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Planning Balanced Meals

Updated: Jul 19, 2022

By: Lizzie Lonon, Winthrop University Graduate Student

A meal must live up to three things: nutritionally balanced, satisfying, and delicious. Balance ensures that there are a variety of nutrients contained within the meal. Food satiety provides prolonged energy both physically and mentally. Last, we cannot forget the importance of enjoying a delicious meal. Unfortunately, people often equate "healthy" to eating small, low-calorie portions. And if the food is considered healthy, can it taste that good? Neither is true. Below you will learn simple tools to create tasty, nutrient-dense meals.

The Three Macronutrients: Carbohydrates, Protein, and Fat

When planning a satisfying meal, you must consider the benefits and importance of each macronutrient. Carbs, protein and fat work hand in hand to provide energy and satiety. Remember that every meal will be different. There is no "right" way to plan your meals. These are very flexible tools, giving you a place to start.


Carbohydrates should make up 45-65% of a person's diet. Unfortunately, carbs are often considered "bad" foods to avoid. But despite the culture's view of carbohydrates, I am here to give you the facts: Carbs fuel the body and provide energy to the brain. The first step in any meal is to pick your carb. Mix and match your carbs. Look to fill up half your plate with your carbohydrate choice

  • Grains: Brown Rice, Oatmeal, Barley, Quinoa

  • Beans: Kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, black-eyed peas

  • Starchy Vegetables: Corn, Potatoes, Green peas, squash, Turnips, sweet potato

  • Fruit: Banana, strawberries, blueberries


Protein is the macronutrient that provides the greatest satiety in the body. It is essential for the growth and development of children and works to repair and rebuild tissue within our body.

  • Meat/ Poultry

  • Fish and seafood

  • Eggs

  • Dairy - Milk, Yogurt, cheese

  • Beans

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Soy products

  • Meat alternatives


A meal isn't as satisfying without fat. Consuming fat with carbohydrates and protein causes digestion and absorption to slow, driving fullness to last for a longer time. Fat helps stabilize blood sugar levels when eating carbohydrates and aids in vitamin absorption. Try adding 1 to 2 fats to each meal.

  • Oils

  • Butter

  • Full fat dairy

  • Eggs

  • Meat and poultry

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Avocado


The MyPlate tool is a great resource to use when planning balanced meals. Here are some steps to take when it comes to meal planning.

  1. Fill half the plate with a variety of fruits and veggies

  2. ¼ of the plate should contain grains, with at least half coming from whole grains.

  3. Protein should take up the remaining ¼.

Create variety in your meals by switching up types of protein, carbs, and veggies. A diet with variety ensures that one consumes all the essential nutrients and provides satisfaction for a substantial time period. MyPlate supports a balance of carbohydrates, fat, and protein in one's diet. Check out for recipes and resources.


Office of dietary supplements - nutrient recommendations : Dietary reference intakes (DRI). NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. Accessed June 30, 2022. Accessed June 30, 2022.

Are you making every bite count? MyPlate. Accessed June 30, 2022.

Types of carbohydrates. Types of Carbohydrates | ADA. Accessed June 30, 2022.

Balancing your blood sugar. Lifesum. Published February 9, 2021. Accessed July 5, 2022.

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