Today's version of three square meals per day has changed. The recent food pyramid has been replaced with the visual image of a dinner plate that shows generous portions of fruits and vegetables next to proteins and whole grains. The best dinner menus incorporate a wide variety of satisfying nutrients with a focus on extra produce and less sugar.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fill half your dinner plate with a rainbow of colors by choosing multiple shades of vegetables and fruits. Go green with peppers, peas and broccoli. Add a splash of crimson with tomatoes, watermelon and radishes. Sprinkle a dash of orange with carrots, sweet potatoes and peaches. Fresh produce is preferable. Experiment with different spices and seasoning mixes in cooking. Find a place for raw vegetables as well in mixed green salads tossed with creamy dressing.
Fill one quarter of your dinner plate with healthy proteins. Serve two to three ounces of high-quality meat like chicken, seafood, beef or pork. Buy ground beef for your meatloaf, tacos and hamburger patties and create various flavor combinations with different seasoning blends and mixes. Avoid breaded coatings that add unnecessary starchy calories. Go meatless without sacrificing your proteins by incorporating half a cup of beans into your dinner menu. Serve veggie burgers, vegetarian chili or hummus spread on pita breads. Another protein option is dairy items like cottage cheese or yogurt.
Devote the remaining quarter of your plate to grains, preferably whole varieties that contain loads of antioxidants and fiber. Choose brown rice, whole-wheat bread and whole-grain pastas for dinner. Stay away from white rice and breads that have been stripped of nutrients during processing. Instead, add barley to vegetable soup or stew, brown rice inside stuffed green peppers or whole-wheat pasta to your macaroni and cheese. Swirl bulgur wheat into your stir-fry or casserole recipes.
Quench your thirst without ruining your balanced dinner. Serve water or 100 percent fruit juices cut half-and-half with water instead of sweetened drinks, such as soda, that have 10 packets of sugar in every 12-ounce can. Encourage family members to sip milk, which is rich in calcium, protein and other nutrients. Not just kids can benefit from this nutritional powerhouse.
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