The Plate Method is a simple and effective way to plan balanced meals that provide all the necessary nutrients for good health. This technique was developed based on selected national food guidelines such as the USA’s MyPlate and Canada’s Updated Food Guide. The Plate Method can be as effective as calorie counting and other methods of meal planning, but removes the time consuming and tedious aspects required by other methods. It involves dividing your plate into four sections, with two of them being filled with non-starchy vegetables, one with a lean protein, and the fourth with a whole grain or starchy vegetable. By following this method, you can easily ensure that you are getting a variety of different foods in your diet, and that you are consuming the right proportions of each nutrient.
How to Use the Plate Method
To use the Plate Method, simply follow these steps:
- Start by filling half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables. These can include leafy greens, bell peppers, carrots, broccoli, and more. Non-starchy vegetables are low in calories and high in fiber, which makes them an excellent choice for weight management.
- Next, fill about one-quarter of your plate with lean protein. This could be chicken, fish, tofu, or beans. Lean proteins are important for building and repairing tissues, and they can also help you feel full and satisfied after a meal.
- The final quarter of your plate should be filled with a whole grain or starchy vegetable. Good options include brown rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes, or whole wheat bread. These foods are high in complex carbs, which provide energy and help to keep your blood sugar levels stable.
Healthy Examples of Using the Plate Method Effectively
There are many combinations of non-starchy vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains or starchy vegetables that can be incorporated into a healthy and delicious meal using the Plate Method. Here are some examples of foods that you can mix and match!
- Non-starchy vegetables: Spinach, kale, bell peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms
- Whole grains or starchy vegetables: Whole grain toast, oats, quinoa, sweet potatoes
- Proteins: Eggs, tofu, Greek yogurt, nuts and seeds, smoked salmon
Some examples of breakfast meals using these building blocks could include an egg or tofu scramble with bell peppers and tomatoes on whole grain toast, a spinach and mushroom omelet with a side of roasted sweet potatoes, or overnight oats with Greek yogurt, nuts and seeds, and sliced berries
- Non-starchy vegetables: Leafy greens, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, carrots
- Whole grains or starchy vegetables: Whole grain bread or wrap, quinoa, brown rice, sweet potatoes
- Proteins: Tofu, chicken, turkey, beans, nuts and seeds
For lunch, you could make a grain bowl with a base of quinoa, topped with chickpeas, roasted sweet potatoes, and a variety of steamed vegetables, such as broccoli, bell peppers, and cherry tomatoes. For added flavor and healthy fats, add a spoonful of hummus and a sprinkle of nuts or seeds.
- Non-starchy vegetables: Broccoli, asparagus, bell peppers, zucchini, spinach
- Whole grains or starchy vegetables: Quinoa, brown rice, sweet potatoes, whole wheat pasta
- Proteins: Chicken, fish, tofu, beans, lentils
For dinner, you could pair grilled salmon with a serving of roasted asparagus and brown rice. To add some color and nutrients to your plate, you could also include a mixed greens salad.
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Plate Method for Different Dietary Needs
When using the Plate Method for meal planning and portion control, it’s important to keep in mind that different dietary needs may require modifying the specific foods used in order to meet your individual needs and preferences.
Plate Method for Weight Management
The Plate Method can be helpful for weight management, as it helps to ensure that you are getting the right proportions of different types of foods, and that you are not consuming more calories than you need. One of the key benefits of the Plate Method is that it makes it easy to visualize the proportions of different types of foods that you should be eating at each meal. This can be especially helpful if you are trying to lose weight, as it allows you to see at a glance whether you are consuming more calories than you need. The Plate Method also ensures that you are consuming enough fiber and protein to feel full in between meals, reducing the need to snack throughout the day.
Plate Method for Diabetes
The Plate Method can also be helpful for those with specific health concerns, such as diabetes. The American Diabetes Association offers this method as a simple way to plan your meals. For those with diabetes, it is important to focus on including complex carbs (found in whole grains and starchy vegetables) and protein in each meal, as this can help to keep blood sugar levels stable. One study comparing different approaches to nutrition in self managing type 2 diabetes found that patients who had a baseline blood sugar level of 7-10% found significant improvement in glycemic control using the Plate Method, carbohydrate counting, and following advice of a Certified Diabetes Educator.
Plate Method for Vegans
The Plate Method can be easily adapted to meet the needs of different dietary needs, such as those following a vegan or vegetarian diet. For vegans, the Plate Method can be modified to include plant-based proteins such as tofu, tempeh, and beans, and to exclude animal products such as meat and dairy. Similarly, vegetarians can follow the Plate Method by including plant-based proteins and dairy products, but excluding meat. Some vitamin supplements may be recommended as well, depending on your specific needs and your nutrient intake while following a vegan or vegetarian diet. Common supplements include vitamin B12 or vitamin D.
Take Your Health Beyond the Plate Method with Form Health
The Plate Method is an easy way to start having the right balance of foods on your plate at every meal. However, achieving a healthy weight can involve much more than simple portion measurements. There are other factors that need to be included for weight management, which are often specific to the individual, and can include genetics, exercise habits, and mindset shifts. At Form, our Registered Dieticians often utilize the Plate Method to help patients seeking a healthier diet instead of more complicated methods such as calorie counting. The Form medical weight loss program is designed to help you lose weight and maintain your weight goals. You’ll work one-on-one with a Doctor and Registered Dietitian who will develop a personalized plan that includes lifestyle changes along with a prescription for FDA-approved medication, if appropriate. Schedule a call or send a message and get started with your weight loss journey. To start your personalized weight loss journey today, take our quiz here.
About the Author
Julia Axelbaum, RD, Director of Clinical Nutrition, CSOWM, LDN
Julia Axelbaum is a Registered Dietitian board certified in obesity and weight management at Form Health. She studied Nutrition and Public Health at New York University and completed her clinical training at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. Julia worked as a bariatric dietitian at NewStart Bariatrics in St. Louis, MO and went on to become the Bariatric Program Coordinator where she fully launched the center’s first non-surgical, medical weight loss program. Julia is passionate about helping her patients learn how to take control of emotional eating, develop a more balanced mindset and improve their relationship with food.