4 Steps to Build a Balanced Plate

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Who’s looking for a fresh start to the new year, but hoping to ditch the diet mentality and make a long-term commitment to their health? If that speaks to you, you’re in the right place! Many people are starting to write down their health goals, but wondering how to approach it.

One simple way to improve your nutrition is to use the plate method! This method focuses on building a healthy meal using foods you enjoy AND without restricting any important food groups. So, how do you build a healthy plate?

  • Pick your protein: Start with choosing a lean protein. Why start with protein? It’s generally the most filling piece on your plate, and is essential to keep you satiated throughout the day or until your next meal. Fill ¼ of your plate with lean chicken, fish, beef, turkey, wild game, seafood, beans, legumes, tofu, or low-fat dairy (milk, yogurt). A regular 9-inch plate is equivalent to about 4 ounces of protein, or the size of a deck of cards for meat and about ½ cup of plant-based protein.
  • Add a hefty side of veggies: Non-starchy veggies contain high amounts of fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. Not to mention they’re super low in calories and fill you up with all their fiber! A win-win if you’re trying to eat the same volume but reduce caloric intake. Some of the antioxidants and phytonutrients in veggies are also helpful for balancing blood sugar or important hormones, and feed healthy bacteria in your gut. Fill 1/2 your plate with non-starchy veggies such as lettuce, spinach, kale, brussels sprouts, zucchini, carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, or any other combination. 
  • Choose a complex carb: This is usually where clients ask: “Aren’t carbs bad for me?” The answer is…No! Complex carbohydrates are full of fiber, antioxidants, and many other vitamins and minerals important to your health. Carbohydrates are also the main fuel source for our bodies, so without them we often feel sluggish or easily fatigued. Don’t skip the carbs, rather choose complex carbs more often than simple carbs. Make a little less than ¼ of your plate, or about ½ - 1 cup, complex carbohydrates. Fruit, whole grains, and starchy veggies such as potatoes, peas, corn, and squash, are considered complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates include anything made with white flour or rice, refined cereal, baked goods, and fruit juice. 
  • Don’t forget your dose of healthy fats: Although needed in smaller amounts, fats are very important to include in a meal. Consuming healthy fats in a meal helps absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, & K, and also improves brain and heart function. All you need is about a teaspoon of oil (olive, grapeseed, or avocado), ¼ of a large avocado, or ¼ cup nuts or seeds to complete this category!
  • Putting it all together: If you follow this simple equation, you’ll get in the habit of putting together healthy meals without even thinking about it.
    Here's are a few examples on applying the plate method:
  • ¼ plate Smoky Maple-Mustard Salmon with ½ plate of Quick Vegetable Sauté and ¼ plate of brown rice.
  • ½ plate of Loaded Garden Salad with ¼ plate Grilled Chicken and ¼ plate cooked quinoa.
  • ¼ plate Quick Fettuccine Alfredo with ½ plate steamed broccoli & cauliflower, and ¼ plate grilled chicken.


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