Stay on track with the "Golden Meal"

July 2023

When you are trying to implement healthy eating habits into your routine, it can seem overwhelming. Making the “right” choices for every meal and snack means you must actively think about what you eat anywhere from three to seven or more times a day. 

The first few weeks and months of making these healthy choices can be difficult, and with so many decisions, you can easily find yourself battling decision fatigue. And while it may eventually become like second nature to choose the healthy option, there will always be setbacks in your journey to healthy nutrition. 

But reaching the point of decision fatigue or reverting to some of your old eating habits doesn’t have to be the end of your journey to better nutrition. According to registered dietitian and nutrition coach Adam Weinmann, all you need is a golden meal to help you to stay—or get back—on track.

What is a “golden meal”?

Weinmann believes that focusing on one meal per day—your golden meal—is the perfect motivator to help you get back on the healthy eating track if you’ve strayed from the dietary pattern you’d like to follow. 

“​​​​Take this meal as a kind of a ​​touchstone where you get back to whatever it is you’re doing,” explains Weimann. If, for example, breakfast is your golden meal, no matter what happened the day before, you can feel confident that you will wake up the next day and know your plan. “It can relieve a lot of the anxiety of “what happens tomorrow?” because you know what will happen tomorrow,” says Weinmann.

Whether your “golden meal” is breakfast, lunch, or dinner, it should be a balanced meal that follows your dietary pattern and is something you can access easily at home or on-the-go—you want it to be a simple meal that you can fall back on when you are feeling overwhelmed.

Why is a “golden meal” important?

Setting and sticking to health goals can be tricky—you can move ahead with no issues when a simple slip derails your progress. Life can get in the way, and suddenly you’re no longer meeting your goals and lean into an all-or-nothing mentality that sets you back even further. 

Weinmann suggests that the “golden meal” is a helpful tool because dedicating yourself to one healthy meal per day is much more manageable than committing to eating all meals and snacks perfectly every day. 

“Whatever is manageable is going to be sustainable,” he explains. “If it feels like it’s a Herculean effort to do, it’s not going to be sustainable. And it’s going to lead to feelings of guilt when you’re not able to live up to those expectations.”

The “golden meal” is a small change that not only modifies your behaviour at the moment but can positively impact your overall mindset. It allows you to let life happen without losing focus on your end goals.

How to build a “golden meal”

A “golden meal” can be almost anything which can be a bit overwhelming. If you’re wondering how to start building your own “golden meal,” use the Canadian Food Guide to help pack your plate full of the good stuff.

Get fruit and veggies on your plate 

Fruits and vegetables are the cornerstones of a healthy eating pattern. Adding a variety of fruits and vegetables to your diet will increase your fibre, vitamins, and minerals intake. 

The Canada Food Guide recommends that adults get 7-10 servings of fruit and vegetables daily. They suggest filling half your plate with fruit and vegetables at each meal. Your “golden meal” should incorporate a mix of fruits and vegetables. If you want the most bang for your buck, focus on adding various colours to your plate.  

Try dark green vegetables like kale, watercress, and arugula to add folate and calcium to your diet. Orange vegetables like carrots, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes will help you get enough vitamin A. Blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries will give you an antioxidant boost.

Incorporate protein

Your “golden meal” isn’t complete without protein on your plate. The Canada Food Guide reserves a quarter of your plate for protein, and they recommend you choose leaner cuts of meat, lower-fat dairy products, and plant-based proteins if possible. 

When building your meal, you don’t need to rely on meat to fill your protein needs. Consider the following healthy protein sources:

  • Dairy products such as cheese, yogurt, and milk
  • Eggs
  • Legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, and soybeans, and soy products such as tempeh, tofu, and soy milk
  • Nuts and seeds, such as almonds and sunflower seeds
  • Seafood and fish

Choose whole-grain foods

When you want to add carbs to your plate, think whole grains. Like fruits and veggies, whole grains add fibre, essential vitamins, and minerals to your diet. Whole grains are a healthier choice than refined grains because they have all parts of the grain. Because of their high fibre levels, eating whole grains can help you lower your risk of stroke, colon cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. 

Canada Food Guide recommends a quarter of your plate should be reserved for whole grains. Here are some great sources of whole grains that can help make your “golden meal” complete:

  • quinoa
  • farro
  • amaranth
  • freekeh
  • buckwheat
  • whole grain pasta
  • whole grain bread
  • whole oats or oatmeal
  • whole grain brown or wild rice

Pour yourself a glass of water

When you reach for a beverage to accompany your “golden meal,” pour yourself a glass of water. Our bodies need water. Approximately two-thirds of your body is made up of water and depends on water to function. Your body continually loses water through breathing, sweating, and digestion. Drinking water is going to help keep your body hydrated. 

Water is also a great choice because it has zero calories, sodium, sugars, and saturated fat—you can drink it and feel confident that you are giving your body what it needs without any additives that it doesn’t need. 

While how much water you need to drink each day depends on many different factors—sex, activity level, environment, and age—a general recommendation is to consume eight 250 mL glasses of water per day

Looking for ways to drink more water? Read our ten strategies to get you to drink more water every day.

Remember, your “golden meal” is a tool to help you stay motivated—it can be your restart point when needed and your motivation when things are going great!

Please always check with a medical professional to ensure these strategies are right for you.

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