Every once in a while, we can use a little reminder about what our plates and portions should look like during meals. (I know I could, anyway)
Depending on what you read (because there are so many opinions out there), living and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is 70 to 80 percent diet and 30 to 20 percent exercise, respectively. Food is fuel for our bodies, so what we put on our plate matters. Healthy food choices in adequate portions allows you to maximize the health benefits from the way your body will process and maximize the use of these foods for energy.
We’ve created a sample portion-control plate template based on recommendations from many different sources:
1/2 Non-Starchy Vegetables – eat as many of these as you want! Veggies are packed with nutrients and vitamins crucial to our bodies. While these should ideally take up at least half of your plate, don’t be afraid to go a little overboard – you can’t ever really have too many veggies. Examples of non-starchy vegetables include, greens, tomatoes, onion, cucumber, cabbage, beets, peppers, cauliflower, carrots, broccoli, sprouts and green beans.
1/4 Starchy Vegetables/Whole Grains/Healthy Fats – this is where we took the liberty of combining the recommendations of many different sources. Some individuals don’t eat or tolerate grains well, so starchy vegetables are a great option. Additionally, healthy fats are actually good for you. They provide additional nutrients and assist the body in the breakdown and absorption of the other foods consumed. Starchy vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats can aid in feelings of satisfaction and satiety. Some examples include, quinoa, avocado, nuts and nut butters, farro, whole wheat pasta/bread, sweet potatoes, seeds, squash, brown rice and couscous.
1/4 Protein – despite the ‘normal’ perception that protein should be the star of the meal, it should only take up about a quarter of your plate. This isn’t to say that proteins are not important, they are crucial to our muscles and keep us feeling full (you’d be surprised where you can find protein – spinach, anyone?). According to the Institute of Medicine, proteins should make up 10 to 35 percent of your daily calorie intake, but not exceed 35 percent. Proteins can be animal-sourced or plant-sourced. Examples include, chicken, tofu, lean beef, lentils, eggs, seitan, pork, turkey and fish/seafood.
These guidelines are not finite or set in stone, but they will give you a helpful base if you’re curious about healthy food portions.
So, what’s on your plate?
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