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How to Build a Paleo Plate: My Simple Method for Healthy Eating

As much as I love writing and developing recipes for my website and cookbook, I have to admit that on most days, I don’t follow specific recipes. I should probably be careful saying that so I don’t put myself out of a job, but in all honestly, one of my biggest passions as a nutritionist, is giving you the tools you need to make healthy eating a daily life decision, and a delicious one at that!

By now, I have come up with a ratio so to speak, on how I build my plate to make sure that I am getting a good amount of varied nutrients, spread between high quality, whole food sources of proteins and fats, and both non-starchy and starchy vegetables. I find that on days when I try to stick to this approach to eating, I have the most energy and am satisfied with the food I eat!

Here’s how you can start the process. First visualize your plate, dividing it into sections of different food groups. I like to group this into three sections.

  1. Protein & Fats*: 1/2 of your plate
  2. Leafy Greens/Non-Starchy Vegetables: 1/4 of your plate
  3. Starchy Vegetables/Fruits: 1/4 of your plate

*  I grouped these together, because they often overlap (think eggs, fish or steak), or the protein is roasted or pan seared in a bit of fat.  The fats that you use either to cook your food or as a sauce or marinade—pesto or Hollandaise for example—also count in this grouping which is why that ratio is 1/2.

Please note: This formula is not meant to be taken as medical advice. It’s just a personal strategy that helps me eat a balanced diet that helps me control my blood sugar.

Below are some examples/suggestions of how I might build my plate for three main meals of the day.

Start Your Day with a Helping of Protein and Fat

 

paleo plate breakfastEggs are my favorite breakfast food but I like to eat them with some sauteed vegetables.

For breakfast, my plate is mostly a combination of proteins and fats. I do try to eat a few greens in the morning but I don’t stress if it doesn’t happen. Mornings are hectic enough! Keep in mind, that proteins and fats are the best source of fuel for your body, so loading up on them in the morning will insure that your blood sugar and energy levels stay stable, plus, it helps to keep your brain thinking clearly.

Egg-Centered Breakfast Option

  1. Proteins & Fats: 2-3 eggs, cooked in a little bit of butter or drizzle of olive oil and/or 2-3 slices sugar-free bacon, gluten-free breakfast sausage or a small piece of smoked salmon
  2. Non-Starchy Vegetables: spinach, kale, fresh arugula, green onions, basil pesto, asparagus, bell peppers, mushrooms, avocado slices or tomato slices qualify
  3. Starchy Vegetables/Fruits: a handful of berries, half a grapefruit, half a banana, roasted sweet potatoes or white potatoes

Eggs for breakfast are my favorite, but I usually try to eat them with some sautéed vegetables like spinach or mushrooms, if I have the time. It’s true that breakfast is the most important meal of the day as it sets the tone for the rest of it. Start with a healthy meal and chances are you’ll continue the pattern through dinner.

Granola Bowl Breakfast Option (when there’s no time to cook)

  1. Protein & Fats: grain-free granola or chopped nuts/seeds, unsweetened almond milk or cashew milk, whole-milk yogurt (if you can tolerate dairy), whole fat coconut milk yogurt, coconut flakes
  2. Non-Starchy Vegetables: not applicable here
  3. Fruit: a handful of berries, half a banana (sliced), pomegranate seeds, unsweetened dried cranberries, fresh figs

To save time in the morning, you can put the ingredients together the night before. I like to do this parfait style. Start with a base of whole milk, plain yogurt (usually sheep or goat’s milk, but a dairy-free option works if you can’t tolerate dairy) and top with either some chopped macadamia nuts or grain-free granola, this recipe is my favorite and I always keep a batch on hand in the refrigerator.

You can top your granola with some low-glycemic strawberries, figs if they are in season or even a few banana slices. I always like to slice fruit very thinly so that it appears you are eating more than you are, because you want to avoid a lot of sugar in the morning time!

Recipe for a Healthy Midday Meal

paleo plate lunch ideaI like to make use of leftovers at lunchtime. Almost anything can be added to a salad!

  1. Proteins & Fats: good quality lunch meats, leftover meats from dinner (roasted chicken, grilled steak, etc), a handful of nuts/seeds, a few olives, or a soft-boiled egg, salad dressing with veggies
  2. Non-Starchy Vegetables: carrot, celery or bell pepper slices, tomato slices or baby tomatoes, salad greens, avocado slices, broccoli crowns
  3. Starchy Vegetables/Fruits: a cup of unsweetened apple juice, apple slices, half a grapefruit, sweet potato or plantain chips

At lunchtime, I like to either finish up leftovers (usually turning my leftover meats from dinner into a salad with some yummy toppings), or make a snack-style plate filled with sliced meats and cheeses (again, if you can handle dairy) along with a little vegetable crudité, olives and a handful of nuts or sweet potato chips.

If I don’t have leftover meats from the night before, I’ll add a soft-boiled egg or two (hard-boiled eggs also work) to my salad for extra protein. I find that this always keeps my hunger satisfied for longer!

A Delicious Way to End the Day 

 

paleo plate dinner optionSeasoning is essential. I tend to stick to the same group—olive oil, salt, rosemary and garlic, makes almost anything taste great!

  1. Proteins & Fats: Choose your protein (chicken, beef, pork, fish, etc.) and then choose your method (grilled, roasted, pan-seared or braised).
  2. Non-Starchy Vegetables: cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, leafy greens, mushrooms, peppers, onions, asparagus, Summer squashes.
  3. Starchy Vegetables/Fruits: potatoes, sweet potatoes, plantains, parsnips, beets, winter squashes.

*Often for dinner, I’ll combine all three of these food groups into a hearty dinner salad or slow cooked pot of stew or braised meat with potatoes and vegetables.

Season everything with mineral rich, pure salt, fries or dried herbs and good quality fats like olive oil, duck fat, butter or ghee, coconut oil or avocado oil.  On quick nights, I usually will stick with the same seasoning for everything—and quite often that is olive oil, salt, rosemary and garlic!

At dinner time, I recommend making doubles and then turning that into your next day’s lunch or even enjoy a second dinner for the meal. Roasted vegetables and grilled meats or slow-cooked stews store well for about 3 days.

One of my favorite tips for healthy eating is to experiment to find what works for you, in terms of both flavor and method, because when you are satisfied, you are much less likely to eat sugar or snack all day!

I hope this simple method will convince you of how scrumptious and easy it can be to eat whole, unprocessed foods!  

 

 

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