pasta, rice and bread — but anything brown is okay in moderation. If gluten doesn’t sit well with you, quinoa is a wheat-free superfood that deserves the title. All of these good grains are low GI, meaning they release energy slowly and keep you fuller for longer. A little bit goes a long way, though, so eat the majority of your carbs at breakfast and lunch. If you’re trying to lose weight, avoid "grainy" carbs at night altogether.

A teeny bit of fat

Believe it or not, fat is another essential thing to eat at every meal. Now, we don’t mean trans or saturated fats, the kinds you find in processed and fried food. They will just clog your arteries up and make you fat, literally. We’re talking about clean, healthy fats like the ones found in extra virgin olive oil, avocado and nuts. Really, they should be called something else, because "fat" has a negative connotation that doesn’t apply to these great foods. Healthy fats actually help your body to break down food and absorb nutrients better, so try to include a bit with every meal. Again, you only need a little to reap the benefits: A drizzle of olive oil over your salad or a sliced avocado on your toast will do the trick.

Sweeten up with fruit

Fruit is a form of natural sugar, so don’t go overboard with it. As a general rule, you should be having two pieces a day. Go for fresh, seasonal fruit over anything frozen or tinned. If you’re trying to lose weight, choose fruits with a thin peel that are packed with antioxidants: Berries (blueberries, strawberries, mulberries, raspberries) are the absolute best choice. If you need energy before or after a workout, you can’t go past some berries. Some things to remember with fruit: It doesn’t go well with many other foods, so try to eat it on its own (as a snack) or with a bit of protein, such as nuts. Also, avoid eating fruit after meals. You know when you’re at someone’s place for dinner and they bring out a fruit platter before dessert? Bad idea — it really stuffs up your digestion.

Meal ideas


  • Scrambled eggs with spinach and mushrooms
  • Smoked salmon and avocado on rye toast
  • Banana and walnut brown rice porridge with a vegie juice
  • Granola served with natural yoghurt and blueberries plus a green juice
  • Poached eggs, grilled tomato and steamed spinach
  • Quinoa bircher muesli served with strawberries and a vegie juice

Check out the three best breakfasts for weight loss >>


  • Chicken, lentil and quinoa salad
  • Seafood and mushroom spelt pasta
  • Pumpkin soup and garden salad
  • Beef and broccoli with a light soy sauce
  • Burritos made with lean turkey and wholeweat tortilla
  • Quinoa salad with haloumi and chicken/tuna
  • Turkey salad with sweet potato and walnuts
  • Sashimi or one brown rice sushi roll with tuna


  • Stir fry with chicken, mixed vegies and brown rice
  • Black bean and feta soup
  • Grilled salmon and steamed vegetables
  • Baked barramundi with tabbouleh
  • Lemon herb chicken with cous cous
  • Greek salad with olive-crusted lamb
  • Warm salad with roast vegetables and pinenuts


  • Half an avocado sprinkled with salt and pepper
  • Trail mix with almonds, walnuts and dried cranberries
  • Carrot and celery sticks with hummus
  • Green juice
  • Protein shake
  • A small tub of natural yoghurt
  • Fresh fruit
  • Rice cakes with sliced tomato and basil

More health and nutrition tips

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Food diaries: The ultimate weight loss tool
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