Review the Healthy Plate
Once you know which foods are healthy, you can focus on coming up with meals. Let’s do a quick review of the Brook Healthy Plate. Which items should you choose? Choose items that are low in calories, sugar, and trans fats, high in fiber and water, and high in vitamins, minerals, and protein. This means you’ll want to limit your choices of high calorie, high sugar foods, and foods that are low in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and protein.
Which food group takes up this quarter of your plate? You’ve got it! Whole grains and starchy vegetables. This is where potatoes, yams, lentils, corn, and green peas fit, as well as breads, cereals, rice, oats, and barley, noodles and pasta, and flour or anything made with or from it. Remember, it’s best to choose whole grains like brown rice, oats, or 100% whole wheat bread over the white and refined starches like white noodles, many cold cereals, and french fries, because whole grains have much more healthful fiber, vitamins, and minerals than the white stuff.
Whole grains and starchy vegetables are also more filling. Eating a baked potato with the skin will keep you satisfied longer than eating potato chips. Wild rice is more filling than white rice. Consider trying a legume instead of rice or noodles, like red or black beans, lentils, or black eyed peas. Legumes are just another word for beans and peas. They are affordable, easy to prepare, and full of fiber.
Speaking of legumes, they are also a good source of protein. Protein takes up another quarter of your plate. You’ll recall that protein foods also include all meats, fish and seafood, eggs and cheese, as well as tofu and other soy products. Which food group do you notice takes up half of your plate? That’s right – mostly non-starchy vegetables and a little bit of fruit. Non-starchy vegetables are broccoli, green beans, carrots, tomatoes, spinach, kale, and other leafy greens. They’re usually crunchy when raw and contain water, fiber, and important vitamins and minerals. Remember, potatoes, corn, and green peas are starchy, and don’t count here and are part of the grains and starchy vegetables section on your plate.
Be sure to consume some fat, choosing the more healthful, plant-based ones like olives, avocados, olive oil, nuts, and seeds. Portion size is always important because fats are high in calories. You can have a small amount of milk or yogurt too, but limit or avoid food with added sugars as much as possible. These are foods like candy, cookies, cake, ice cream, and other desserts, soda pop, energy drinks, and sugar-sweetened beverages, including those sweet-flavored coffee drinks, and of course, sugar, honey, syrup, jam, jelly, and marmalade.
Finally, you’ll want to drink something, ideally water, or some coffee or tea with little to no sugar, or other drinks with little or no calories.
Let’s practice! Say you’re going to eat baked fish. Choose a piece that will take up ¼ of your plate, then choose your starch or whole grain. Maybe a sweet potato, some spicy black beans, or whole wheat noodles. Those go here. Keep your portion to about ¼ of your plate. Then steam, or heat up in the microwave some broccoli or cauliflower. Choose a generous amount of the vegetables as they should take up ½ of your plate. For fat, you may add a pat of butter to the potato and vegetables, or a teaspoon of olive oil tossed in with the noodles. Eat a handful of grapes or a slice of melon for dessert. Voila! You have a complete, tasty, and healthful meal.
Let’s try again with a mixed food, like chicken or shrimp stir fry. A meal like this will be blended together instead of sitting neatly in sections on your plate. But you can still use the plate method concept to figure out your portion sizes of the food groups. Keep your rice portion to not much more than 1 cup or ¼ of your plate, and choose brown rice instead of white rice. Then give yourself ¼ of your plate worth of cooked chicken, shrimp, or whatever protein you like here. Finally, be sure the stir fried vegetables take up half the meal on your plate. The oil you use to stir fry the meal is your fat. Then include a tangerine or a tennis ball sized orange for dessert.
Action items for the week:
- Find low calorie drinks you enjoy.
- Put the Healthy Plate into practice, log at least one balanced meal that uses the plate method in the Brook app.
- Get physical activity at least three days this week.
Reviewed by Emily Matson, MS, RDN
on June 9, 2020. Emily is a Registered Dietitian with her Master's degree in Nutrition from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA, and is one of our Brook Experts.