Three simple steps to building a healthy meal

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Posted on March 05 2020

Three simple steps to building a healthy meal


Although wellness gurus and Instagram celebrities make you believe healthy meals involve mountains of so-called superfoods (think: kale, quinoa and goji berries), you’ll be pleased to hear that as a dietitian, I’ve got a different opinion.

You see, good nutrition really isn’t that complicated. It’s not about fancy, out-there ingredients that cost a bomb – instead, it’s just about eating a well-balanced diet, most of the time. But what exactly is a ‘well balanced diet’? To give you a better understanding, here’s my three simple steps to help you nail healthy eating, every single time.

1. Start with fresh produce

Veggies are oh-so-good for you, rich in disease-fighting antioxidants, gut-loving fibre and a range of vitamins and minerals to keep your body working it’s best. The non-starchy kind (i.e. basically anything that’s not potato, sweet potato or corn), are super low in energy, and should form the basis of every meal you eat. Yes, that’s right – at least 50 per cent of your meal should be made up of veggies! I’m talking carrots, pumpkin, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, capsicum, zucchini... you get the picture. With that in mind, it’s wise to start thinking of vegetables as the main event, rather than an afterthought.

2. Add lean protein

With half of your meal taken up by veggies, you’ve got another 50 per cent to fill – and in contrast to what you might think, it shouldn’t all be protein. In fact, proteins should take up only a quarter of your plate – so, say goodbye to huge T-bone steaks! Although protein-rich foods are super nutritious, rich in muscle-building protein, energizing iron and zinc for wound healing, chances are, you’re eating far more than you actually need. Roughly 100 grams of meat, a small fillet of fish, a cup of legumes, a couple of eggs or 170 grams of tofu per meal is all you need for your protein requirements to be well and truly taken care of.

3. Don’t forget smart carbs

Last but not least, carbohydrates are essential for long-lasting energy – but they’re not all created equally. For a healthy meal, it’s important you choose wholegrain and/or low GI options, like wholegrain bread, rolled oats or sweet potato, rather than white bread, white rice and pastry. You might be surprised to hear that legumes (think: beans, chickpeas and lentils) double up as a source carbohydrates as well as protein. Aim for the final quarter of your meal to consist of these smart carbs.

Pulling it all together

Building a healthy meal really is as easy as one, two, three. Now you know the basics, you’ll be able to whip up a healthy meal every time, in no time at all. More often than not, it just comes down to tweaking what you’re already eating, rather than overhauling your whole diet. Think: lots of veggies, a slice of wholegrain bread and a small steak, rather than a huge steak and a pile of mashed potatoes. Capiche?

Melissa Meier, APD

Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based Accredited Practising Dietitian. You can connect with her at or on Instagram @honest_nutrition.

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