How to Build a Balanced Meal

Healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are some balanced meal ideas you may customize based on the Healthy Eating Plate and your own food preferences.1 No recipes required!

Your Meal Assembly Guide

Harvard Healthy Eating Plate

  • Lean Protein: 3-4 oz. (chicken, turkey, seafood, tofu, eggs, beans)
  • Whole Grains or High-Fiber Carbs: ½ cup (white or sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, 1 whole grain tortilla, whole grain pasta)
  • 1 Serving of Healthy Fat: ½ tbsp of olive oil, ¼ of medium avocado, 1 oz. of nuts, 1 tbsp. Nut butter
  • Non-Starchy Vegetables and/or Fruit: 2 cups raw or 1 cup cooked (broccoli, greens, asparagus, cucumber)
  • Sauces or Flavor Boosters: Dijon or yellow mustard, vinegar, salsa, low sodium soy sauce, hot sauce, chicken broth, citrus juice, etc.

Bowl

  • Choose brown rice, quinoa, farro or another whole grain as a base
  • Add stir fried, steamed, roasted or sauteed vegetables
  • Add protein
  • Add healthy fat
  • Top with your favorite sauce or seasoning

Sample Bowl: Quinoa, roasted Brussels sprouts, asparagus, grilled salmon, lemon and sea salt

Plate

  • Add protein
  • Add high-fiber carbs (butternut squash, peas, sweet potato)
  • Add vegetables (cauliflower, bok choy, mushrooms, peppers)
  • Add healthy fat

Sample Plate: Chicken breast, ½ sweet potato, asparagus grilled with olive oil, garlic, sea salt

Salad

  • Start with leafy greens (kale, romaine, arugula, spinach, butter lettuce)
  • Add chopped, non-starchy vegetables (celery, tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes)
  • Add protein (shrimp, tofu, chickpeas)
  • Add high-fiber carbs (wild rice, quinoa)
  • Add healthy fat (1 tbsp sunflower or pumpkin seeds)
  • Dress and season (1 tsp Dijon mustard, 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar)

Sample Salad: Arugula, chopped cucumbers, red onions, red peppers, carrots, wild rice, chickpeas, sliced avocado

Soup

  • Start with low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • Add chopped, non-starchy vegetables (load up!)
  • Add protein
  • Add high-fiber carbs (brown rice, corn, whole grain pasta, quinoa)
  • Season to taste (herbs, spices, garlic, etc.)
  • Serve with a side salad

Sample Soup: Low sodium broth, tofu, brown rice, sauteed chopped onions, garlic, red peppers, zucchini, spinach, low sodium soy sauce, lime juice

Wrap

  • Start with whole grain wrap
  • Add protein
  • Add non-starchy vegetables
  • Add healthy fat (hummus or sliced avocado)

Sample Wrap: Whole grain wrap, turkey slices, basil, spinach, tomato, sliced avocado, Dijon mustard

Smoothie

  • Add protein (1 c. unsweetened plain Greek yogurt or 1 scoop of protein powder)
  • Add 1 c. of frozen fruit
  • Add 1 c. of unsweetened almond milk or low-fat milk
  • Add 1 c. of leafy greens (spinach)
  • Add healthy fat (1 tbsp chia or flax seeds)

Sample Smoothie: Chocolate protein powder, vanilla almond milk, spinach, frozen cherries, chia seeds

Reference: Harvard Health Publishing (2011). Healthy Eating Plate. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/healthy-eating-plate