Most days, I wake up, shower and immediately whip up my green smoothie of the day that I sip on for breakfast. Whenever I tell people that my morning fuel is a smoothie I often get asked how on earth it keeps me feeling full. Most people only consider a smoothie as a snack because not long after the last sip, we feel hungry again. The same goes for salads. I love enjoying a rainbow of a homemade salad as a meal, for either lunch or dinner. During the summer season I eat salads almost every day. They are crisp and cool, refreshing and easy to whip up on those scorching hot days. Yet again, I get asked how these plantiful plates leave me feeling satisfied.
Some can enjoy a smoothie or a salad and luckily feel full and satisfied no matter what their meal is comprised of. If this is the case for you, excellent! No need to overthink or overanalyze your diet. Clearly no changes are needed if you are feeling great and healthy. However if you do find your tummy is still rumbling after said "meal", I have something for you to consider the next time you prepare a meal.
There is a combination of three essential macronutrients to technically create a well-balanced meal. These macronutrients are proteins, healthy fats, and fibre and so as long as you include quality sources of all three you should feel happy and satisfied. Protein is either viewed as the most overrated and consumed ingredient or the most under consumed, creating blame for many dietary issues. However we individually tend to view it, we cannot deny that protein is extremely important for our health. Protein is responsible for our enzymes, blood, immunity, nervous system, muscle and tissue health, and weight management. Whether we choose to consume animal products or not, there are luckily more than enough great plant based sources of protein that we can include in our meals. It could be as simple as adding some hemp hearts to a smoothie or a handful of nuts or seeds to a salad.
Aside from the importance of protein, we also need to love and embrace healthy fats. Unfortunately, many people still view fats as the enemy which was an irresponsible claim that was created in the early 1980’s. Medical professionals advised us to avoid nuts, avocadoes, and oils to name a few. And by reducing or eliminating the fat content in absolutely every food product created and replacing it with salt, sugar, and chemicals we were bombarded with a wave of serious health concerns that we continue to battle today. We have many vitamins essential for optimal health that rely on fat consumption to be absorbed in our bodies. These vitamins are called fat-soluble vitamins and they include vitamins A, D, E, and K. We have all heard of vitamin D deficiency for example and the symptoms from this deficiency include mental illnesses such as depression and schizophrenia, impaired gut health, dementia, erectile dysfunction, multiple sclerosis, and certain types of cancers. Aside from vitamin absorption, healthy fats are important for our immunity, enhancing our brain and nervous function, reducing heart disease, and improving both organ and gland functions. They also play a huge role in our energy levels, moods, behaviours, and intelligence. Over the past few years, our realization of the importance of healthy fats has taken priority in the health and wellness community and the clarification is spreading like wildfire. It is for this reason that certain super foods like coconut oil and hemp products have been flying off the shelves. This personally makes me dance for joy.
Lastly, we want to incorporate a source of fibre to our foods. There are two kinds of fibre to be aware of here and they both actually cannot be digested by our bodies. Produce such as cucumbers, berries, beans and legumes and nuts all contain soluble fibre which dissolves into a gel like substance. This gel texture slows down our digestion aiding us in feeling fuller for a longer period of time. Foods such as dark leafy vegetables, green beans, celery, whole grains, and nuts and seeds all contain insoluble fibre. Insoluble fibre helps to add bulk to our stool as it does not dissolve. This additional bulk plays a huge role in moving waste through our digestive system in a timely manner. Insoluble fibre helps us stay healthy and regular. It is also to be noted that many foods contain both soluble and insoluble fibre. Fibre is all about supporting our digestion which plays a crucial role in our overall health. In addition to gut health, these fibres also help to reduce the risk of heart disease and strokes.
Ideally, we want to be consuming a quality source of protein, healthy fat, and fibre for every snack and meal. The combination of the three help to stabilize our blood sugar levels (which helps reduce cravings, weight gain, and health conditions). Using a protein, healthy fat, and fibre also form a complete meal-leaving us feeling satisfied and full. We do not need a lot of each source, but we do want to aim for a good quality source.
This equation will not come to you overnight and that’s A-Okay! Practice makes perfect. Every time you prepare a snack or a meal ask yourself "What is my protein? Do I have a healthy fat? What about fibre?" Keep this list handy until you are familiar with adequate sources of each essential nutrient.
1. SMOOTHIE: Spinach, banana, pineapple (fibre)
Unsweetened shredded coconut (healthy fat)
Hemp hearts (protein and healthy fat)
Water or unsweetened almond or coconut milk.
2. SALAD: Kale, romaine, apple, green and red onion, celery (all fibre)
Roasted pecans and almonds, feta cheese (both healthy fat and protein)
Alfalfa sprouts (protein)
Extra virgin olive oil (healthy fat)
3. SNACK: Apple (fibre)
Almond butter (both a healthy fat and a protein)
4. BURGER: A whole grain or gluten free bun, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, mushrooms, etc. (all fibre)
Legume or meat patty (protein)
Avocado (healthy fat and fibre)
5. OATMEAL: Rolled or steal cut oats, berries, ground flax (all fibre)
Chia seeds, slivered almonds (both protein and healthy fats)
Cinnamon, coconut palm sugar, almond milk, sea salt.