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Foods

Putting It All Together

Putting It All Together
Author
Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Lark Health

Lark may point out a range of foods and nutrients as you log foods. Some are linked to weight loss and other health benefits, and Lark encourages more of them. Others are linked to weight gain and health risks, and Lark recommends limiting them. 

Lark can help you make smart choices without obsessing too much. The coaching includes instant feedback when you log meals and snacks, such as pointing out great choices that you made and areas where you can improve. In addition, you can earn green badges for getting high amounts of “good” foods and nutrients, and staying under limits for “not-so-great” foods and nutrients.

There are a lot of foods and nutrients to know, but getting green badges is not that complicated. These are a few tips for getting more green badges and working towards your weight and health goals with Lark.

Basic Meal Strategy


Meals should include a good amount of fiber and a serving of lean protein. In addition, meals may have a moderate amount of a nutritious starch and a small amount of healthy fat. What does that look like in terms of food?

Basing meals around non-starchy vegetables, or adding them to any meal, can make it bigger and more satisfying without adding many calories. These are some examples of vegetable-heavy meals.

  • Stir fry with vegetables and a lean protein, plus brown rice.
  • Casserole with vegetables, egg whites, and low-fat cheese.
  • Vegetable soup with beans and/or a whole grain.
  • Acorn squash stuffed with tomato sauce, spinach, and soy protein or extra-lean ground turkey, with Italian seasonings and a topping of parmesan or blue cheese.
  • Green salads with more vegetables, beans or another protein source, and a light dressing or oil and vinegar.

Making swaps of less-healthy for healthier foods, ingredients, and/or preparation methods can make a big difference in the overall nutrient content and health value in the meal. These are a few swaps to consider.

  • Reducing saturated fat and calories in proteins by taking the skin off of poultry, trimming fat off meat, using egg whites instead of whole eggs, and using low-fat instead of full-fat dairy products.
  • Baking, steaming, grilling, or roasting foods instead of deep-frying them.
  • Choosing whole versions instead of processed ones, such as whole instead of refined grains, whole fruits instead of juice or dried fruits, and fresh poultry and meat instead of processed meats.
  • Using nutritious foods such as fruit and dark chocolate to satisfy a sweet tooth instead of candy, cake, cookies, pies, or other desserts.
  • Choosing unsweetened products such as oats or regular oatmeal instead of flavored oatmeal, plain yogurt, unsweetened breakfast cereals such as shredded wheat, and pasta sauce without sugar.

Help from the Food Label


Busy and confusing though they can be, food labels can help you, and maybe even save your life. These are some parts of the label to check, and why.

  • Serving size, so you know how much you are eating compared to what the nutrition facts say.
  • List of ingredients, so you can see ingredients such as whole grains and added sugars.
  • Calories per serving, so you know how it may impact weight loss.

Still, it is not necessary to scour food labels too much with Lark. Your personalized health coach will offer plenty of tips to gradually guide healthier choices.

Smart Snacks


Snacks can reduce hunger, sustain energy, and provide valuable nutrients, but the average American chooses snacks that are less nutritious than the typical meal. Snacks can help you earn green badges for the day if you choose healthy foods just like you might for a meal. This can take some planning ahead, but you can soon make healthy snacking a habit.

A snack might have at least two of protein, healthy fat, and fiber. These are some possible choices.

Keeping calories in check is also important when putting snacks together. Snack sizes can vary, but a good goal can often be about 100 to 200 calories. If you are not into calorie counting, this range matches  These are some sample snacks.

  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter on celery or apple slices.
  • Tomato and 1 ounce of mozzarella cheese plus basil, drizzled with 1 tsp. olive oil.
  • 1 packet regular oatmeal (or ½ cup oatmeal) and chopped nuts or melted cheese.
  • Hard-boiled egg and 3 cups air-popped popcorn.
  • String cheese and 1 ounce of whole-grain crackers.
  • ½ cup low-fat cottage cheese and 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds or ½ cup cut fruit.
  • 1 cup plain yogurt with cinnamon and ½ banana in slices.
  • Baby carrots with 2 tablespoons to ¼ cup of hummus.
  • ½ cup fat-free refried beans with 1 ounce low-fat shredded cheese.
  • ½ whole-grain English muffin with ¼ mashed avocado.
  • Whole-grain mini bagel with 2 tablespoons of fat-free cream cheese.
  • Portobello mushroom topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese.

Sample Menus


Need help getting started? These sample menus can give you a starting point and some inspiration. You may need to modify them to fit your own needs, such as by increasing portion sizes and/or adding snacks if you need more calories, or by swapping out foods that you cannot have, such as choosing tofu instead of eggs if you are following a vegan (plant-based) diet.

Sample Day 1

    Breakfast

  • Scramble with diced onions, green peppers, and tomatoes sauteed in 1 teaspoon of olive oil, plus egg whites (or 1 egg and additional egg whites), plus low-sodium black beans (or rinsed), plus cilantro, served with avocado, low-fat cheddar cheese, and/or fat-free plain yogurt.
  • Lunch

  • Baked or grilled salmon with a drizzle of lemon juice, served over a salad made with arugula or spinach, cooked quinoa or brown rice, tangerine segments, and grape tomatoes, and a dressing with olive oil, vinegar, crushed garlic, and black pepper.
  • Dinner

  • Stewed skinless chicken breast or legs with onions, artichoke hearts or asparagus tips (or other vegetable, such as green beans), and pepper, tomatoes, garlic, dijon mustard, and balsamic vinegar.
  • Brown rice.
  • 1 piece of fruit.

Sample Day 2

    Breakfast

  • Oatmeal made with ½ water and ½ yogurt, mixed with berries or cut fruit.
  • Lunch

  • Blue or feta cheese, spinach, and walnuts on diagonally-cut slices of roasted sweet potato.
  • Bell pepper strips
  • Hard-boiled egg
  • Dinner

  • Casserole with fish (or canned tuna or salmon), egg whites, onions, mushrooms, cauliflower, whole-grain penne or other pasta, and oregano, and parmesan cheese on top.
  • Strawberries with melted unsweetened chocolate.

Sample Day 3

    Breakfast

  • Breakfast sandwich on a whole-grain English muffin with fat-free cream cheese or cottage cheese as “sauce” plus strawberries or other fruit and a cooked egg.
  • Lunch

  • Pea or lentil soup made with onions and any other vegetables, low-sodium broth, plus bulgur, brown rice, or barley, and dried peas or lentils that are cooked for hours in the soup.
  • Side salad with lettuce and tomatoes plus ½ cup berries or cut fruit
  • Dinner

  • Cashew lo mein with lightly cooked zucchini noodles, tofu or cooked shrimp, snow peas, scallion, napa cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, and bell peppers, and low-sodium soy sauce, ginger, sesame oil, oyster sauce, and cashews.

Drink plenty of water, add snacks when you need them, and modify the ideas to include your favorite flavors and ingredients, and you can be well on your way to hitting your goals.

There is a lot to know when thinking about healthy eating, but Lark will guide you towards getting more green badges as you keep logging your food. With small changes and a bit of attention, you may find yourself getting more green badges, and, with that, hitting weight goals and being healthier.