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Forget dieting! Follow the healthy plate method to control calories, and eat the right balance of carbs, proteins and fats.

Most diets don’t work for the long term, because they involve restrictive plans, and force people to cut out their favorite foods. Restricting inevitably leads to feelings of deprivation, which wear away at the best dieting intentions. One way to improve your diet, without feeling deprived is to try the healthy plate method. The healthy plate method is a more balanced approach, that involves combining small amounts of higher calorie foods, with large amounts of lower calorie foods.

Make Half Your Plate Fruits and Veggies

While there are many versions of the “healthy plate” method, most recommend making at least half your plate fruits and vegetables. For weight loss, focus on making half your plate non-starchy vegetables. Non-starchy vegetables are lower in calories and carbohydrates compared to starchy vegetables and fruit. Examples of non starchy vegetables include salad, dark leafy greens, broccoli, green beans, peppers, onions, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots and pretty much any vegetable you can find in the produce aisle. Frozen and canned vegetables count too! Just don’t count french fries or corn as a non-starchy vegetable!

Most people need at least 1-2 cups of non-starchy vegetables at meals to reach the 5-9 servings per day recommended by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines. Filling up on vegetables helps you eat smaller amounts of higher calorie starches and proteins, which make up the rest of the plate.

Add Some Lean Protein

Once you have half your plate covered with veggies, fill in a quarter of your plate by adding some lean proteins. Lean proteins include chicken, fish, lean beef, beans, tofu, eggs or dairy proteins, like cottage cheese or Greek yogurt. Most people only need about 2-4oz of protein per meal. That’s about a palm-sized amount of animal protein, 2 eggs or 1 cup of Greek yogurt. Adding protein to your healthy plate keeps hunger at bay, and helps preserve lean body mass.

Round Out Your Plate with Healthy Carbs

The last quarter of the healthy plate includes higher carb foods, such as rice, pasta, potatoes, corn, bread products and other grains. For best results, try to make at least half your grains “whole grains.” Examples include brown rice, wild rice, wheat berries, oatmeal and whole wheat products. Instead of grains, you could also add more fruit to your plate to provide healthy carbs.

Putting Your Healthy Plate Together

Here are some quick and easy ideas you could try to get started with the healthy plate method.

  • Add spinach or peppers and onions to your morning eggs.
  • Toss fresh or frozen berries into your oatmeal or yogurt
  • Snack on veggies and hummus or low fat dip
  • Pair your lunch time sandwich with a side of raw veggies, vegetable soup or salad.
  • Instead of 3 or 4 pieces of pizza, have 1-2 pieces of pizza with a large salad.
  • Stir frozen mixed veggies or broccoli into pasta and rice dishes while boiling.
  • Roast peppers, onions, and zucchini with potatoes and chicken.

For more information on the healthy plate method, check out the U.S. Dietary Guidelines ChooseMyPlate, Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate, the American Institute for Cancer’s New American Plate, and the American Diabetes Association’s Create Your Plate tool. These websites have articles, recipes and other tools to help you create your own healthy plate.

For more tips on how to lose weight and eat healthier, check out Yes, Plant Based Diets Really Work and Lose Weight by Eating Right in Five Simple Steps. If you need help with your diet or health and weight loss goals, call us today at 301-288-1319 to set up an appointment with our Registered Dietitian for personalized nutrition advice.