Planning a balanced meal can feel like a daunting task. At Alsana, we strive to balance nourishment and pleasure to create delicious and nutritious meals for our clients and staff. Each meal is planned using these three checkpoints:
Does each meal contain three to four fuel groups including energy, protein, and a foundation fat?
Fuel groups that provide carbohydrate energy include:
Fuel groups that provide protein include:
- Plant protein
- Dairy protein
Hint: meals can have more than one type of food within the same fuel group.
Example: Turkey sandwich with avocado, pretzels and fruit
- Bread and pretzels are both members of the “grain/starch” fuel group
- Lettuce and tomato (if on sandwich) are both “vegetable” fuel group
- Fruit is part of the “fruit” fuel group
- Turkey is a member of the “animal protein” fuel group
- Avocado is a “foundation fat”
Does the meal provide adequate amounts of each fuel group to nourish my body?
This step is individualized for each person based on their body’s nutrition needs. At Alsana, we like to use visual representations instead of exact measurements for portion sizes. Easy to remember visuals include: a baseball, a ping pong ball, and the palm of your hand. The general portion sizes for each fuel group are:
- Grains/starches: 1 baseball
- Fresh fruits: 1 baseball; dried fruit 1 ping pong ball
- Vegetables: 1 baseball
- Animal proteins: palm of your hand
- Plant/dairy proteins: 1 baseball
- Foundation fats: 1 ping pong ball
Do the food choices and portions represent a realistic meal?
This guideline can help determine if a meal is appropriate. For example, choosing pretzels, peanut butter, fruit and yogurt meets the fuel group requirement of 3-4 fuel groups (grain/starch, foundation fat, fruit, and dairy protein). However, the portions required to meet nutrition needs are not realistic using these foods. A practical alternative would be our example from checkpoint #1.
Remember, more specific recommendations may be determined by a dietitian based on individual needs for healing and recovery.
Ali Brown, MS, RD, LD
(636) 386-6633 x320