macros + micros: a guide to a balanced meal

The Health and Wellness community throws around the word “balance” all the time (myself included) but what exactly does “balance” mean? Is it eating clean, whole foods the majority of the time but not depriving yourself of a treat when you crave one? Is it alternating simple carbs like white rice with zoodles or chickpea pasta? Well the short answer is yes, it’s all of those things but it’s also preparing meals with foods that meet all or most of your nutritional needs as well. Solely consuming kale, celery juice, avocado or any of the other trendy “superfoods” will not magically meet all the nutritional requirements your body needs to be it’s best self. You need a range of healthy carbs, fats, protein, greens and of course the occasional treats in order to feel your best from the inside out. But what are all of these and how the heck do I incorporate them ALL into my diet and life?! Below is my guide for a balanced meal that I believe will uncomplicate things!

A healthy balanced meal should include:

Fats get a bad reputation as being the main cause of heart disease and obesity but in reality not all fats are created equal. Healthy fat is needed in your diet to build cell membranes, aid in blood clotting, muscle movement and inflammation and can actually help to lower LDL cholesterol. The key is knowing the difference between all the different fats and, yup I’m going to say it, finding the BALANCE between them all. Let me break it down for ya:

Good fats: Come from mostly seeds, nuts, vegetables and fish and are liquid at room temperature. There are two categories of beneficial fats: Monounsaturated fats: olive oil, avocados, most nuts, high oleic sunflower and safflower oils Polyunsaturated fats: Walnuts, salmon, trout, albacore tuna, flaxseed

In between fats: Saturated fats: Solid at room temperature and include foods such as red meat, cheese, coconut oil and whole milk. Is saturated fat bad for you though? Well, this is where you need to find a balance. Saturated fats can drive up more harmful LDL cholesterol, which can cause blockages to form in arteries in the heart but they also can increase HDL (good cholesterol). So you can definitely consume some saturated fats but most nutrition experts recommend limiting them to under 10% of calories a day. So you can have your steak but limit it to the 3oz portion, and swap the cheesy, bacon loaded potato for a side of vegetables!

Bad fats: Trans fats: Trans fat is a byproduct of a process called hydrogenation in which healthy oils are turned into solids to increase shelf life. These fats have zero health benefits and even small amounts can have detrimental effects on your health. Trans fats increase the amount of LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream and reduces the amount of HDL cholesterol. They also create inflammation, which is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic conditions and contribute to insulin resistance, which increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The FDA actually banned trans fat in June 2018 but products manufactured before this date can still be distributed until January 2020 and in some cases 2021. Foods that may still contain trans fat include vegetable shortening, certain margarines and vegetable oils, fried fast foods, bakery products, frozen pizzas, crackers and potato chips. Be sure to check the nutrition label before purchasing and even if a product lists 0 grams of trans fat on the label, check the ingredients list for partially hydrogenated oil as foods containing less than 0.5 grams of trans fat can be labeled as having 0 grams.


Protein is an important component of every cell in the body including muscle, bone, skin and hair. Your body uses protein to build and repair tissues, to make enzymes that power many chemical reactions and hemoglobin that carries oxygen in your blood. Protein is made up of 20 building blocks called amino acids and 9 of these must come from food (essential amino acids). Proteins can be put into 3 different categories:

Complete proteins: These foods contain all the essential amino acids. Examples include pasture raised eggs, plain greek yogurt, quinoa, chia seeds, chicken, meat, seafood, soy, buckwheat

Incomplete proteins: Incomplete proteins are those that don’t contain all 9 essential amino acids or don’t have sufficient quantities of them to meet the body’s needs and must be supplemented with other proteins. Examples of these include beans, peas, most grains, nuts, vegetables and seeds.

Complementary proteins: These refer to two or more foods containing incomplete proteins that people can combine to create a complete protein. Examples include rice and beans, whole grain bread with peanut butter, hummus with whole grain pitas, tofu stir fry with vegetables with rice.


Another macronutrient that sometimes gets a bad rep are carbs but, similar to fats, not all carbs are created equal and are essential for the body to function properly. Carbs are our bodies main source of energy and help fuel your brain, kidneys, heart, muscles and central nervous system. The key is finding the right carbs and, I’m gonna say it again, balance them into your diet rather than avoiding them completely. Carbs can be broken down into three categories:

Simple carbs aka sugars: Simple carbohydrates are made up of just one or two sugar molecules which means it doesn’t take much for your body to break them down and absorb them (as glucose) into the bloodstream. For this reason, simple carbs can quickly raise blood sugar. Examples of simple carbs include ones naturally found in fruits, vegetables and dairy as well as refined or processed sugars that are often added to soda, baked goods, candies, etc. Simple carbs aren’t necessarily all “bad” it just depends on the food you’re getting them from. Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of essential vitamins and minerals necessary for good health, and they naturally contain simple carbs composed of basic sugars. However, the fiber in fruits and vegetables changes the way the body processes their sugars and slows down their digestion, making them a bit more like complex carbs.

Complex carbs aka starches: Complex carbs are made up of long chains of glucose molecules which eventually get broken down in the digestive system but take much longer than simple carbs. That means you will get lower amounts of sugars released at a more consistent rate. Complex carbs also typically have more vitamins, fiber, and minerals than simple carbs. Some examples of complex carbs include peas, corn, potatoes and grains (oats, barley, quinoa, brown rice)

Fiber: Fiber is a type of carb that the body can’t digest. Unlike simple and complex carbs, fiber cannot be broken down into sugar molecules and instead passes through the body undigested. Fiber helps regulate the body’s use of sugars, helping to keep hunger and blood sugar in check. Benefits of foods rich in fiber include improved digestion, heart health and blood sugar regulation. Some example of fiber rich foods include lentils, apples, bran, black beans, broccoli, raspberries and blackberries.


On top of macronutrients, your body also needs micronutrients for optimal health. Vitamins and minerals are vital for growth, immune function, brain development and many other important functions and must be obtained from food since the body cannot produce them on its own. Vitamins are organic compounds made by plants and animals and minerals are inorganic and exist in soil or water. When you eat, you consume the vitamins that plants and animals created or the minerals they absorbed. The micronutrient content of each food is different, so it’s best to eat a variety of foods to get enough vitamins and minerals. Some foods that are great sources of various vitamins and minerals include leafy greens, citrus fruits, bell peppers, carrots, garlic, celery, bananas, cashews, pineapple, etc. The list goes on and on!

Okay so now we know the macronutrients that should be on our plates but how much of each one should we be consuming on a daily basis?

Fat: 10-35% of your daily calories should come from fat. For the average 1800 calorie diet this roughly means about 40-65 grams per day.

Protein: 20-35% of your daily calories should come from protein. To figure out the minimum amount of protein you need, multiply 0.8 grams of protein by your weight in kilograms. (If you don’t know your weight in kilograms, find it by dividing your weight in pounds by 2.2). For example, if you’re a 130lb woman, you’ll need roughly between 45-50 grams of protein per day.

Carbs: 45-65% of your daily calories should be carbs. Yes, you read that correctly…about HALF of your daily food intake should be carbs, anywhere between 75-150 grams.

Now obviously, these numbers are subject to change based on weight, gender, lifestyle, activity level, etc. so just use these as a general guideline.

Okay, so you know about macros, micros and balanced meals but how often can you TREAT YOSELF?! Unfortunately, I can’t really give you a definitive answer to that because everyBODY is different. What works for me is eating nutritious foods in all four categories and satisfying my cravings in moderation. If I want something sweet in the middle of the afternoon, I’ll eat a piece of chocolate, no questions asked. Will I eat an entire chocolate bar? No, probably not because I don’t need the entire bar to satisfy my craving. Will I go and get ice cream on a nice summer evening? Of course I will and I’m not going to ponder over which flavor has the least amount of fat or calories or feel guilty over consuming too many calories, fats or carbs that day. I’m going to get what I want and enjoy it fully. I used to deny my cravings and would compensate by eating other “healthier” foods which would ricochet into me over consuming foods I didn’t even really want. That just makes you start to resent and overthink food and who wants to live like that?!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again and again, health and wellness is not black and white…you need to find what works for YOU and YOUR body.

I hope this was helpful, if you need more guidance or help in finding a balance that works for you, please reach out to me!