FUEL: The Balanced Plate - A Model For Healthy Meals
Written by Elsa Chu, P. Dt.
Elsa is part of Coast to Coast Nutrition - an Instagram page dedicated to helping Ultimate players navigate their nutrition
What do healthy meals look like? Many people believe a simple green salad or chicken with broccoli are the healthiest meals possible. As we’ve mentioned before, variety is key! Green salads have healthy components, but they often lack the essential carbs that keep your body ready to play your best. The same is true for the classic chicken and broccoli. It’s important to balance your plate in order to fuel your body and keep your mind satiated and happy. Feeling overstuffed to the point of bloating, nausea, or sluggishness is a sign that your meal was unbalanced, too large, or eaten too quickly. Similarly, it’s a bad sign if you feel hungry after your meal—but remember that hunger isn’t the same as a craving for dessert! If you still feel empty 15 minutes after your meal, then this is a sign that your hunger is real.
A balanced plate includes vegetables and fruits, carbohydrates, healthy fats, and a source of protein.
The proportions of each depend heavily on what kind of exercise you engage in that day. See our Instagram post for more on this!
Vegetables and fruits
Try to include at least two colors of fruits and vegetables on your plate, and make vegetables the bigger portion. Each color of produce offers different nutrients. For example, the orange guys like carrots and sweet potatoes are high in Vitamin A for healthy eyes, while the green guys like zucchini and kale are high in fiber and chlorophyll, which help normalize digestion time so you’re not thinking about eating an hour later.
So how do you eat more vegetables? Order a CSA basket, pick whatever’s on sale in each color, or visit a farmer’s market and chat with the farmers to see what’s tasty that day. (Psst! Farmers also know how best to cook and prepare their produce! Ask them for recipe ideas.)
Aim to have one or two fist-sized portions of carbohydrate-rich foods on your plate. As we mentioned in another blog post, carbs are essential to keeping your muscles fueled and your brain running smoothly. Try whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, amaranth, barley, teff, or whole-grain pasta. You can also opt for starchy vegetables like squash, sweet potatoes, or even corn!
Healthy fats are essential—literally! Our bodies need specific fats called omega-3s that they can’t make themselves, so eating omega-rich foods is the only way to source them. These fats keep lung function normal (Hello, cardio!) and maintain hormone levels. Add some extra-virgin olive oil, half an avocado, nuts/nut butters, or seeds to any meal for an omega boost. You can also get healthy fats from animal foods such as cheese, eggs, butter, or mayonnaise. These fats offer a healthy way to increase your calorie intake on days when your training needs some extra fuel.
Every balanced plate needs a source of protein! This will keep your energy levels high, your stomach full, and your muscles flexing properly. Make sure your plate includes a hand-sized portion of animal protein, such as fish, chicken, beef, pork, lamb, or eggs. You can also obtain protein from plant-based sources such as tofu, tempeh, or beans. Protein often goes missing in meals like pasta or pancakes, making you feel bloated because of the high concentration of carbs but hungry again soon after!