For generations, Americans and people around the world have referred to food pyramids in order to balance out their meals. The Harvard School of Public Health has designed the Healthy Eating Pyramid and the Healthy Eating Plate, two complementary guides to which to refer for a healthier lifestyle.
The pyramid serves as a basic grocery list for anyone trying to eat healthier. Each week should see vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy oils, and healthy proteins (nuts, beans, chicken, fish) with perhaps some yogurt or milk added in. Also in the pyramid are more overall ideas of a healthy lifestyle, such as exercise and weight control, sufficient amounts of vitamin D, and multivitamin supplements.
The plate shows ideas of proper proportions of these healthy foods, including tips on variety, limits, and a reminder to drink plenty of water and avoid sugary drinks. While these ideas are helpful, we also must keep in mind that each meal of the day will be a little different, especially dinner as it is not long before bedtime.
Why is a proper dinner so important?
Since dinner is the last meal of the day and bedtime is not long after, it is important to choose the correct foods and amounts. If you overeat or eat too much of the wrong type of food, you can have trouble sleeping. And if you don’t eat a properly satisfying meal, you’re more likely to snack right before bed and often on unhealthy foods.
But, don’t think this means you absolutely must be choosing the healthiest options all the time, particularly if they leave you unsatisfied. If you are really craving a burger, go for it. Depriving yourself at dinner may lead to you emptying out the crisps bag at midnight. And too many of these late-night splurges put you at a higher risk of becoming overweight than eating an unhealthy option earlier in the day when you still have some time to work off the calories before sleeping. Remember that you are about to be inactive for six to ten hours and your body needs to rest instead of being in an active digestive mode.
After enjoying a healthy dinner, wind down before bed with a couple hands of our online blackjack. You’ll have fun and let dinner digest before a good night’s rest!
What should you be eating and avoiding?
The ideal dinner is a balance of protein, vegetables, grains, and healthy fats. For example, your plate could consist of salmon (rich in lean protein and heart-healthy fats), leafy greens, root vegetables, and unprocessed whole grains. Dietitians point out that these foods will keep you full longer and your blood sugar steady, meaning no more late-night snacks. But remember to eat these foods in proper proportions: ½ of your plate should be devoted to fruits and vegetables (and potatoes and fries don’t count!), ¼ for protein, and ¼ whole grains.
You should avoid caffeine for sure, and don’t have too much sugar. Foods that are high-in-fat are also to be avoided because they take a long time to digest. And while you may not have a lot of time to devote to preparing dinner, avoid making too many one-pot dinners such as macaroni and cheese. While they’re easy and quick to toss together, such a meal is missing out on the protein and veggies and is often overfull of fats (healthy or unhealthy). A dish like this should instead be viewed as a side. But have no fear – eating healthily doesn’t mean super long preparation and cook times.
Looking for some ideas?
Not all one-dish meals are bad! For example, try a power greens skillet: only a cast-iron skillet is needed for this mix of yellow onion, assorted greens (ex: kale, spinach, baby swiss chard), eggs, cheese, and a little butter, salt, and pepper.
To save time during the week you can also batch cook healthy grains, marinate meats, and pre-chop veggies on the weekend. When you get home after a long work day, you’ll only need 30 minutes to re-heat the grains, pan-sear the meat, and stir fry the veggies. Quick and healthy!
We also love this Asian Chicken and Quinoa Salad as a quick (35 minutes, prep and cook time included) and easy dinner. You’ll need:
- ½ cup quinoa
- 4 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 3 spring onions, sliced (whites & greens)
- 1 clove of garlic, grated
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 ½ tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 1 ½ cups shredded white meat rotisserie chicken, skin and bones removed
- 1 ½ cups finely shredded cabbage
- 1 cup thinly sliced carrots
- 1 cup sugar snap peas
- 1 teaspoon black sesame seeds
Cook the quinoa as directed on the package. At the same time, heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat, adding the ginger, scallions, and garlic once it’s hot. Turn of the heat, stirring, and then let cool a little for a few minutes before whisking in the soy sauce, lemon juice, and sesame oil. The last step is to toss the quinoa, chicken, cabbage, carrots, and peas in a bowl, adding the dressing and sesame seeds. You can even keep the leftovers for up to 3 days.