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  • Writer's pictureKim Lawler

Our Fave Tool : Building a Plate!

We don’t count calories. Actually, we actively discourage it. Why? Because it’s a slippery slope to restrictive eating which rarely ends well. Health is so much more than the number glaring back on the scales.

As functional Dietitian’s, we encourage you to listen to your body's unique cues, it’s literally speaking to you. Listen and learn to trust it. This can be quite confronting and take a bit of time, but the journey is worth it.

Does this mean you just flail along eating whatever? Course not. We’ve got you!

One tool we love to teach women is how to piece together a balanced meal or “build a plate”.

It’s a loose and easy formula that you can use on the fly, like piecing together a toddler’s puzzle - four chunky pieces, none lost under the couch :).

We find it’s much more beneficial to coach people in how to construct a meal rather than send them off to blindly follow a meal plan. Meal plans can be handy to start with (sometimes) but once they are done, what do you do next?

Building a plate gives you the flexibility and confidence to balance a meal yourself. It allows you to adapt recipes, order take-away, dine in a restaurant, whip up a ‘fridge-rescue’ or pack a lunch box (yep, applicable to the kiddos too) without hesitation.

We love it because it promotes a good balance of macronutrients (carbohydrates, fat, protein), micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients) and fibre, so your body has a greater chance of getting what it needs to function optimally. This is particularly important for women during preconception, pregnancy and postnatally, where nutritional requirements increase on all fronts.

Building a plate also helps to stabilize blood sugar and satiety levels between meals, meaning you’re satisfied for longer and less likely to scrounge the house looking for last year's easter egg stash when the afternoonies hit!

So, how’s it done?

Look at your meal and mentally split it up like this:

1/2 the meal non-starchy veg 1/4 from protein 1/4 from low GI carbohydrates + a source of healthy fat

Our real food picks for each of these nutrients include:

Low GI Carbohydrates: - Fruit - Starchy vegetables - sweet potato, corn, winter squash, yams - Legumes and lentils (kidney beans, black beans, split peas etc) - Grain, sourdough, rye, spelt bread/wraps, depending on what you tolerate - Quinoa, Buckwheat (including soba noodles), Amaranth - Basmati rice, SunRice Low GI white/brown rice, Doongara rice - Traditional oats, natural muesli - Milk, yoghurt (greek or plain preferably) - Grainy crackers, brown rice crackers - Wholemeal pasta & pearl cous cous Proteins: -Ideally grass-fed/ pasture raised red meat e.g. Beef, lamb, venison, pork, poultry - Fish and seafood (ideally premium or wild caught) - Eggs (whole) - Nuts and seeds - Nut butters (natural varieties with limited added sugars and salts) - Organic tofu - Cheese, if tolerated Fats: - Cream (unsweetened whipping and sour cream) - Butter (pure, organic block butter) - Nuts and seeds - Nut butters (natural varieties with limited added sugars and salts) - Coconut oil, milk, cream, shredded coconut - Avocado & olives - Extra virgin olive, avocado and macadamia oils - Mayonnaise (whole egg), salad dressings (olive oil base)

Most non-starchy vegetables have minimal effect on blood sugar levels and include any vegetable apart from the starchy ones mentioned above. These can be eaten freely and should make up a large portion of your diet, especially green leafy varieties. The fibre in vegetables will help you feel full and slow down the release of carbohydrates eaten in the same meal or snack, stabilising BSLs. They are also rich sources of important vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients (beneficial plant compounds). Aim to eat a rainbow each day - the more colours the better!

For bonus points, add what we call ‘nutritional boosters’, simple ingredients known to pack a beneficial punch for your body e.g. antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, gut healing.

For example a tablespoon of something fermented (sauerkraut, kim chi, pickled veg), fresh herbs, seaweed (e.g. arame or dulse flakes), seeds, nuts, bone broth or a big ol squeeze of a juicy lemon.

Let us know what you think and remember, it's a tool not a rule, so don’t stress out if your meals don’t look like this everytime. Aim for progress not perfection xx K + L

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