Let�s get started designing your plate!
Begin with a plate that is 9 inches in diameter. Grab a ruler and place it across the top of your empty plate. You want to use a plate that is no wider than 9 inches. This will make it easier to control your portion sizes. Now mentally divide your plate into four sections, which are diagramed in the MyPlate image.
Notice that the five food groups emphasized include fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. I like to modify the MyPlate diagram to fit my personal preferences. For instance, instead of putting fruit on my plate, I count it as a side item or snack, which allows me to fill up one entire half side of the plate with vegetables. These vegetables are preferably non-starchy because there is already an area on your plate (the grain section) where you can put those starchy foods like brown rice, sweet potatoes, and beans to name a few. This also provides a great way to manage your carbohydrate servings per meal if you have Diabetes Mellitus. Be sure to avoid vegetables that are doused in cream sauces, cheese or butter. It is best to grill or slightly steam your vegetables. Be aware that overcooking your vegetables can cause a decrease in the amount of vitamins available for absorption.
I find that whole fresh fruits are the easiest to grab for a snack or meal. However, frozen and canned fruits are acceptable; just be sure to avoid the canned fruits that are in syrup or added sugar.
As previously stated, it’s best to make half of your grains whole grains. This means that when you eat bread, pasta, or rice half of the items you choose each day should be 100% whole wheat. If you’re not sure if a food item is a whole grain, refer to the ingredient list on the food label and the first ingredient listed should be a type of whole grain, such as whole wheat flour or oatmeal.
The protein section on your plate is reserved for lean meats, fish, poultry, beans, eggs, nuts, seeds, and processed soy products. To ensure that you are not receiving too many calories or grams of fat from this group, prepare your protein on the grill, baked or broiled in the oven, or seared in a pan using cooking spray. Avoid meats that are deep-fried or covered with a cream sauce. The portion size of your protein item should be around three ounces (can be a bit more if you are a male), which is about the size of the palm of your hand. I find that broiling protein such as chicken and fish in the oven is the best way to retain moisture.
Don’t forget the dairy section. This does not mean that you have to drink a glass of low-fat (1%) or fat-free milk with each meal. The dairy section also includes low-fat cheeses, yogurt, milk-based desserts, and even calcium-fortified soymilk. The serving size per meal of dairy should be around 1 cup (8 fluid ounces). This section is important to ensure that you are receiving adequate calcium amounts each day.
To learn more about what food items are included in each food group, refer to the USDA’s website at http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/. This website also includes specific daily requirements for each food group categorized by gender and age. To avoid overeating, be sure to consume only one serving size of each food item per meal (amount located on nutrition label).