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Harvard Healthy Meal Platter (Image Courtesy: Harvard)
- We all know that our food platter must contain essential nutrients in adequate amounts.
- But pray, what are the food sources that contain them and how much should we eat?
- What portion of your total meal ought to be proteins, carbohydrates, fats, fibre, etc.
We have all wondered at times about what makes a healthy meal. Food is the source of several vitamins and minerals that the human body needs to function well. But naturally, one cannot have everything packed in one food source.
One wonders then how to structure or design a meal platter so as to include all essential components. Beyond the fad diets or the exclusive diets such as Keto or vegan etc, there is a composition that may define what we should ideally include in our meals. And as always, the leading light of research in health matters – the Harvard researchers have an answer.
The Harvard Healthy Eating Plate:
The Healthy Eating Plate, created by nutrition experts at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and editors at Harvard Health Publications, was designed to address deficiencies in the US Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s MyPlate. The Healthy Eating Plate provides detailed guidance, in a simple format, to help people make the best eating choices.
The team at Harvard that designed this healthy eating platter also advises that one should not stop short at just eating the fare as prescribed by Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate. It says, use the platter as a guide, eat mostly vegetables, fruit, and whole grains, healthy fats, and healthy proteins. But beyond that, say no to sugary beverages, opt for plain drinking water instead. Most importantly, remember that it’s necessary to stay active and maintain a healthy weight.
What Harvard experts call a “Healthy and Balanced Diet”:
Make most of your meal vegetables and fruits – ½ of your plate.
Aim for colour and variety, and remember that potatoes and french fries don’t count as vegetables on the Healthy Eating Plate because of their negative impact on blood sugar. Include beans, peas and lentils, instead. Fibre, a complex carbohydrate, occurs naturally in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and cooked dry beans and peas.
Go for whole grains – ¼ of your plate.
Dalia is a food item most of us in India are acquainted with. In various parts of the country, it is used in different recipes. Some cook it with salt and spices like upma, some others make a kheer (porridge) like sweet dish out of it. That is the whole-wheat that is partly broken. Whole and intact grains—whole wheat, barley, wheat berries, quinoa, oats, brown rice, and foods made with them, such as whole wheat pasta—have a milder effect on blood sugar and insulin than white bread, white rice, and other refined grains. A large study of more than 72,000 postmenopausal women without diabetes at the start of the study found that the higher the intake of whole grains, the greater the risk reduction of type 2 diabetes.
The power of Protein – ¼ of your plate.
Fish, poultry, beans, and nuts are all healthy, versatile protein sources—they can be mixed into salads, and pair well with vegetables on a plate. Limit red meat, and avoid processed meats such as bacon and sausage.
Healthy plant oils – in moderation.
Oils – a source of fats – has a very little direct effect on blood sugar levels. Not all “fat” is bad and not all “low fat” foods are good. Saturated fat (meat and dairy foods) contributes to clogged arteries and cardiovascular disease. But monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (plants and healthful oils) is good for health your health, is a major energy source for your body, and it helps you absorb certain vitamins and nutrient, and improves your cholesterol profile. Therefore, choose healthy vegetable oils like olive, canola, soy, corn, sunflower, peanut, and others, and avoid partially hydrogenated oils, which contain unhealthy trans fats.
What should you drink?
Sugary drinks are definitely a big no-no. Also, limit milk and dairy products to one to two servings per day. Fruit juices are no good when it comes to the nutritive content as they lack the fibre that whole fruits contain. If you must have juice and not fruit, limit it to a small glass per day. Drink tea, coffee, or simply good ole plain water. The US Food and Drug Administration considers 400 milligrams (about 4 cups of brewed coffee) a safe amount of caffeine for healthy adults to consume daily. However, pregnant women should limit their caffeine intake to 200 mg a day (about 2 cups brewed coffee), according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Most importantly, “Stay active::
The red figure running across the Healthy Eating Plate’s placemat is a reminder that staying active is also important in weight control. All diets in the world are useless and worth nothing if you are not burning the calories well. Research strongly supports the benefits of staying active. Exercising benefits in the fight against a range of physical and mental health conditions for people of all ages says Harvard report. However, busy lifestyles and an environment that encourages being sedentary for many hours of the day have led to exercise ranking low as a priority for many people.
When you follow these tips and lead a happy, focused and stress-free life, longevity and good health follow.
Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purposes only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a professional healthcare provider if you have any specific questions about any medical matter.