Healthy Eating: Using a Plate Format to Plan Meals

Search Knowledgebase

Actionset

Healthy Eating: Using a Plate Format to Plan Meals

Introduction

A plate format can be used to help you manage how you eat. It helps you see how much space each food should take on a plate.

Key points

  • Using a plate format will help you spread carbohydrate throughout the day, which will help keep your blood sugar level from going way up and way down.
  • A plate format is an easy and simple way to plan meals.
  • It can be used along with other meal-planning methods.
 

A plate format helps you plan your meal by visualizing how much space each food should occupy on a plate. This can help you eat a balanced meal. It also can prevent you from eating too much of any food group. You can use your hand to judge portion sizes.

Use a plate that measures 23 centimetres across. Draw an imaginary line through the centre of your plate, and then divide one of the halves into quarters. Follow these guidelines:

  • Half the plate is non-starchy vegetables. This is about the size of your closed fist, although you can go back for seconds on these foods. Examples are broccoli, green beans, carrots, mushrooms, tomatoes, cauliflower, spinach, peppers, and salad greens.
  • One fourth of the plate is a bread, starch, or grain. This is about the size of half a closed fist. Examples are bread, rolls, rice, crackers, cooked grains, cereal, tortillas, and starchy vegetables like potatoes, corn, winter squash, beans, peas, and lentils.
  • One fourth is lean protein. This is about the size of the palm of your hand. Examples are beef, chicken, turkey, pork, fish, tofu, and eggs. (For the plate format, beans should be counted as a starch, not as a protein.)
  • Add a small piece of fruit. A small piece of fresh fruit is about the size of a tennis ball. Or choose a ½ cup of frozen, cooked, or canned fruit. You could also have a small handful of dried fruit or a half cup (125 mL) of 100% fruit juice.
  • Enjoy a cup (250 mL) of low-fat or fat-free milk. If you don't drink milk, you could substitute with 175 mL of no-sugar-added yogurt, another serving of fruit, or a small dinner roll.

For breakfast, the concept is similar. One fourth of the plate is a bread, starch, or grain. One fourth of the plate is protein. The breakfast plate also includes a cup (250 mL) of low-fat or fat-free milk and one small piece of fruit.

A plate format is easy to learn. It also can be used along with other methods, such as Canada's Food Guide. It can be used with carbohydrate counting for people who have diabetes.

Test Your Knowledge

A plate format helps you visualize how much space on a plate each food should occupy.

  • True
    This answer is correct.

    A plate format helps you visualize how much space on a plate each food should occupy. The plate format divides your plate into sections. It is a simple way to begin to learn about meal planning.

  • False
    This answer is incorrect.

    A plate format does help you visualize how much space on a plate each food should occupy. The plate format divides your plate into sections. It is a simple way to learn about meal planning.

  •  

Continue to Why?

 

A plate format is a simple way to get used to measuring or counting how much food you eat. It is a way to control your food portions when you are trying to lose weight or stay at a healthy weight.

You may want to use a plate format if you:

  • Feel overwhelmed by other methods to plan meals.
  • Learn best by visualizing.
  • Have diabetes and need to learn a meal-planning method.
  • Are having a hard time understanding other methods of meal planning.

Test Your Knowledge

A plate format is a good method to use if you have diabetes.

  • True
    This answer is correct.

    A plate format is a good method to use if you have diabetes. It is also helpful if you:

    • Feel overwhelmed.
    • Want a simple meal plan to follow.
    • Learn best by visualizing.
  • False
    This answer is incorrect.

    A plate format is a good method to use if you have diabetes. It is also helpful if you:

    • Feel overwhelmed.
    • Want a simple meal plan to follow.
    • Learn best by visualizing.
  •  

Continue to How?

 

A plate format is so simple that you can start using it right away.

  • Post a copy of a sample plate format on your refrigerator. Refer to it until you know how much space different foods should take up on your plate. Make sure that you are using a 23-centimetre plate.
  • Picture the food on your plate. Learn how much space each food needs on your plate, and try to picture that amount when you are in different situations, such as eating out or attending an event.
  • Practice. Use a copy of the sample plate format to plan a day's meals and snacks. If you need help, talk with your certified diabetes educator or a registered dietitian.
  • Keep a record. Use a plate format for a week and keep track of your meals and snacks. You can make copies of the sample for each day. If you have questions about using a plate format, talk with your diabetes educator or registered dietitian.
  • If you have diabetes, check your blood sugar before and 1 to 2 hours after you eat. Then write the results on your food record. Doing this will help you see how foods affect your body.

Test Your Knowledge

For lunch or dinner, a plate format recommends:

Which of these vegetables are included in the bread/starch/grain group (starchy vegetables): broccoli, potatoes, lettuce, carrots, winter squash, green beans, corn?

  • Potatoes, winter squash, and corn
    This answer is correct.

    Starchy vegetables include potatoes, winter squash, and corn. Non-starchy vegetables include broccoli, lettuce, carrots, and green beans.

  • Broccoli, lettuce, carrots, and green beans
    This answer is incorrect.

    Broccoli, lettuce, carrots, and green beans are not starchy vegetables. Starchy vegetables include potatoes, winter squash, and corn.

  •  

Continue to Where?

 

Now that you have read this information, you may feel ready to use a plate format to plan your meals.

If you have questions about this information, take it with you when you visit your doctor, registered dietician, or diabetes educator.

If you would like more information on meal planning for people who have diabetes, the following resources are available:

Organization

Canadian Diabetes Association
National Life Building
1400-522 University Avenue
Toronto, ON  M5G 2R5
Phone: (416) 363-0177
1-800-BANTING (1-800-226-8464)
Fax: (416) 408-7117
Email: info@diabetes.ca
Web Address: http://www.diabetes.ca
 

The Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA) is devoted to meeting the needs of people with diabetes in Canada. This organization provides general information about diabetes and its care. It organizes summer camps for young people with diabetes and conducts educational seminars to help people manage their diabetes. The CDA also sells a range of products, including cookbooks, in its stores.


Return to topic:

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Rhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
Last Revised June 12, 2011

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.