Did your friend tell you about how great she feels since she’s been eating macro balanced meals? Did you look at her with bewilderment not sure if she was speaking another language, or maybe you were thinking she’d been spending too much time at the gym café?!
If you’re looking to understand macro friendly meals, you’ve come to the right place! Let’s dig in to what are macros, how to figure out “macro friendly” food, and “macro friendly” meals. I’ll show you how to balance your meals for correct protein, carbohydrate and fat ratios.
Hint: there is no perfect ratio, and everyone will need a different balance at different times! BUT, there are ways to learn to balance your meals in a way that keeps your blood sugar regulated.
Understanding Macro Balanced Meals
Eating macro balanced meal, means eating the correct balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat in your meals for your body. So let’s break it down.
What are macros?
Macros refers to macro-nutrients, these are the nutrients we need large amounts of in our diet and include: protein, fat and carbohydrates. Remember that nutrients are the building blocks for our body.
Aside: Water is also a macro-nutrient, but you can read all about that in our article on hydration.
Back to solid food. We all need a certain amounts of each macro, but this amount varies quite a bit based on bioindividuality.
When it comes to macronutrient intake, the most important thing is to find what works best for you. There are basic guidelines to follow, like aiming for 22-40% of your calories to come from carbohydrates, 28-58% from healthy fats, and 19-35% from protein.
But don’t feel like you have to stick to the perfect percentages, and instead focus on what makes you feel your best. When you find the right balance of carbs, fats, and proteins that works for you, you’ll be setting yourself up for long-term success and optimal health.
What affects how much of each macro-nutrient we need?
So many different factors affect how much of each macro-nutrient we need! Here are just a few considerations:
- Age. Growing children with a fast metabolism and lot of nutritional needs for growth need different ratios than sedentary adults
- Activity level. Someone that is highly active will need different amounts than someone that is mostly sedentary.
- Life stage. Women that are pregnant or breastfeeding have different needs than women that aren’t pregnant.
- Genetics/Heritage. What has your lineage best adapted to eating?
- Light environment. Those living in tropical latitudes need different nutrients than those in higher latitudes.
- Current state of health. Your current health challenges may require more or less of certain nutrients.
What foods make up a macro balanced meal?
Foods that make up a macro balanced meal include all those that are included in a traditional foods nutrient dense diet. This means whole foods that come from nature. Most foods include a comibination of macronutrients, but we classify them according to what they have the most of.
Examples of protein include: meat, poultry, fish, eggs, quinoa, legumes like lentils. Choose grass fed and/or pasture raised for best quality.
Exmples of carbohydrates include: all fruits, all vegetables, properly prepared grains. Choose organic, local and seasonal for the most micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).
Examples of fats include: butter, coconut oil, olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds.
Processed foods will derail your attempt at macro balanced meals for a variety of reasons. Firstly because many are hyperpalatable (meaning you crave them, can’t stop eating them).
Secondly, processed foods have many less nutrients than foods in their natural state, meaning you can get full but you haven’t gotten all the building blocks your body needs to sustain a state of health.
Finally, processed food use up nutrients that your body already has in order to be broken down in your body, further depleting your resources.
So, how do I create a macro balanced meal?
To create a macro balanced meal, start by calculating your daily macro goals based on your nutrition needs. Then, focus on eating a variety of nutrient-dense, fiber-rich carbohydrates such as vegetables and fruits; proteins such as meat, poultry, fish, and eggs; and healthy fats such as nuts and avocados.
For clients I suggest filling half your plate with non-starchy vegetables of all types. Then portion out a palm sized amount of protein. Then choose a source of healthy fat to add to your plate.
For those that need a higher percentage of carbohydrates, I suggest finishing the meal with a piece of fruit, or incorporating a small amount of properly prepared grains (rice, corn tortillas, etc).
If you are working on a specific health issue, I may also recommend adding a ferment and a cup of broth to sip with your meal.
How do you know if your Macros are balanced?
Your body is constantly speaking to you through symptoms. Learning to understand what you body is saying it the key to finding health. Here are some points to consider:
You ate a macro balanced meal when:
- You feel full and satisfied.
- You don’t crave sweets
- You don’t want to eat more.
- You don’t get hungry soon after eating or need a snack befroe your next meal.
- You feel energized after eating.
- You have a sense of wellbeing after eating.
- You feel mentally restored.
- You emotions are stable; you’re in a good mood.
- Your mind feels clear.
On the flip-side, your meal was not blanced if:
- You feel physically full but are still hungry.
- You don’t feel satisfied.
- You feel like something was missing.
- You feel hungry soon after eating or need a snack between meals.
- You feel lethargic, fatigued and low energy after or between meals.
- You’re restless, hyper, jittery, shaky or anxious after eating.
- You are metally sluggish, spacey or slow.
- You’re unable to think clearly.
- You’re unable to focus on tasks.
- You feel anxious, obsessive, fearful, angry, irritable, depressed or sad.
Healthy Macro Meals FAQ
What are the benefits of having a macro balanced meal?
Eating a macro balanced meal can help regulate your blood sugar, support healthy weight loss, provide sustained energy, maintain a healthy digestive system, improve cognitive function, and help control hunger.
Are macro balanced meals good for weight loss?
What kind of question is that?! Yes, of course! Macro balanced meals are absolutely essential for weight loss as they provide the body with the nutrients it needs to stay healthy, while also helping to control hunger and maintain energy levels.
While the specific macros will change with each person, eating meals that keep your blood sugar stable is absolutely essential for weight loss. Many clients have found that when we look at their macros, they are missing enough protein and/or fat. These slow burning fuels are necessary to keep you full between meals. Constant snacking on carbohydrates (crackers, cookies, etc) is a recipe for weight gain.
Can I have snacks on a macro balanced meal plan?
You may be wondering if snacks can be worked into a macro balanced meal plan. This is very bioindividual. But yes, snacks can be included in a macro balanced meal. Look for snacks that are high in fiber and protein and low in added sugars to ensure that you are getting the most nutritional benefit.
Those with fast metabolism (such as children and athletes) may need more snacks throughout the day, while many adults do better with less snacks. Just as you try to balance macros within your main meals, do the same with snacks to help keep your blood sugar stable.
Can I substitute carbs for proteins in a macro balanced meal?
No, you should not substitute carbs for proteins in a macro balanced meal. Protein is an essential nutrient that helps build and repair muscle and tissues, so it should not be replaced with carbohydrates in a macro balanced meal. But often you can do the opposite with great success!
Can you have vegan macro balanced meals?
I am often asked if there are vegan macro balanced meals. Theoretically, yes, there are vegan options for macro balanced meals. However, many vegans find it hard to get in enough essential fatty acids and protein leading to long term deficiencies.
If you are vegan, focus on eating plant-based proteins such as legumes, nuts, and seeds, as well as fibrous carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. You must make sure to properly prepare your legumes, nuts, seeds and grains by soaking, sprouting and/or souring them, so that you can extract the maximum amount of nutrients from them.
In addition, make sure you incorporate many sources of dietary fat at every meal, such as coconut oil and avocados. It may be important to live in a tropical environment where these food are local to you. (If you want to go down a rabbit hole, seek to understand how your body functions as a battery).
Examples of macro balanced meals
Macro Friendly Breakfast
Generally I am actually not a fan of tracking macros, unless you have a very specific goal in mind. However, the one place it really shines is when looking at breakfast, because so many people lack enough protein and fat in their breakfast which then derails their whole day. Here are some family friendly macro meal examples.
- Whole milk greek yogurt + granola with nuts and seeds + berries
- Eggs + bacon or sausage + fruit bowl
- Breakfast casserole made with lots of eggs, veggies, and sausage
- Leftovers from dinner
Macro Friendly Lunch
Healthy meal prep is the key to having balanced lunches. For many adults that eat away from home, macro meal prep recipes can be a lifesaver. Here are some super easy ideas to get you started. I always suggest recipe prep either while making dinner the night before or during breakfast time.
- Chicken salad + mayo + lettuce wrap
- Mason jar salad that includes: protein (chicken/tuna), many veggies, avocado and olive oil based dressing.
- Low carb crackers + tuna salad + cheese + crudite (vegetable sticks)
- Gluten free protein pasta (made of quinoa or lentils) with butter and cheese + veggies
Macro Friendly Dinner
Macro dinner recipes are usually the easiest to figure out, because for most of us, dinner is the meal we actually cook.
- Chicken, skin on + rice + broccoli + salad
- Ground beef + pinto beans + salasa + guacamole +corn tortillas
- Burger + cheese + side salad (no fries)
- Salmon + butter + sweet potatoes + cauliflower
Macro balanced meal in Sum
A macro balanced meal is a meal that contains the right balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats to support healthy nutrition and overall health for your body.
For help finding the right macronutrient intake for your individual needs, consult with a nutritional therapy practitioner. We can provide advice tailored to your unique situation, and help you reach your wellness goals.