Yes, We All Know We Need To Aim For A Balanced Meal, But What Does That Look Like On A Plate?

by | Dec 10, 2019 | Food & Nutrition

A well-balanced diet consists of essential vitamins, nutrients and minerals, but what does that look like on a plate?

Xoliswa Nkosi is the group exercise manager for Virgin Active Gateway, a certified PT and one of our 2019 #whnextfitstar top five. She spends most of her time being active in the gym and she makes sure that what she eats doesn’t get in the way of her goals. This is what’s on her plate. Follow her on Insta @xoliswankosi.xn

Breakfast: 5:30

I start my day off with a home-made smoothie, made from frozen spinach, beetroot, a green apple, banana, raw oats and plain yoghurt, before I teach a 45-minute Gravity HIIT class at 6:00. The smoothie keeps me fuelled for the Shape class I teach at 7:30, followed by an Active Bands class at 8:15.

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Snack #1: 9:30

I have two boiled eggs, mushrooms, cucumber and two rashers of bacon.

READ MORE: A Nutrition Coach Shares What’s On Her Plate For A Typical Breakfast, Lunch And Supper — Plus Snacks

Snack #2: 12:30

I have an egg and avocado with a slice of brown toast and onion mayonnaise sauce from Kauai.

Lunch: 15:00

I made couscous with a vegetable stir-fry. This day was a tough one and I had a cheat treat – I sneaked in a Cadbury chocolate. At the end of the day, we’re all human.


I had another 45-minute Active Bands class at 16:45, followed by a 5km run on the treadmill at 17:30.

Dinner: 19:00

When I arrived home, I had another homemade smoothie made from frozen spinach, beetroot, a green apple, banana, raw oats and moringa powder. I wrapped up the evening with a chicken breast and a portion of spinach and butternut.

Is this a balanced diet? The expert weighs in…

Dietician Sumaiya Essa has the following to say:

Smoothies are great to get in all your nutrients in a convenient way, especially if you have time limitations and eat on the go. The fruit and veg options here are an excellent source of micronutrients, particularly fibre for good gut health, and the oats provide sustainable energy for Xoliswa’s active day. Perhaps adding more protein would make it more filling and protect against loss of lean muscle since she is so active.

READ MORE: 6 Milk Alternatives You Should Consider If Dairy Is No Longer Your Friend

Xoliswa’s snack option with bacon has a high saturated fat and sodium content and could leave her feeling bloated. Perhaps a heart-healthy fat, such as avo, would be a better choice. I would recommend swapping this for her second snack and changing the bread to a low-GI/health option.

Xoliswa’s second snack is around lunch so it would be better to move her lunch meal here. If the couscous is whole-wheat, add some lean protein, such as tuna or chicken, to make it balanced and more filling. Perhaps after eating this with more protein and adding carbs to her snack, she wouldn’t crave a chocolate. But even if she did, it’s okay to have the occasional treat.

Around late afternoon, Xoliswa would need a pre-workout snack, which should include some carbs and protein, such as Greek yoghurt with fruit, nut butter or a low-fat protein shake with a fruit. Skipping the smoothie might be better considering calories can add up with these, depending on the size. Xoliswa can add more low-carb veg for the evening meal (should be about two handfuls) to bulk up the meal and make it more balanced.

READ MORE: Does A Plant-Based Diet Actually Increase Metabolism, Or Not?

Xoliswa’s favourite exercises

Most of these exercises can be done in the convenience of your own home:

  1. Squats: they’re a compound exercise that strengthens the legs and glutes. Squats are also responsible for improving core strength.
  2. Planks: improve core stability.
  3. Renegade rows: these target the core, upper back, shoulders and arms.
  4. Push-ups: they’re good for the chest, arms and core.
  5. Cardio: nothing beats cardio — boxing, a step class and running are my favourites.
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