Week 2: What Constitutes a Balanced Meal?

MOOC Summaries - Child Nutrition and Cooking - Balanced Meals

Week 2: What Constitutes a Balanced Meal?

“Everything you need to know about what makes up a balanced meal, including fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Learn tricks for controlling portion sizes while maintaining satisfaction.”


  • Elements of a Balanced Meal
  • Sugar, Hunger and Glycemic Index
  • Cooking Demonstrations

How to Create a Balanced Meal

  • Michael Pollan advised to eat mostly plants and that vegetables and fruits should take up the biggest part of your plate.
  • Water is the best liquid a child can drink.
  • The more whole grain the starch is, the better it is for your children.
  • Use brown rice instead of white rice.
  • Choose quinoa pasta instead of plain white pasta.
  • Go unprocessed as much as possible especially for children.
  • Children that have meal time with parents tend to do better socially and in school.
Chop Chop MOOCs’ summary of https://www.coursera.org/learn/childnutrition/lecture/hOwVh/how-to-create-a-balanced-meal


  • Starchy foods is also called complex carbohydrate or polysaccharide.
  • Single unit sugar is called glucose.
  • Monosaccharides are glucose, fructose and galactose.
  • Regular table sugar is sucrose.
  • Moderation is the key for sugar consumption.
  • Lactose, a sugar found in milk, is a combination of glucose and galactose.
  • Lactose intolerant people tend to feel bloated and uncomfortable if they drink regular milk that is quite high in lactose because their intestines cannot absorb it.
  • Sucrose and lactose are examples of disaccharides.
  • Dietary fiber – soluble and insoluble, is also a complex carbohydrate.
  • Fibers are mainly found in fruits and veggies.
  • Fibers are believed to support the health of intestinal walls, regulate cholesterol levels, and a stool softener.
Chop Chop MOOCs’ summary of https://www.coursera.org/learn/childnutrition/lecture/NNIPv/carbohydrates


  • Dietary fat is really important for the healthy growth and development of our children especially the brain and nervous system development.
  • They also serve as cushion to vital internal organs.
  • Food that have a certain amount of fats in them will slow the speed at which glucose is released into the blood.
  • Dietary fats can be divided into two major categories – saturated and unsaturated fats.
  • Saturated fats is made up of fatty acid that are very straight and flat so they pack together quite densely, hence usually found being solid at room temperature.
  • An example of saturated fat: butter.
  • Unsaturated fats can be divided into two types: natural type or man-made.
  • Naturally occurring unsaturated fats are found in oils like olive oil or nut oil.
  • Man-made unsaturated fats are in things like margarine or reused oil in French fry machine
  • Avocado is high in naturally unsaturated fat and nuts.
  • When we chemically alter the fatty acids in unsaturated fats, you end up getting something called the trans fat.
  • Trans fat increase the amount of bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) and reduce the good cholesterol in our bodies.
Chop Chop MOOCs’ summary of https://www.coursera.org/learn/childnutrition/lecture/UuLUw/fats


  • Protein makes up a large portion of the muscle in our bodies.
  • Protein acts as a transporter in a variety of different roles in the body and maintain the right fluid distribution as well.
  • Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins.
  • Animal source of protein are things like eggs, chicken, red meat and fish.
  • Dairy products is also a good source of protein like milk, cheese, and yogurt.
  • Vegetable sources of protein are things like tofu, nuts, beans, other legumes etc.
  • There are 20 different kinds of amino acids, nine of them are essential.
  • Animal source of protein tend to contain more variety of amino acids.
Chop Chop MOOCs’ summary of https://www.coursera.org/learn/childnutrition/lecture/T9jg5/proteins

Sugar – Too much of a good thing?

  • Has many names like corn syrup, glucose, dextrose brown rice syrup, evaporated cane juice etc.
  • High consumption of sugar will increase the risk of developing Type II diabetes.
  • Scientists are starting to think that the large amount of sugar in the average American diet is one of the main reasons why obesity and diabetes rate are sky high.
  • Plain water is the best way to quench thirst and keep the body hydrated.
  • Sweetened drinks like sodas and energy drinks or even fruit juices are very high in sugar.
  • If we teach our children to see sweetened drinks as an occasional treat instead of the norm, it can really help to keep their sugar intake in check.
Chop Chop MOOCs’ summary of https://www.coursera.org/learn/childnutrition/lecture/MvIqN/sugar-too-much-of-a-good-thing

Hunger and the “Glycemic Index”

  • To illustrate glycemic index, compare these two snacks: a candy bar and a bowl of brown rice with some stir-fried broccoli.
  • Candy bar is high in simple sugars like sucrose and glucose.
  • Your body can quickly break down and absorb.
  • After you eat your candy bar, your blood sugar is going to start to climb pretty quickly.
  • That means the food that you just had has a relatively high glycemic index.
  • When blood sugar goes up like this, body senses it and starts to release a proportional amount of hormone called insulin that works to lower blood sugar and bring it back down to its normal level.
  • There will be a time lag when blood sugar shot up that result in increase of insulin level, this time lag will make you feel hungry.
  • For the brown rice and broccoli, your body has to work harder to break down the carbohydrates.
  • This cause the blood sugar to go up more slowly than the candy bar and result in a more stable blood sugar over a longer period of time.
  • Take home message is to choose food with a low glycemic index whenever possible.
Chop Chop MOOCs’ summary of https://www.coursera.org/learn/childnutrition/lecture/BWDC3/hunger-and-the-glycemic-index

How to eat in moderation

  • The ability to moderate when we eat and when we cook is the most important and all too often the missing link in our diets.
  • In the US, we have supersized everything and we tend to value quantity over quality in the things that we eat.
  • No medical person in their right mind would argue that the average American’s sugar consumption is healthy.
  • We live in an all or nothing kind of culture.
  • As long as the choices we make most of the time are healthy ones, then there’s room for everything in our diet.
  • Homemade baked goods are certainly healthier because you are using real ingredients in amounts that you can control and without any preservatives or additives.
Chop Chop MOOCs’ summary of https://www.coursera.org/learn/childnutrition/lecture/ilobR/how-to-eat-in-moderation

Oatmeal (recipe for balanced meal)

  • Oatmeal is a great staple for breakfast as you can just start it on the stove and come back to it a few minutes later.
  • Steel cut oats are sort of chewy.
  • To make oatmeal, use 1 cup of oats to 2 cups of water.
  • Cinnamon stick is a nice addition for extra taste.
  • Put the combination in a pot on stove at medium till it boils, then turn it down to low, and you’re done.
  • Oatmeal is very rich in soluble fiber and good for digestive tracts.
  • Maple syrup also goes well with oatmeal.
Chop Chop MOOCs’ summary of https://www.coursera.org/learn/childnutrition/lecture/0exfJ/oatmeal

Homemade Pasta Sauce  (recipe for balanced meal)

  • In a pot of boiling water, add some salt and olive oil before adding the pasta.
  • Cook pasta until at least al dente and drain them with a colander.
  • Ingredients for sauce: onions, garlic, tomato, cornstarch, fresh mozzarella cheese.
  • Cut up the tomato into 2-4 pieces and blend them using a blender to get a mushy like texture.
  • On medium high heat, sautéed chopped onions and garlic with olive oil.
  • When they start to brown, add mushy tomatoes and some sugar.
  • You can also add some spices like paprika if you’d like.
  • If you prefer a thicker sauce, you can add a little bit of cornstarch.
  • Layer cut mozzarella cheese between pasta and tomato sauce.
  • Mozzarella cheese is a mild kind of cheese with lots of calcium and protein in it.
Chop Chop MOOCs’ summary of https://www.coursera.org/learn/childnutrition/lecture/3OQQG/homemade-pasta-sauce

Almond Cake  (recipe for balanced meal)

  • Ingredients: butter, sugar, vanilla essence, eggs, almond flour, baking powder.
  • Cream sugar and butter together.
  • Add eggs and vanilla essence.
  • Add almond flour.
  • Add baking powder.
  • Fill mixture in a cake pan.
  • Bake in oven.
Chop Chop MOOCs’ summary of https://www.coursera.org/learn/childnutrition/lecture/0dbBn/almond-cake

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photo: depositphotos/monticello

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