Building better meals from sunrise to sunset


Planning balanced meals that everyone in the house will eat, grocery shopping, cooking mostly from scratch, teasing through the latest superfoods and fad diets…it’s all overwhelming. We get it!

For starters, there is no perfect meal or snack. Don’t try to aim for perfection- it’s a recipe for disaster! Everyone’s nutritional needs, taste preferences, budgets and schedules are unique and continually change.

Instead of focusing on building the perfect…well everything…when it comes to meals and snacks, put your time and energy into making small swaps here and there to incorporate more nutrient-dense, minimally processed foods. In 6 months to a year, you’ll be amazed at how far you’ve come. And it’ll hopefully feel like second nature and not so much of a chore.

Check out the links below for ways to create YOUR better meals and snacks from sunrise to sunset.

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Build a Better Breakfast

Whether you are a regimented breakfast eater, a breakfast skipper or fall somewhere in between, we could all use some new ideas for breaking our overnight fast with something besides a pastry, a bowl of cereal or a bagel. All too often people grab what is most convenient during their busy morning and pay the price shortly thereafter when their blood sugar crashes and energy tanks.

Adding a few different ideas to your repertoire just might help to launch you into a balanced-breakfast eating routine that will have you sailing more smoothly through the rest of your day. Start thinking outside the cereal box with these simple strategies and easy recipes.


Build a Better Smoothie

Smoothies are a great way to pack a ton of nutrition into a refreshing, on-the-go glass. However, many “healthy” smoothies in reality are loaded with carbohydrates and sugar from tons of fruit as well as juice, honey, agave or possibly even sherbet or sorbet! Of course, these smoothies taste fantastic BUT they aren’t so fantastic for you and don’t provide a balanced, anchored meal.

To help lower the sugar content of traditional fruit smoothies (and get the added bonus of consuming 2-3 servings of vegetables BEFORE 9:00am!), give green smoothies a try. It’s not as scary as it sounds- promise! Follow this simple formula to build a balanced, tasty smoothie to kick-start your day.


Build a Better Salad

Salads are the image most of us see in our heads when we think of healthy eating. And for good reason, they can be really healthy! However, it is possible (and very common) for salads to end up being not so healthy, or just not enough for a meal.

“Salad” can mean a lot of different things to different people. It can mean iceberg lettuce, a few shreds of carrots and maybe a cucumber with lots of croutons, cheese and TONS of ranch or thousand island dressing. (This salad is lacking in nutrients and likely has way more calories than you would think.) OR, it can mean a bowl full of beautiful, colorful non-starchy vegetables with a squeeze of lemon or splash of balsamic. (This salad has more nutrition, but it’s still lacking in many ways.)

Take a look at how to build a better salad so that you end up with a healthy, nutrient dense meal that will keep you full for longer than a few hours.


Build a Better Grain Bowl

If you’re a bit tired of salads, grain bowls are an extremely versatile, quick to prepare and super satisfying substitute. They encourage mixing and matching ingredients and allow you to create an array of textures and flavors through layering. And, come on, who doesn’t love eating an entire meal out of a bowl?!

While grain bowls may sound like the perfect weeknight meal, many grain bowl recipes are heavy on carbohydrates (beans, corn, and rice all in one bowl) and lacking in protein and vegetables. To ensure you get the proper quality and quantity of nutrients, follow these ratios for building a better grain bowl.


Build a Better Trail Mix

Trail mix isn’t just for outdoor adventures. It’s a great snack anyone can keep on hand that doesn’t require refrigeration and can go with you anywhere. Plus, it provides loads of long-lasting energy and is fully customizable to your wants and needs.

However, most store-bought trail mixes are loaded with sugar, hydrogenated oils and, yes, candy…not to mention a lofty price tag, especially if you purchase the super handy single-serving packets.

To build a better (tasting and nutritious) trail mix, make your own at home- you really can’t mess it up! Kids and adults of any age can have fun concocting all sorts of tasty creations using what’s on hand in the pantry. Make a batch and store them in single-serving containers so you can easily grab one when you need a quick snack.



About Author

Ashley Bailey, MS, RDN, LDN, IFNCP


Ashley is a Nutritionist at SAS Institute in Cary, NC. She is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Integrative and Functional Nutrition Certified Practitioner, Certified Biofeedback Instructor and also has a Certificate of Training in Adult Weight Management. Outside of work, Ashley enjoys crafting, cooking, walking and spending as much time as possible at the beach. Follow @abaileyRD on Twitter.

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