What is the balanced plate concept?
The balanced plate concept divides your meals so that half of every plate is made up of vegetables, one quarter is protein and one quarter is carbohydrates. It is designed to be simple, effective, and help you achieve adequate daily nutrition.
What are the benefits of using this concept?
The balanced plate can help manage swings in blood sugar, sustain energy levels and even curb cravings throughout the day. It is a great way to ensure you consume sufficient amounts of fibre, magnesium, potassium and powerful phytonutrients that are vital to fending off chronic diseases.
At least 75 percent of the foods prescribed by the balanced plate concept are plant-based; even starch is derived from vegetables or grains. Predominantly plant-based diets, especially those that favour unrefined foods, also tend to be more filling with fewer calories, making it a great option for weight management.
The benefits, however, go much deeper—right down to our intestines. The balanced plate promotes the consumption of high fibre with a focus on large portions of vegetables. Fibre feeds our healthy gut flora which then produce chemical signals to keep our digestive tracts healthy. By helping our bodies fight inflammation, fibre also keeps our immune system functioning, and our hearts and brains happy.
Why should I use the balanced plate concept?
Every dietary decision you make can’t be informed by a registered dietitian, so the balanced plate is a symbolic reminder of what constitutes a healthy meal—whether you’re at home, at work or on the road. The only skill required is an elementary understanding of simple fractions.
How can I start using it?
Think half-quarter-quarter; this magic ratio works for meals as well as selections in the grocery store. Aim to fill half your cart with produce, a quarter with protein and a quarter with whole-grain carbohydrates. Use the seat section of your cart to fill up on high-calcium foods, while limiting “other” foods.
When it comes to preparing your meals, keep in mind that the balanced plate concept can also be flexible. Foods need not be separated distinctly. Go crazy with casseroles, swoon for soups and take a stab at stir-fries—it’s the ratio that matters, not the presentation. Have a mixed dish that doesn’t quite hit the target for vegetables? Simply add a side salad or extra frozen veggies to hit the mark.
How can I follow the concept when I’m not at home?
Real life shouldn’t get in the way. If necessary, a balanced plate can be eaten at slightly different times. Have your half-meal of veggies before eating out, then leave your protein and carb choices for later. Pack a snack bag full of fruit and raw veggies for the commute, or be the person who brings a healthy vegetable dish to a potluck.
Simplicity is the beauty of the balanced plate — there are no hard-to-follow rules; no ingredients to measure, nor calories to count. It’s easy to eat mindfully, monitor your caloric intake and ensure proper, balanced nutrition.
If you need help getting started, don’t forget to reach out to your registered dietitian who will keep things interesting and tailor your plate to include nutrients specific to your health goals. Once implemented in your routine, you’ll notice the benefits translate quickly into a healthier, happier you.
Are you interested in learning about the macro and micro nutrients needed in a healthy diet? Check out our guide.