Q: I've heard a little bit about the so-called "plate method" to plan meals. Can you tell me more about it?
A: The plate method was designed by dietitians in Sweden several years ago as a simple, effective, meal-planning tool. Initially, it was designed to help people with diabetes manage their meals; however, it is also a great "visual" way for anyone to plan meals. When I think back on how I learned to plan balanced meals for healthy eating, it's not that much different. It focuses on including all of the food groups with portions in mind, without measuring or weighing your food.
To eat according to the plate method, begin with a 9-inch plate. This may be considered to be a small plate by some people's standards, but a 9-inch plate allows for just the right size in food portions (if you don't overflow it or stack the food too high).
This method suggests that your food should be no greater than one-half to 1 inch high on the plate. Your lunch and dinner plate will look the same.
1. Draw an imaginary line through the center of your plate. Next, draw a line to divide one section into two. (Or, to make it easier at first - purchase a stack of disposable three-section divided Styrofoam plates.) Now, imagine drawing two circles above the plate, one in the upper left and one in the upper right corners.
2. Fill one-half of the plate (approximately 1 cup) with nonstarchy (low-carbohydrate) vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, cabbage, cucumbers, peppers, mushrooms, onions, garlic, beets, green beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, celery, carrots, cauliflower, tomatoes, summer squash and/or tomatoes.
3. Fill one-fourth of the plate with a serving of protein. The best choices are lean meats (tenderloin, flank steak, ground round or ground chuck), lean pork (tenderloin or loin), fish (grilled or broiled), skinless poultry (baked or grilled), tofu, low-fat cheese, low-fat cottage cheese, eggs or egg whites or no more than 2 tablespoons of peanut butter or one-third cup nuts.
4. Fill one-fourth of the plate with starchy, carbohydrate-rich foods such as baked or mashed potato, corn, peas, chickpeas, beans, lentils, rice, pasta, sweet potato or bread
5. Remember the two circles on the outside of the plate? The left circle should be a small piece of fruit (similar in size to a tennis ball), a small dish of fresh, frozen, or canned fruit, a small handful of dried fruit, or four ounces of juice.
6. The right circle should be a serving of dairy such as 1 cup of milk or 6 to 8 ounces light yogurt.
This plate method is flexible and allows you to substitute one type of carbohydrate for another. (The foods that provide carbohydrates are starches, fruit and dairy.) For example, if you want two starches at one meal, you would then omit the fruit or dairy to make up for the addition. However, eating according to the original method gives you the most variety and nutrition.
Q: How do I plan breakfast using the plate method?
A: Planning a breakfast is slightly different because you often don't eat as much protein or vegetables for the first meal of the day.
1. Fill one-fourth of the plate with a starchy carbohydrate food like bread, pancakes or cereal.
2. Fill one-fourth of the plate with protein such as egg or egg whites, Canadian bacon, low-fat cheese, low-fat cottage cheese or no more than 2 tablespoons peanut butter.
3. The left circle can be filled as for lunch/dinner.
4. The right circle can be filled as for lunch/dinner.
- Susan Krumm is an Extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper St. She can be reached at 843-7058.