Eating Healthy: the Basics

1. What is a healthy breakfast?
2. What is a healthy lunch?
3. What is a healthy dinner?
4. How much should I weigh?
5. How many calories should I be eating?
6. What is the best way to lose weight?
7. How can I keep my weight loss goal in mind and stay motivated?
8. What is a healthy weekly weight loss?
9. How to set weight loss goals and make them happen
10. How to keep a food diary, and why it is essential to successful weight loss
11. Are all fats bad for you?
12. Are saturated fats bad for you?
13. Are unsaturated fats good for you?
14. Are carbohydrates bad for you?
15. Is fiber good for you?
16. How to read nutrition/food labels
17. How to plan your weekly menus
18. Why should I eat less salt?
19. What do the sodium (salt) numbers mean on food labels?
20. What is The Mediterranean Diet?
21. Why eating vegetables is good for you
22. Why eating fruit and nuts is good for you
23. Why are cereals and whole grains good for you?
24. What are legumes, and why are they good for you?
25. Why is eating fish good for you?
26. Which fats and oils are good for you?
27. Are dairy products good for you?
28. Which meats should I not eat?
29. Is drinking alcohol good for you?
30. Is it important to measure your ingredients?
31. Are snacks good for you?
32. How to choose the right portion size
33. Can you lose weight with a smaller plate?
34. Eat healthier by cleaning out your pantry
35. Which oils and fats should I keep in my pantry?
35. Which oils and fats are good for you - and when should I use them?
36. Which carbohydrates are good for you?
37. What is the best chicken or turkey for you?
38. Are dairy products good for you?
39. Which nuts and seeds should I eat?
40. Is red meat like beef or pork bad or good for you?
41. Is eating dessert good or bad for you?
42. Is drinking soda bad for you?
43. Is drinking coffee bad for you?
44. How can healthy food taste good? Part 1
45. How can healthy food taste good? Part 2
46. How to eat healthy while eating out
47. Are vitamins and supplements necessary to eat healthy?
48. How to eat healthy while traveling


Eating Healthy: the Basics

What is a healthy dinner?

When I was growing up we had the typical diner Blue Plate 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 you to feel satisfied for longer after a meal. One problem many people have is that they don't know what to actually put on their plate.

Contributing to the problem is that serving sizes have become so large in many restaurants. This has carried over into folk's dinner tables at home, and so portions at home 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 for a single serving for an adult is 4 ounces by weight. When you are reading recipes, keep this in mind, because many call for single serving sizes of 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 important and by weighing your food you'll learn exactly what a portion should look like.

Once you've decided what you're having for 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 starch and a veg. There are lots of choices here and a serving generally works out to somewhere between 150 and 250 calories. Keep in mind that making the higher fiber choice will be the best quality calories.

Great carb choices Single Serving Size Approximate Calories
(per serving)
whole wheat bread 2 slices 150
whole wheat pasta 2 ounces 175
potatoes 8 ounces 175
yams 6 ounces 160
brown rice 1/4 cup (raw) 170
wild rice 1/4 cup (raw) 140
white rice 1/4 cup (raw) 170
corn (Yes, corn is a starch, not a vegetable.) 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 for the meal. 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 be 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 will add up to between 325 and 550 calories for the whole meal (from the lowest combination to the highest).

Note that this doesn't always have to be a meat, starch and a veggie on your plate like you might get at the diner. Take a dinner meal of Lentil Chili with a side salad, as a good example. There's plenty of veggies in the chili and the lentils provide mostly starch but some protein. The rest of the protein comes from the cheese and there's even more veggies in the side salad.

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 I'm working on creating recipes I work to make them satisfying. Part of this is finding the right balance in a particular meal – protein, high quality carbs and fresh veggies. Eating great food is the key to your success, after all.