How to Build Well Balanced Meals (2024)

  • Nutrition

If you’ve ever felt lost putting together a filling meal, this post will teach you everything you need to know about building well-balanced meals! Learn what makes up a balanced plate and get clear examples so you never have to feel confused again.


How to Build Well Balanced Meals

After almost a year of seeing one-on-one nutrition clients, I can say confidently that my two initial goals with most clients are: eating enough and eating consistently. I cannot stress the importance of those two habits as foundations of healthy eating! Throughout our work together, we are also working on many mental shifts and creating new thought patterns related to food, exercise, and body image.

Once clients are ready, then we can move on to more specific information about nutrition – like what actually makes up well balanced meals! For many of us, especially women, we learn to eat as little as possible and avoid certain foods out of fear of what they’ll do to our bodies. Many of us were never taught the importance of actually feeling satisfied and full after a solid meal.

Satisfaction after meals is actually a major component of healthy eating, in my (professional) opinion, because:

  1. When we feel satisfied after a filling meal, we can move on with our day and do things we enjoy, rather than think about how we’re still hungry.
  2. Eating too little and avoiding satisfying foods actually makes it more likely that we will overeat or binge later on, likely on foods we’ve restricted, leading to feeling overly full and sick.
  3. Food, for many of us, is to be enjoyed, and satisfaction and joy with food is good for us.

(I also want to note here that having the ability to make satisfying, well balanced meals is a privilege not afforded to those struggling with food insecurity.)

How to Build Well Balanced Meals (2)

What is a Balanced Meal?

A balanced meal that increases satisfaction and staying power includes: Carbohydrate + Protein + Fat + Fiber. Here are some examples of foods that fit into those categories:

  • Carbohydrate–rice, pasta, bread, tortillas, flour products, potatoes, oatmeal, quinoa, other grains, chips, crackers, fruit
  • Protein–beans, legumes, tofu, tempeh, nuts, seeds, vegan meat alternatives, protein powder (and animal-based proteins if not vegan)
  • Fat–avocados, oils, nuts, seeds, chocolate, butter, cheese (and animal-based fats if not vegan)
  • Fiber–fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds

You’ll notice that there is some overlap in the categories–that’s okay! Plant-based foods don’t tend to fit into one category “perfectly.” This guide is just meant to give you a general idea of how to build a balanced plate; there is no “perfect.”

Also, there isn’t a set amount of how much you “need” to eat from each category. In general, carbs, protein, and fiber make up 1/4 to 1/3 of your plate, with fat integrated in (for example, vegetables cooked in olive oil). How much you need to eat is dependent on your hunger level, your needs, if you won’t have access to food for awhile, and many more factors.

Finally, an important note: not every meal will follow this formula and be perfectly balanced! What I like to tell my nutrition clients is, “most of the time, not all of the time.” Sometimes we’ll just want toast with butter or maybe even ice cream for dinner. That’s totally fine and normal!

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Balanced Meal Plate Examples

Using the formula above, you can start to think about how to make your typical meals more well balanced meals. Here are some general examples:

  • Tortilla + Refried Beans + Vegan Cheese + Sautéed Peppers and Onions
  • Toast + Avocado + Tofu Scramble with Spinach and Tomatoes
  • Pasta + Vegan Meatballs + Salad with Olive Oil
  • Baked Potato + Vegan Butter + BBQ Beans + Roasted Broccoli
  • Smoothie with Mixed Fruit + Protein Powder + Peanut Butter + Plant-Based Milk + Granola on Top

Once you’ve used this formula for awhile, you’ll find that you don’t have to think about it as much. In an instant, you’ll say “Carbs, protein, fat, fiber… got it. Let’s eat!”

Also, I think using this formula also makes grocery shopping easier. When shopping for the week, you can make sure to have 2-3 options in each category. For example, for carbohydrates, I might grab bread, potatoes, and tortillas. These three options (combined with protein, fiber, and fat choices) give me so much variety in what I can cook.

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Filling Vegan Meals

If you want specific vegan recipes that are tasty, well-balanced meals, look no further than these recipes:

How to Build Well Balanced Meals (5)

I’m accepting 1-on-1 nutrition clients!Click hereto learn more about how I can support you in ditching diet culture, letting go of food guilt, and learning how to respect your body.

The information in this post is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medicaladvice.

How to Build Well Balanced Meals (2024)


How to build a well-balanced meal? ›

How To Build a Healthy, Balanced Meal
Oct 11, 2021

How do I make sure my meals are balanced? ›

Eating a balanced diet
  1. eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day (see 5 A Day)
  2. base meals on higher fibre starchy foods like potatoes, bread, rice or pasta.
  3. have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks)
  4. eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other protein.

What 3 things make a balanced meal? ›

It is generally agreed that a balanced plate consists of one quarter proteins, one quarter carbohydrates and one half vegetables. ©Shutterstock/ifong. A very common piece of nutrition advice around the world is to 'eat a balanced diet.

What is a well-balanced eating plan? ›

Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products. Includes a variety of protein foods such as seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), soy products, nuts, and seeds. Is low in added sugars, sodium, saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol.

What are the 7 things you need in a balanced diet? ›

By having an idea of the balance in your diet, it should be easier to enjoy food and be healthy. There are seven essential factors for a balanced diet: carbs, protein, fat, fibre, vitamins, minerals and water. The rough percentage of daily calories that should come from each factor is shown in Table 10.

What makes a menu balanced? ›

How to achieve balance in a menu?
  • The spread of dishes and ingredients used.
  • The spread of price points and profitability.
  • The seasonality within the dishes.
  • The availability of healthy options.
  • The ratio of dishes within each section.

How to create a healthy meal plan? ›

A healthy eating plan:
  1. Emphasizes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products.
  2. Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts.
  3. Limits saturated and trans fats, sodium, and added sugars.
  4. Controls portion sizes.

What are the top 10 ways to stay healthy? ›

Let's look at 10 science-backed healthy choices you can make to help you thrive throughout your life.
  • Get moving. ...
  • Eat more whole foods (and less processed food) ...
  • If you smoke, try to quit. ...
  • Make sleep a priority. ...
  • Stay hydrated. ...
  • If you drink alcohol, do so responsibly. ...
  • Make preventive care a priority. ...
  • Know your numbers.
Feb 7, 2023

What is a balanced meal answer? ›

A balanced diet contains all of the essential elements that the human body needs. Carbohydrates, lipids, vitamins, minerals, proteins, fiber, and water are all essential components in a well-balanced diet. A nutritious, well-balanced diet lowers the risk of disease and enhances general health.

How to achieve a balanced diet? ›

8 tips for healthy eating
  1. Base your meals on higher fibre starchy carbohydrates. ...
  2. Eat lots of fruit and veg. ...
  3. Eat more fish, including a portion of oily fish. ...
  4. Cut down on saturated fat and sugar. ...
  5. Eat less salt: no more than 6g a day for adults. ...
  6. Get active and be a healthy weight. ...
  7. Do not get thirsty. ...
  8. Do not skip breakfast.

How to build a balanced meal? ›

A balanced meal has four components - a source of lean protein, fiber-rich carbs (think grains, starches, and fruit), non-starchy vegetables, and satiating fat. A great rule of thumb is to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables at most meals.

What is a good daily meal plan? ›

Healthy Foods to Focus On

Fruits. Vegetables, both starchy and nonstarchy options. Whole grains, including quinoa, oats, whole-wheat products, brown rice and more. Dairy, especially low-fat dairy and fermented dairy, such as yogurt, cottage cheese and kefir.

How to build a healthy diet? ›

Healthy eating emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, and protein. Dairy recommendations include low-fat or fat-free milk, lactose-free milk, and fortified soy beverages. Other plant-based beverages do not have the same nutritional properties as animal's milk and soy beverages.

Can you design a balanced meal? ›

To create a balanced meal, you must incorporate all three macronutrients. This means that at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you should aim to include a source of protein, carbohydrates (ideally starch and fiber), and fat in your meal.

What is the balanced meal formula? ›

An easy way to build a healthy, nutritionally-balanced meal or snack is to follow the recommended proportions of foods as described by Canada's Food Guide. Make ½ of your plate vegetables and fruits. Make ¼ of your plate whole grain foods. Make ¼ of your plate protein foods.

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