For long-term success with healthy eating, deciding what to eat should be simple. Often, diet plans will instil complicated rules, such as counting calories or points, or breaking down each meal into grams of carbohydrates, fat and protein. While counting and measuring can be helpful at the beginning to learn proper portions, such vigilant eating is not realistic for long term.
To simplify healthy eating, consider the meal syntax. In linguistics, syntax is the set of rules, principles, and processes that govern the structure of sentences in a given language. Meal syntax is simply the guidelines that govern the structure of most meals.
The meal syntax I am going to share is what I recommend to my client to help them improve their energy, lose weight and fuel their workouts. Depending on personal preferences, the exact make up of your regular diet may be slightly different. For example, higher protein starches such as quinoa and amaranth may make up a larger portion of your meal if you eat little or no meat.
The ideal meal syntax for energy and weight loss includes:
1. Vegetables: Aim for half your meal to be non-starchy veggies such as salad greens, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes and peppers.
2. Protein: Include a portion of protein (approximately the size of the palm of your hand) at each meal. Sources of protein include lean meats, beans, legumes, tofu, eggs, and dairy.
3. Fats: Include at least a thumb size portion, or a tablespoon of fat at each meal. Good sources of fat include oils, seeds, nuts, fatty fish and avocado.
4. Starchy carbohydrates: If desired, include a small a portion of starchy carbohydrates (fruit, root veggies, whole and intact grains). Not all meals need to include starches, as usually there are enough carbohydrates from vegetables.
The meal syntax is meant to be a simple guideline, not necessarily exact measurements. Some days you may have less protein; other days you may eat more. Some days you will eat a larger portion of vegetables; other days you may not have any, and so on. Also, it’s important to note that not all meals will include all the components, but aim for an average over the day. For instance, if your breakfast is two hard-boiled eggs and an orange, you may load up your lunch and dinner with more veggies.
Eating right doesn’t have to be complicated. Once you get to know approximately how much you should be eating to feel your best, simplify your eating by thinking about meal syntax. Enjoy the peace of mind knowing that you are feeding your body well!