How I Changed my Food Formula

It was pretty easy to predict how my meals went when I was living in Spain or when I lived alone in the States. My volume formula, if I’m honest with myself, went like this:

  • 50 percent carbohydrates (pasta or bread, usually)
  • 20 percent meat or meat substitute like lentils, tofu, or chickpeas.
  • 20 percent sauce/flavorings (often creamy or cheesy!)
  • 10 percent veggies/other plant-based foods.

It’s not the world’s worst proportion, but whenever the sauce/cheese crept up, or the carbs held steady, my meals might look small on the plate but were actually calorie packed. The formula that I’m aiming for these days is more like this:

  • 40 percent veggies – salad as a base, or roasted tomatoes.
  • 30 percent meat substitutes like lentils, tofu, or chickpeas, with maybe 10 percent of that coming from meats used as flavorings, like a few pepperoni on top of a dish.
  • 20 percent carbs (often in combo with the protein, like farro or quinoa)
  • 10 percent sauce (still creamy or cheesy, but in the smallest quantity possible while still being delicious!)

This means I’m getting similar volume to my meals, but I’ve subbed in more nutrient rich foods. Sauces like the butternut squash and gouda pasta sauce  allow me to actually replace sauce volume (which would have been butter or more gouda!) with a vitamin rich veggie. When this affects flavor negatively, I try to keep my sauce “pure” and just use very little of it.

I’ve been amazed, now that I think with this formula, at how a lot of the foods I crave most are actually equal proportions fat-laden sauce, meat, and carbohydrates: almost no veggie, and not even lean meats and whole grains! My transition, when I can, is to eat the flavors I love but not in the quantity I love – spreading those flavors out over a big baked potato or a tasty pan of farro has been helping me to realize that there are some healthy foods that are also craveable (see kale chips!).

It’s not a perfect system, but this is how I tend to behave when I’m not following a recipe at all; some combination of a small amount of sauce, a big pile of veggies, and small amounts of meat and carbs for texture and flavor, yields a regular-sized meal that doesn’t sacrifice flavor.

14 comments on “How I Changed my Food Formula

  1. Mel & Suan says:

    For us Carbo for dinner is low. More veggies/fibre and a little meat – preferably fish.
    Here in Singapore there is so much rich foods that lunch is normally already heavy enough!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Elizabeth says:

    My conundrum has been trying to put weight back on my husband without gaining a ton myself.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Stop counting artificial catagories and just eat things that make you feel good. You really need to just like what you eat and stop worrying. Your heart knows what to do!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Elizabeth says:

    There are so many conflicting ideas out there! Keep experimenting until you reach a balance that keeps you healthy.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Laurie Welch says:

    Carbs are not as bad as they used to tell us. It’s what we put ON them that give the calories and fat content. My ratio is usually equal proportion of carbs and veggies, with some plant protein like legumes, beans or soy product. I save sauces for the weekend and spice meals up the rest of the week with, well, spices!

    Veggies give life such variety!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have the same observation moving back from Spain. I have been trying to much lower my bad carb intake and load up on protein and fresh ingredients. All in all after a year of living in Spain I don’t think that their cuisine is the healthiest.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. artloie says:

    Very cool! It’s very close to the “plate method” of half your plate is veggies (50%) and protein is a quarter of your plate (25%) and the last quarter of your plate is a starch/carb (25%). I think it’s awesome!


  8. tcriggs says:

    I really like how you break down the percentages. That’s close to what we do…

    We are already semi-vegetarian, so we are probably at the same percentages as you, except we allow meat 2 times per week (chicken/fish). But the carbs, as long as they are balanced with protein (yes, even dairy protein), helped her cholesterol get lower… even though she was eating the same amount of food. We just switched around the order of things. (i.e. even adding walnuts to whole wheat pasta, and parmesan cheese, is just enough to balance the carb/protein equation, because you get to deduct carbs with fiber content as well…)

    I was surprised, we had hit a stalemate on my daughters cholesterol. It bottomed out… and she was about to have to take meds. But then I discovered the Link-Balance method (not a plug, lol). I started her on it just to offset any problems with the meds (statins cause some people to become diabetic)… And guess what! Her cholesterol plummeted another 20 points. No meds.


  9. mrdodd says:

    Sometimes it’s easy to forget how good nice vegetables one right can be, or how just a little sauce can enhance a dish. Sauce should highlight a dish, not be the star of the show.


  10. Engineer IP Dev says:

    Reblogged this on zaynaresto.


  11. […] Source: How I Changed my Food Formula […]

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’ve changed my diet completely since being diagnosed with type two diabetes. I limit my bread intake (including whole wheat), eat a ton of veggies and fruits throughout the day, making sure I get plenty of protein and healthy fats along the way. Sauce is a nice way to get those fats in. It’s tough but just keep experimenting.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Rob says:

    You have a subtle “voice” when you write, and I liked it. Your approach to food is akin to writing a poem in a traditional form: like a sonnet, which requires a certain rhyme scheme. Being that in tune with something shows your passion. Thank you for sharing this with me.

    Liked by 1 person

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