When you’re trying to lead a healthy lifestyle, your eating habits are the most important component – especially if you’re stuck at home in lockdown and have little else to do! To follow a healthy diet, it is important to keep your kitchen stocked with some essential items that you can combine in many ways to create well balanced meals.
Planning your meals ahead of time and following a strict shopping list can help you stay on track.
What Constitutes a Healthy Diet?
When we consider a healthy diet, there are more components than you might think. While we want to base our meals around lean proteins, whole grain carb sources, and fruits and vegetables, there are more factors to consider thanks to the most recent Dietary Guidelines.1
A variety of vegetables and fruits
Choose varied coloured vegetables (dark green, red and orange, starchy vegetables) and opt for whole fruits (berries, apples) over juice. Eating the whole fruit provides additional fibre and not just the sugary liquid that juice provides.
Aim for at least 3 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit each day.
Whether you choose dairy milk or alternatives (soy, rice, oat), make sure you get about 3 servings of high-calcium foods per day to protect your bones and teeth. If choosing dairy products, opt for low fat versions when possible. If you drink an alternative milk, check the label to make sure it provides calcium.
A variety of protein sources provides the best balance of nutrients and amino acids, but you can survive on all-animal sources or all-plant proteins, like beans, peas, and lentils. Try to limit fat and prepare protein foods in ways that don’t add fat, like baking or broiling instead of frying.
Between 5 and 8 ounces of protein is enough for the day, but you may need more based on your workout routine.
Choose heart-healthy oils over saturated fats, like olive oil instead of butter. Try to limit added fat when cooking foods, and select healthy fats for snacking like avocado, nuts, and seeds. Keep your saturated fat intake less than 10% of your total fat for the day.
Limit foods that are in high sodium by avoiding highly processed foods (think foods that can sit on the shelf forever – mostly junk food) and restaurant foods. Try to not add salt when cooking.
It can be hard to limit your sweet tooth, especially if you’re bored. Try to keep healthy options around, like small portions of dark chocolate or your favourite fruit (natural sugar) on hand for when you’re craving something sweet.
While 1 drink per day for women or 2 per day for men can be part of a healthy lifestyle, alcohol is calorie dense – it provides 7 calories per gram, which is more than carbs or protein (4 calories per gram) and closer to fat (9 calories per gram). It can lead to weight gain, so consider whether or not fitting alcohol into your plan is a priority.
How Regularly Should You Eat?
While there is not a one-size fits all plan for the timing of your meals and snacks, consider the eating patterns that work best for you based on your lifestyle, workout, and work schedule. If you’re following an intermittent fasting plan, you probably have the timing very structured.
If you’ve never followed a regular eating pattern before, adding some structure to your day can help limit overeating and excess snacking. Eating breakfast within a few hours of waking can kickstart your metabolism and prevent overeating later in the day.
Going more than 3 or 4 hours between large meals might require planning a healthy snack. While many people think eating before bed causes weight gain, the more important factor is your total calorie intake throughout the day. If you hit your calorie goals at dinner time, anything you eat later WILL lead to weight gain – simply from a positive calorie balance.
Plan your meals and snacks based on when you feel the hungriest and when you need to prep for or refuel from your workout. We’ll describe a plan that includes 3 meals and 2 snacks, but you can combine snacks for higher calorie meals or move them around based on your schedule.
Your Healthy 7-Day Diet Plan
Keep in mind that portion sizes vary based on your individual calorie and exercise goals.
- Old fashioned oats with a scoop of protein powder
- Apple slices
- Peanut butter
- Mixed greens salad
- Grilled chicken
- Baby carrots
- Strip steak with sweet potato and green beans
This day providers two sources of animal proteins and fruits and vegetables for snacks, balanced with some healthy fats.
- Ancient grain toast with avocado and sliced tomato
- Orange slices
- Hard boiled eggs and raisins
- Black bean burger on whole grain bun
- Banana and peanut butter
- Chicken and vegetable stir fry with brown rice
This day combines vegetable-based proteins and animal proteins with whole grains to keep you satisfied and feeling full.
- Banana-berry protein shake with one scoop protein powder, frozen banana, low fat milk, frozen berries, chia seeds
- Whole grain crackers and string cheese
- Low carb wrap with tuna salad and tomato
- Mandarin oranges
- Whole grain pasta with meat sauce and sauteed zucchini
This day keeps grains relatively low until dinner time, reserving carbs for a filling whole grain pasta dish.
- Whole grain tortilla with scrambled eggs, cheese, peppers and onions
- Celery and peanut butter
- Lettuce wraps with shrimp, cashews, coleslaw, and teriyaki sauce
- Protein bar and cherries
- Roasted salmon and broccoli
- Caesar salad
This day is moderately low in carbs, but could be lower without the tortilla at breakfast. Add in a serving of grains at dinner if you don’t care about limiting your carbs.
- Greek yogurt with low sugar granola and mango
- Trail mix
- Grilled chicken sandwich and side salad
- Protein shake
- Beef vegetable chili with baked tortilla chips
This day focuses on a heartier lunch meal and a vegetable/beef combination soup for a lighter dinner.
- Whole grain toast with almond butter and apple slices
- Grapes and cottage cheese
- Vegetable soup
- Cauliflower-crust pizza
- Spinach salad with hard boiled egg and strawberries
This day focuses on fresh fruit, low carb pizza, and no meats.
- Two poached eggs over spinach, meatless sausage
- Fruit salad
- Rice cakes with peanut butter
- Quinoa topped with roasted veggies and cilantro dressing
- Cucumbers and hummus
- Baked chicken in tomato sauce with couscous
This day includes more involved meals for a day when you have time to cook – prepare leftovers to make the next day’s meals easier.
Take Home Message
When you plan your meals for the week and only purchase the ingredients you need, it’s easier to stick to a healthy eating plan. Based on your goals you can decide when to limit carbs or fat and when you can have larger portions. Combining simple snacks like fruit with a source of fat (avocado, nuts, or seeds), can make you feel more satisfied and prevent overeating.