How to Prepare Healthy Filling Meals: Right Food Combination Is the Key.

Estimated reading time: 5.5 minutes

How to prepare healthy filling meals with right food combinations (+ menu template)

To clarify: This post is not about food combining, a nutrition method that aims to improve your digestion…

...but food combinations, a way to create healthy filling meals using particular kind of foods in balance with each other with a goal to keep you satiated longer.

Has it ever happened to you that you had a big plate of food for lunch and actually felt full afterwards, only to become hungry again a couple of hours later?

This happened because your meal wasn’t balanced (let me guess: Was it a big plate of rice or pasta?).

Selecting right food combinations for your meals is essential to feel satiated after every meal while sticking to the healthy portion sizes.

This makes it one of the fundamental concepts of weight loss and weight management, because it helps you eat only as much as your body needs in a healthy way.

In this post, you’ll learn a simple rule to select right food combinations so that you can prepare a filling healthy meal every single time.

I've also prepared some slides for you that visualize this information and break it in smaller pieces.

Besides the theory, you’ll also find a very useful piece of practical advice: A menu template for every meal of the day with variations.

What does a healthy filling meal consist of?

Each of your meals should be a combination of:

  • Protein
  • Fat
  • Carbs

… except for dinner, which should not have carbs (I’ll tell you in a minute why).

Carbs are an immediate source of energy. It breaks easily into glucose which your brain recognizes immediately and stops sending you the “I’m hungry" signal right there. But if your meal consists primarily of carbs you will soon feel hungry again, because they are quickly removed from the bloodstream and used.

Fat and protein are long-lasting sources of energy that will keep you longer satiated. Additionally, protein is a building block for your muscles.

Fat and protein, unlike carbs, take longer to break down into a basic and easy to use form of energy.

By combining the three sources in each meal you make sure you can stick to healthy portion sizes and eat only as much as your body actually needs:

  • Feeling satiated (fats)
  • Having enough energy (carbs)
  • Not being hungry until next meal (protein)

Let’s go back to our example, when you had a big plate of rice or pasta.

You felt hungry again shortly afterwards because your meal consisted primarily of carbs, which gave you immediate glucose but nothing your body could get energy later from.

Which is exactly the reason why you shouldn’t have carbs at night.

Why should you avoid carbs at night?

Did you know that you actually lose weight while you sleep?

Human Growth Hormone (HGH) that burns fat works when you fall asleep. To work properly, it needs to have little easy accessible energy available, otherwise it won't “dig" into your fat reserves.

Ghreline is another hormone, which helps HGH work much better during your sleeping time, but it will be activated only when low levels of glucose are detected.

So as you might have guessed already, the main point of not having carbs at night is to lose as much weight as possible while you sleep.

Have you been skipping dinner and going to bed hungry (and unhappy) trying to lose weight?

There is absolutely no need for this. Don’t skip dinner. With these 5 tips you can eat and lose weight instead.

How often should you eat?

We all have at least one member of the family or a friend who is skipping breakfast and is proud of this habit.

Or someone who has been skipping lunch for months trying to lose weight with little success.

Unlike the common believe that the less you eat the more weight you lose, you should eat not even three, but four times a day:

  • Breakfast
  • Morning snack (option 1)
  • Lunch
  • Afternoon snack (option 2)
  • Dinner

Ideally, these meals should be 3-4 hours apart, and you would need only one snack - in the morning, or in the afternoon, depending on the time of the day when your main meals are more than 4 hours apart.

Otherwise you will be desperately hungry before the next meal and won‘t be able to stick to the healthy portion sizes.

If you have an early lunch and a late dinner, make sure you have an afternoon snack. If you had breakfast at 7 am and will have lunch only at 1 pm, you need a morning snack not to be starving by then.

And please, never ever skip your main meal (breakfast, lunch, or dinner).

By eating only two big meals a day you will end up eating more than if you eat four times a day in smaller portions.

I know that one of the last trends now are intermittent fasting and sounds like it could be proven right for some people. But it is not for everybody and we don’t have reliable data yet, especially on the long term results. So, unless you are a fanatic of it and are really happy with the weight magement results it is giving you I won't recommend doing it.

Menu Template

To show you what it actually means for your eating habits, here’s a menu template for every meal of the day.

It talks about "portions", meaning healthy portion sizes (if you are not sure what they are, this post explains it).

You'll also find such description as "low GI carbs", which means carbs with low glycemic index (if you don't know what it is, here's a brief explanation).

Breakfast

  • 1 portion of milk, yogurt or cheese (protein & fat)
  • 1 portion whole grain bread, pasta, low-sugar and high-protein cereal (carbs)
  • ½ portion of meat, ham, egg or similar (protein)
  • coffee or tea

Morning/Afternoon Snack

  • 1 portion of nuts, or cheese, or yogurt (protein & fat)
  • 1/2 portion of cereal, or fruit or vegetables, or whole grain bread (carbs)

Lunch

  • 1 portion of salad or vegetables (low GI carbs)
  • 1 portion of pasta, rice, couscous, beans etc. (carbs)
  • 1 portion meat, egg, fish or cheese (protein & fats)
  • 1 serving fruit or yogurt (low GI carbs & protein)
  • 1 treat (small piece of dark chocolate)

Dinner

  • 1 portion of salad or vegetables (low GI carbs)
  • 1 portion of meat, egg, fish or cheese (protein & fat)
  • 1 portion of fruit or yogurt (protein, low GI carbs & fat)

There is no way you've memorized it all. Get it as PDF for the reference when you are about to have a meal next time!

Download this menu template as PDF

As I've mentioned already, you shouldn't have carbs at night, which makes preparing a healthy filling meal a bit more complicated. You will find some ideas as well as motivation not to skip dinner and eat to lose weight instead in this post.

What does it practically mean for your eating habits?

I once had a client who came to me because she has been gradually gaining weight each year and was scared of where it was heading.

As I do with all my clients in the beginning, I asked her to keep a food journal for a week.

One of the things I noticed was that for breakfast she used to have two slices of bread with marmalade in the morning. That’s too much carbs but no protein.

To make her breakfast balanced and consist not only of carbs but also of protein and fat, I told her to change it to one slice of bread with an omelette, or some butter and ham or cheese.

Now she stayed satiated longer in the morning and started losing weight instantly.

Sometimes it’s indeed about small (and pleasant!) changes like this that make big difference. You just need to know how to find them.

Let me do it for you, too. Schedule a free 20 minutes session with me… right now. You are only three clicks (and nothing else) away from changing your life for the better.

Otherwise, over to you!

Think about your eating habits.

Do you see how you can improve the way you are combining your food?

Leave me a comment! I’d love to hear from you.

About the Author

Arantxa Mateo

Arantxa is a trained biologist, nutrition specialist and weight management coach. Born in Spain, she spent 5 years in Australia before moving to the US. Her motto is "Food is a pleasure. Nobody deserves to be on a diet."

Find out more about Arantxa and 32 Mondays >>

Write a comment

Comments: 1
  • #1

    Abby (Tuesday, 28 June 2016 04:29)

    In deed very adequate insight to secrete " you are what you eat". Proper combination of meals and when to take them needs consideration. That is why we don't take lunch as breakfast or vice versa. Make a healthy based menu in your kitchen, consult nutrition if have difficulties and improve your healthy diet. All in all prefer quality than quantity in a meal and will be the best chef to your family.