This may sound silly but as a visual person, my brain tends to associate a healthy meal with colour. If I see greens, reds, oranges or yellows on a plate, my mind defines it as nutritious.
Sure, a pizza pie or a cheesy lasagna can be colourful but hear me out.
We’ve all heard that the more greens on a plate, the better. So I feel like that’s the main guidance that I start with when it comes to putting together a healthy meal: making it colourful with green as the dominant colour.
Naturally, that colour selection begins in our grocery shopping cart.
As mentioned in my previous weight loss post, I’m not doing anything trendy or complicated when it comes to what I eat. It really is simple. I’ve increased my intake of veggies, fruits, protein and healthy grains, and I’ve reduced my intake of dairy and carbs. And most importantly, I avoid trans-fat, processed food and refined sugars as much as I can.
Luckily we live in a world where we have easy access to healthy (and colourful!) recipe and meal ideas on the internet. Long gone are the days of tasteless, beige broiled chicken and unseasoned baked potato.
If you follow the hashtag #mealprep or #healthymeals or #healthyrecipe on Instagram, you’ll be greeted with tons of meal ideas on your feed. That’s how I got came across these quinoa bowl recipes, these protein-filled meals or these easy meals to prep. They’ve all served as accessible inspiration to make my own meals, so I guess this post is my way of paying it forward to whoever lands here searching for the same inspiration.
Now let’s get one thing straight: are all of my meals 100% healthy all the time, every day? Of course not! But my daily awareness and my modified and improved habits are constantly and subconsciously “on”, to the point where selecting certain meal items (and portioned amount) have become a way of life.
I mentioned in my previous post that I used My Fitness Pal to keep track of my daily calories and the nutrition of what I eat. The app determined that I should be consuming no more than 1200 calories a day to achieve my weight loss goal. So that’s what I did. Staying within 1200 calories each day (to the best that I could) is ultimately what helped me lose those 30 pounds.
To sum up what those 1200 calories look like, I put together a visual meal diary of what I typically eat and drink in a day. Keep in mind that this is a general snapshot and I’ll naturally modify certain items (i.e. I’ll have salad everyday but change up the protein), and certain ingredients or meals will depend on the season (i.e. more soups in winter). And of course I’ll indulge in a cheat meal on occasion.
Warm oatmeal with fresh fruit, nut butter and cinnamon (294 calories)
Not gonna lie, oatmeal on its own is really tasteless and colourless, so to spice things up I’ll add either apple slices, banana or fresh berries, cinnamon and I’ll occasionally add a teaspoon of natural almond butter (I like the one that you can grind up yourself from Bulk Barn). A warm, spiced bowl of oatmeal with fresh fruit is such a comforting start to the day, it fills you up nicely and it’s so easy to put together at the office. Heads up: this is not flavoured oatmeal. Most flavoured oatmeals have added sugar in them so this is the plain old regular one minute oatmeal, with zero grams of sugar.
Salad with protein (417 calories)
A typical workday lunch meal for me is a fresh salad + tasty protein, like this one with spinach, cherry tomatoes, turkey bacon, egg and avocado. Funny fact is I don’t eat bacon that regularly (it just happened to be the case when I took this photo). My most common protein would be chicken, turkey, salmon, steak. If I feel like taking a beak from meat, I’ll have quinoa, tofu, seasoned chickpeas and lentils. Spinach or kale will always be my base and I’ll add tasty toppings like avocado, almonds, pecans, goat cheese, sweet potato, etc. For dressing, I just make my own with olive oil, lemon juice and balsamic vinegar with a sprinkle of za’atar.
Greens with protein (352 calories)
Just like lunch, our dinners are also dominant in greens and protein, like this dish of roasted turkey, hummus, avocado, spinach and roasted broccoli. A common protein substitution for a plate like this would be salmon, tilapia, chicken or steak. When we feel like having a vegetarian dish, we’ll throw together a quinoa or rice bowl with tofu or chickpeas and lentils, and lots of roasted veggies. Bowls are so easy to whip up for dinner (30 mins) and even quicker if you’ve meal-prepped your quinoa or veggies ahead of time.
Soft boiled egg / unsalted nuts / rye cracker or carrots with hummus (289 calories)
Snacking is my biggest weakness, so finding healthy alternatives to my cravings was very important for me. My guilty pleasure is savoury crunchy snacks like chips, crackers and popcorn. A healthier substitute (that still satisfies my squirrel-like cravings) have been unsalted nuts, Finn Crisp crackers or carrot sticks with hummus. A good pre-workout snack I tend to have is a medium-boiled egg.
Water, Herbal Tea and Black Coffee (0 to 15 calories)
On a day-to-day basis, this is literally all I drink. A dark cup of rich Americano to start my morning, 6-7 cups of water throughout the day (a bit more when I workout) and about 1-2 cups of herbal tea, usually after a meal or before going to bed (mint, ginger, chamomile or lavender are my daily go-to’s). That’s pretty much it. I’m not much of a drinker but on occasions, wine is my poison of choice and it’s pretty low on calories. Depending on how many glasses I have, of course.
If you add up all those calories, it is over 1200 but with my daily walks (3-5km per day) and my spin class twice a week, it helps burn and keep it off. Just like I mentioned in my last post, when I see a visual forecast of my progress, it really encourages me to stay on track.
In the end, when it comes to disciplining yourself with a new lifestyle change like eating habits, find ways that suit your motivation style. What I learned over the years about myself is that I get inspired and motivated by colour, simplicity and practicality. All that being said, there’s always room to learn new methods or trying something new.