Figuring out the right portions for meals is never an easy task. Unfortunately, if you do not have a food scale, any estimations you make regarding calories and nutrients are probably way off.

Introducing the Plate Method

While still not as accurate as weighing meats and measuring your portions according to the recommendations of food manufacturers, the Plate Method is perfect for developing meals when you’re short on time, out of ideas or missing the proper measuring tools. The Plate Method does not require any math either.

Using a plate that is nine inches across (or six inches if you’re trying to lose weight), you can craft many meals to fit your tastes and dietary requirements, whether you are diabetic, have high blood pressure or cholesterol or are just looking to adjust your eating habits.

Once you have a properly sized plate, imagine a line dividing it down the middle. You will use half for non-starchy vegetables, like broccoli. On the other side of the plate, you will split it in half again, making it into fourths. In one of these quarters you will have your lean protein, like chicken, and in the other fourth, you will have whole grain foods or starchy vegetables.

Non-starchy vegetable examples for half of your plate:

  • Green beans
  • Spinach
  • Carrots
  • Lettuce
  • Asparagus
  • Cauliflower
  • Cucumber
  • Mushrooms
  • Peppers
  • Tomatoes

Have a fourth of your plate dedicated to these vegetables and whole grains:

  • Corn
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Pumpkin
  • Zucchini
  • Brown rice
  • Whole grain or whole wheat pasta
  • Whole grain or whole wheat tortillas
  • Whole grain or whole wheat bread

Tip: Just because the packaging says “multigrain” or “five grain” does not mean the product you’re looking at fit your diet. Stick with products that use the word “whole” to describe grains.

Lean proteins:

  • Skinless turkey
  • Skinless chicken
  • Baked or grilled fish (not fried)
  • Eggs
  • Low-fat cheeses
  • Most soy or tofu meat alternatives

After you have filled your plate, you can have a small cup on the side with fruits, low-fat dairy, healthy fats like avocado or low-fat condiments like dressing for dipping and spreading.

The Plate Method does require that you be mindful of food preparation and seasoning. Opt to bake, grill or steam food over frying, and use calorie-free seasonings over breading or excess salt.

Do you need extra help creating your diet? Check with your local health department to find out if you have access to free dietitian services. Did you know you can prevent type 2 diabetes with a diet designed around this method? Learn if you are at risk here.

You can learn more techniques like the Plate Method in a Chronic Disease Self-Management Workshop. Find the next enrollment period for your area here.