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When I was growing up we had the typical diner special of "a meat and two veg." This isn't too far from what makes sense for a healthy dinner. We know that combining protein with carbs helps with feeling satisfied for longer after a meal. One issue is, however, what to actually put on your plate.
One issue is that serving sizes have become so large in many restaurants. This has carried over into folk's dinner tables at home and portions have gone from big to bigger to huge. So when you're considering dinner ideas think in terms of right-sizing your meal.
Begin with the main course. By that I mean the fish, lean meat, shellfish, chicken, turkey, lamb, etc. that you will have. The rule of thumb is 4 ounces by weight for each portion. When you are reading recipes keep this in mind because many call for double or even triple this amount. With a 4 ounce serving coming in at around 150 to 200 calories it's easy to see how in today's world folks can easily get too many calories.
For this reason I'm a believer in weighing ingredients, especially when you are starting out at eating healthier. Knowing just what that 4 ounces looks like is key and by weighing your food you'll learn exactly what a portion should be.
Once you've decided on the main course it's time to think about the carbs. This is where it's best to think about that Blue Plate Special as a meat, a start and a veg. There's lots of choices here and they generally work out to somewhere between 150 and 250 calories. Keep in mind that making the higher fiber choice is the best idea.
|Great carb choices||Amount||Approximate Calories|
|whole wheat bread||2 slices||150|
|whole wheat pasta||2 ounces||175|
|brown rice||1/4 cup (raw)||170|
|wild rice||1/4 cup (raw)||140|
|white rice||1/4 cup (raw)||170|
|corn||1 cup kernels||135|
|couscous||1/4 cup (raw)||160|
|lentils||1/4 cup (raw)||170|
|beans||1/4 cup (raw)||155|
Adding up what we have so far gets us to somewhere between 300 and 450 calories. That can be a bit of a wide mark but for the most part it'll balance out day in and day out.
So that leaves the veggies. Quite simply, eat what you want. Veggies can a bit all over the map with some being as little as 25 calories in 4 ounces up to as much as 100 calories. Altogether, this adds up to between 325 and 550 calories (from the lowest combination to the highest).
Added up, the rule of thumb for a complete dinner meal should be about 500 calories. Some meals will be more and others less. When thinking about recipes I work to create them so that they are satisfying. Part of this is finding the right balance in a particular meal - protein, high quality carbs and fresh veggies. Eating great food is after all the key to your success.
Eat well, eat healthy, enjoy life!
Timothy S. Harlan, M.D.