Imagine shopping the aisles of your local Sobeys with a registered dietitian by your side. They would give you the confidence to pick out ingredients that not only taste great, but also work as the foundation for balanced meals. But what does a balanced meal look like? Generally, it contains one full serving of food from three of the four food groups specified in Canada’s Food Guide.
“Using recipes to create balanced meals simply requires taking stock of the food groups already present in the recipe, and then ‘adding on’ to complete the meal as needed,” says registered dietitian Kristy Hogger. “For example, if a stir-fry recipe contains several cups of vegetables along with a pound of flank steak for four servings, then two food groups are already covered. Adding rice to the stir-fry will round out the meal.”
With tips from Hogger and a delicious selection of quick recipes, we show you how easy it is to eat a balanced meal any day of the week.
1. Easy Salmon & Avocado Salad
A simple salt-and-pepper seasoning showcases salmon’s rich flavour. Served on a salad of mixed greens, avocado, cherry tomatoes and cucumber, this recipe becomes a complete meal in a snap. “Add the salad to a Compliments Balance Multigrain with Flax Tortilla to create a delicious wrap and round out the meal,” says Hogger.
2. Pan-Fried Pork Chops with Smashed Potatoes & Spinach Salad
With perfectly seared pork chops, crispy smashed potatoes and a bed of spinach, “this recipe is a balanced meal on its own,” says Hogger. To add a serving of milk products to the meal, Hogger suggests enjoying a cup of milk, fortified soy beverage or yogourt on the side.
3. Tuna, Caper & Fresh Tomato Linguine
Punctuated with briny bites of black olive and capers, this pasta dish needs a small boost to become a balanced meal. Increase the amount of vegetables by serving it “with a mixed green salad or spinach salad tossed with balsamic vinaigrette,” states Hogger.
4. Thai Green Curry Beef Stir-Fry
Creamy coconut milk and fragrant curry paste partner up for a delicious dish that’s brimming with slowly simmered peppers, mushrooms, eggplant and beef. To complete the meal, serve the curry over steamed jasmine rice or rice noodles.
5. Easy Spicy Pho with Bacon
Sautéed until crispy, bacon adds smoky flavour to a simple vegetable broth base. Fresh ginger, basil, cilantro and lime add an irresistible aromatic element. “To turn this recipe into a balanced meal, serve each bowl of soup with steamed edamame or snow peas, along with ¾ cup of yogourt for dessert,” adds Hogger.
6. Roast Fish & Mediterranean-Inspired Vegetables
Delicate-tasting haddock (or tilapia) is a blank canvas for a host of bright flavours. Roasted on a bed of zucchini, cherry tomatoes and artichoke hearts, the fish is infused with lemon zest and fresh thyme. Cooked couscous or rice on the side makes it a complete meal.
7. Pan-Fried Salmon with Lentil-Carrot Salad
Garlic, parsley and lemon juice bring their punch to this rustic salad easily made with canned lentils. Dusted with a little salt and pepper, the salmon lets the crisp textures of the side shine. “Add cooked quinoa to this recipe to complete this meal,” comments Hogger.
8. Korean-Style Meatball & Rice Bowl
Tossed with rice wine vinegar, matchstick carrots and shredded cabbage make the crunchy slaw of this on-trend rice bowl. Layered between jasmine rice and meatballs, this is an internationally inspired treat that will please the whole family. Hogger recommends including a serving of milk products with a cup of milk, fortified soy beverage or a cup of your favourite yogourt for dessert.
Balanced Meal Basics
Once you understand the building blocks of a balanced meal, it’s easy to work with ingredients that you already have in your fridge, freezer and pantry. Here are tips for ensuring you stay motivated to make your own complete meals at home.
- Not all recipes are balanced. “Just because a food group is present, that does not always mean there will be enough for full servings,” explains Hogger. “Pizza may contain ¼ cup of peppers for four servings. This is not enough for a full serving of vegetables per person. Adding a big leafy salad to the meal will help to make up for the lack of veggies on the pizza.”
- Be adventurous. Switch up meals by trying a new recipe once a week or a new ingredient.
- Get family members involved in prep and cooking so it becomes a team effort.
- Think in terms of colourful produce and ingredients with different textures, and portion control, rather than calorie cutting.