The Importance of a Well-Balanced Meal

You may know what to eat, but do you know how to eat it?

We’ve all heard that eating a balanced diet is vital for our well-being. This means consuming a variety of foods from the different food groups in order to supply our bodies with the nutrients necessary to thrive. Simply put, we need the three macronutrients — protein, fat, and carbohydrates — and the micronutrients (i.e., vitamins and minerals) found within them.

Proteins are the building blocks for brain cells and muscle, and have the ability to increase our metabolism. Carbohydrates provide fuel for the brain and central nervous system. And fat supports brain function, keeps us full, and slows the assimilation of carbohydrates into our blood stream (we’ll learn why that’s important later). Clearly, it’s important to incorporate all three of these macronutrients into our diets in order to function properly, maintain a healthy weight, and prevent diseases.

The problem is that most of us have been taught to think of balanced eating as a daily goal. In other words, we try to incorporate protein, fat, and carbohydrates into each day as opposed to each meal. In reality, consuming all three macronutrients together is the best way to support metabolism and brain function. Oftentimes, we consume significantly more of one macronutrient than the others at each meal — typically carbohydrates. Here’s the problem:

Generally speaking, when carbohydrates are eaten alone, they digest relatively quickly and cause a spike in our blood sugar levels (most especially when the “bad carbohydrates” are eaten alone). In response, our body releases a hormone called insulin to lower our sugar levels. Now, our body’s response to this perceived “sugar low” is hunger, so we start to eat again, and the vicious cycle begins. Moreover, insulin secretion actually tells our body to store fat. Even worse, if you ignore your body’s hunger cue, your body produces another hormone called ghrelin that increases your appetite, so you’re more likely to overeat at your next meal. As you can imagine, these fluctuations in blood sugar can wreak havoc on our bodies, depriving you of energy and clarity and setting you up for weight gain — to name a few.

As alluded to above, not all carbohydrates are created equal. The “bad carbohydrates” include foods that are infused with added sugars, with no corresponding nutrients to slow digestion, along with foods that are made from refined flour (i.e. — white bread, most cereals, and pastas), starches (potatoes, white rice and corn) and liquid carbohydrates (beer, fruit juices and sodas). Other carbohydrates, such as leafy green vegetables, fruits, and whole grains are the preferred macronutrients as they are bound up with digestible fiber and take much longer to be digested and enter our bloodstream. I will be dedicating an entire blog to “The Truth about Carbohydrates” later in this blog series — so stay tuned to learn more!

When incorporating the preferred variety of carbohydrates into our diet (vital for our brains and central nervous systems) we can keep our blood sugar levels steady by incorporating healthy fat and protein into each meal. Unlike carbohydrates, fat and protein aren’t metabolized as sugar. Instead, they slow down the absorption of sugar into our bloodstream and keep our blood sugar levels stable. When our blood sugar levels are stable, something even better happens — a fat-burning hormone called glucagon is released, which burns stored fat for energy! However, glucagon can’t do its magic if insulin is hard at work trying to lower your blood sugar.

Steady blood sugar is the key!

And the easiest way to achieve this is by eating all three macronutrients together. This way, you create a fat-burning machine while enjoying the individual benefits of each macronutrient. Carbohydrates give us the energy we need; protein helps build muscle and boosts our metabolism; and fat keeps us full and sharp.

Additionally, when we eat all three together, we are less likely to overeat. When we eat carbohydrates alone, it can be hard to stop because our brains don’t receive the message to stop eating until we are physically stuffed. When fat and protein are incorporated, on the other hand, a hormone is released that tells our brain to stop eating when we’ve had enough. So not only do fat and protein keep your blood sugar levels stable and help you burn stored fat, they also prevent you from eating more than your body needs.

One more shout out for fat… it also allows us to absorb certain vitamins present in our foods. For example, vitamin K is a fat-soluble micronutrient in leafy greens like spinach. If there isn’t fat in your meal, then the fat-soluble vitamins won’t be absorbed as well.

With all this said, we recognize that it can be hard to get a healthy meal (particularly on the go) that has all three of these macronutrients — especially protein. Unlike fat and carbohydrates, your body doesn’t store protein for a rainy day. Therefore, it is even more important that it’s present in each meal to fully enjoy its benefits.

This is exactly why we created the SANS Meal Bar, to give you the perfect balance of macronutrients and micronutrients to leave you feeling satisfied and ready to take on the day!