Looking to eat more healthfully? With a simple meal planning approach, eating right can become easier. Once you understand basic nutrients and how your body responds to them, you can plan what you eat based on when you’ll eat next.
Let’s say you have a 3-hour lab each week. Last week, you had a Sargent Choice veggie and hummus snack-pack before class and you felt satisfied until dinner. Today, you chose an apple – something healthy to fill you up. But by the time class ended, you were so hungry that you couldn’t even wait to get back home. Instead, you gulped down a burger and fries at the nearest fast food place. How come?
The nutrients in the two snacks differ in the way they relieve hunger, both now and later. You don’t need to be a nutritionist to know how to choose the right foods at the right time. All you need are a couple of simple charts.
The 1 + 2 + 3 solution
We’ve worked out an easy way to choose the right combination of nutrients for any meal or snack. Our simple charts list a wide variety of healthy foods in three categories.
- Energy you need right now. Whole grains and starchy vegetables give you the quick energy you need when you’re hungry because they provide a concentrated source of carbohydrates. Choose nutritious carbs like whole grain breads, cereals, cooked grains and starchy vegetables. It’s important to add something to help fill you up because if you try to achieve fullness with these foods, you might eat more than you need.
- Filling power. Fruits and non-starchy vegetables also contain carbohydrates but they fill you up because of their high water and fiber content. They will help you feel satisfied with the right portion of starchy carbohydrate. This carbohydrate energy will only get you so far (an hour or two, to be exact!) So, combine with protein.
- Protein to make it last. Just when carbohydrate energy is running out, protein kicks in. Check out the lean, heart-healthy protein sources that will make your energy last 3–4 hours.
If you’re hungry now and plan to eat again in an hour, all you need is some short-term filling power. The apple or any other piece of fruit will do that. Two hours to go? Add some protein to your fruit or vegetable. If your next meal is 4 hours away, the most satisfying meal or snack will include all 3 kinds of foods.
The charts are easy to use. Print them and keep them handy. Soon you won’t even need to refer to them any more.
For More Information
Not sure how to keep the right foods on hand for meals and snacks? Check out this video of SCNC director, Stacey Zawacki, explains how to stock your kitchen for success! You can also check out a handy copy of our Healthy Shopping List.