Using the Plate Method for Improved Health

Written by Hayley Esdaile on

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be stressful. The best thing you can do for your health is to focus on a diet that contains whole, nutrient-dense, fiber-rich foods.

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Eating healthy doesn’t have to be stressful. The best thing you can do for your health is to focus on a diet that contains whole, nutrient-dense, fiber-rich foods.

With the many diets available, and each one claiming to be the best, knowing what to eat can be extremely confusing and frustrating. Luckily, eating healthy doesn’t have to cause you stress. Focusing on a diet that contains whole, nutrient dense, fiber rich foods is the best thing you can do for your health. A simple way to make sure you are eating the healthy foods in appropriate portions is to follow the “Plate Method.”

The Plate Method

The Plate Method is derived from MyPlate, a USDA guideline. The concept is to divide your meal plate into portions of non-starchy vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains/starchy vegetables, with additional fruits and healthy fats throughout the day.

This eating plan allows you to avoid extremely restrictive diets, counting calories, measuring foods, and stressing about what to include on your plate.The guideline is flexible, allowing you to maintain healthy eating habits when you aren’t at home.

Benefits of this eating pattern include:

  • Increased energy
  • Improved mood
  • Blood sugar stability
  • Prevention of chronic disease
  • Improved gut health
  • Improved immunity

How Does it Work?

It’s simple: Start with a plate. Recommendations are for a 9-inch plate, but that size will depend on your height, weight, gender, and activity level. Typically, people who are taller and more physically active require more food, and a larger 12-inch plate may be appropriate. It is important to pay close attention to your fullness cues throughout your meal, to prevent overeating.

Once you have your plate set, fill half of it with non-starchy vegetables such as bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, lettuce, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, and many more. These foods provide fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.

Next, fill one-quarter of your plate with lean proteins. Examples include chicken, turkey, fish, lean beef, eggs, Greek yogurt, beans, and lentils. Protein helps build strong bones and muscles, aids digestion, plays a role in hormone regulation, decreases muscle loss, helps to curb hunger and much more.

Finally, fill the last one-quarter of your plate with carbohydrates, focusing on starchy vegetables and whole grains. These types of carbs are preferred, as they contain more fiber, vitamins, and minerals than refined carbohydrates. Examples include potatoes, sweet potato, butternut squash, corn, beans, and lentils, brown or wild rice, quinoa, oatmeal, whole grain bread, whole grain tortillas and barley.

Fruits can be included either with your meals, or as a snack. If you have diabetes, remember that fruit is considered a carbohydrate and Registered Dietitians recommend that fruit is included within that section of your plate.

To incorporate healthy fats into your meals, I recommend cooking with avocado oil, adding avocado to your meals, including salmon as a protein source, using olive oil-based salad dressings, snacking on nuts, and adding flax or chia seeds to smoothies. When it comes to hydration, choose water most often, and limit or avoid intake of sugar-sweetened beverages such as soda and juice.

That’s it! With the Plate Method style of eating, say goodbye to highly restrictive diets and calorie counting and say hello to improved health and food freedom.

Hayley Esdaile
Written By Hayley Esdaile , Registered Dietitian
Hayley Esdaile is a Registered Dietitian at Lompoc Valley Medical Center. She works closely with both inpatient and outpatient services and is also involved in nutrition education outreach. Hayley holds a bachelor's degree in Nutrition Science with a concentration in Dietetics from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.