Keep It Simple

by Aimee Wojtowecz

Welcome back to our tips on Navigating a Healthy Holiday. This is week 4! The holidays are a time of excitement, but can also be stressful and confusing when you’re working on your nutrition. This week let’s keep it simple. 

Tip #4: Remember the Plate Method! 

The Plate Method is one of the easiest and most effective methods for improving your nutrition by eating a balanced meal of high-quality foods. No matter where you are or what you are making for dinner, keeping the plate method in mind makes it easy to stay on track. The plate method is a tool to help us visualize and create well-balanced meals that meet the majority of our nutrient needs without having to track numbers.

First, fill half of your plate with non starchy veggies. Non-starchy veggies provide you with vitamins, minerals and fiber to help you stay full longer. Aim for color and variety, and remember that potatoes don’t count as vegetables with the plate method. The more vegetables the better!

Next, fill ¼ of your plate with lean protein. Fish, poultry, and beans (as well as other vegetarian and vegan proteins) are all healthy, versatile protein sources—they can be mixed into salads, and pair well with vegetables on a plate. Limit red meat, and consume processed meats such as bacon and sausage sparingly..

Lastly, fill the last ¼ of your plate with starchy carbs and healthy fats. Aim for whole grains as often as possible. Whole and intact grains—whole wheat, barley, wheat berries, quinoa, oats, brown rice, and foods made with them, such as whole wheat pasta—have a milder effect on blood sugar and insulin than white bread, white rice, and other refined grains. Choose healthy vegetable oils like olive, sunflower, flax, and others, and avoid partially hydrogenated oils, which contain unhealthy trans fats. Other healthy fat sources include nuts, seeds, and avocado. Remember that low-fat does not mean “healthy.” You need some fat in your diet to be able process all the vitamins and minerals you’re consuming in those non-starchy veggies!

Here are some pro tips:

  • Eat your non-starchy veggies first
  • Try roasting or air frying your non-starchy veggies
  • Pre-cut veggies & portion Into snack bags for easy access
  • Next eat your protein
  • Save the starch until the end
  • Remember to slow down, our brain is 15-minutes behind our belly
  • If you still feel hungry… go back for more veggies first!

What about if you’re NOT eating your meal from a plate? How do you portion out your vegetables, protein, carbs and fat? For example, while you wouldn’t consume soup on a plate, you can consider the relative sizes of each section when choosing what to add to the pot before serving in a bowl: make about half of your ingredients a variety of colorful vegetables (carrots, celery, spinach, tomatoes, sautéed in olive oil), and the other half a mix of whole grains (such as farro) and a healthy protein (such as beans or chicken).

Or maybe you’re eating your meal in courses, or as multiple dishes in smaller sizes: a plate of grilled fish over brown rice; a green side salad filled with veggies; and some fruit for a sweet end to the meal.

The plate method is designed to be adaptable to the types of foods that are accessible and enjoyable to each person. This way, it’s practical and easier to follow long-term. Getting a balance of all 3 macronutrients will help you to feel fuller and more satisfied without needing to feel overly full. You can utilize this method to incorporate your favorite foods and recipes in your plan this holiday season.