Let’s talk about what I think is one of the most important phrases in nutrition: Everything in moderation…. except for vegetables! Most of us know that eating a variety from this nutritious, colorful food group is one of the keys to better health, yet many of us struggle to get enough in our daily diets. Vegetables are low in calories while also being high in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber. Pair them with the other food groups, and you’ll make one healthy, delicious plate!
To help boost your vegetable intake and your nutrition, I suggest using the plate method and following the “half-plate approach” for making your meal healthier, while keeping things delicious and customized to your palate. Learning how to personalize your plate is so important because it means that you can mix-and-match what you want, while still getting a variety of tastes and textures on your plate. This approach focuses on adding healthy foods you enjoy instead of forcing yourself to eat the ones you don’t prefer. The half-plate approach can put you on the path to creating a unique, person-centered eating style, because let’s face it – when it comes to health and nutrition there is no “one size fits all” solution.
First, you’ll want to start with a reasonable size plate, about 9 inches across. This way it’s not too big but big enough to fill your appetite. Then, pile on the veggies! Make half of your plate full of whatever vegetables you enjoy – carrots, squash, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, asparagus…. the options are endless! The amazing part about vegetables is that they don’t have to be plain and boring. There are so many ways that you can prepare them; roasted, steamed, baked, sautéed, even air fried! You can have them raw on a salad or topped with toasted nuts for some additional flavor. When choosing what to add to them, go for olive oil in place of butter or try fresh or dried herbs and spices versus added salt. Not only will your stomach thank you, but your heart will too!
When it comes to choosing vegetables, go for whatever your heart desires. Fresh veggies, especially those in season are wonderful choices, but frozen vegetables are a great, cost-effective option to have on hand too. Unsure of where to start? Try eating from the rainbow! Eating a variety of different colored vegetables means that you are getting a variety of different micronutrients. Have you ever tried a purple carrot? How about a yellow beet? They say ‘variety is the spice of life’ so why not spice up your vegetable choices! If you’re new to adding vegetables to your plate on a regular basis, just start with a small amount. Even getting a serving of these fiber-filled, nutrient dense morsels will do your body good. You can also try adding in some fruit to make up the first half of your plate. Fruits are also packed full of fiber and a vast array of micronutrients.
On the other half of your plate, divide it between complex carbohydrates and lean proteins to make it the perfect heart healthy marriage. Lean proteins such as chicken, turkey and fish are great options and are lower in saturated fats, while still helping to keep you full. Complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, sweet potatoes, corn, legumes, peas, and whole grains make for a healthy starch option also full of fiber and nutrition. Following these guidelines for building your unique plate can really help improve your overall nutrition. The plate method also supports portion control for weight-loss, keeps carbs consistent for diabetes management and adds fiber to your diet to support heart health.
For inspiration, see one of my favorite plate combinations and try making it yourself at home. Don’t like salmon? Try chicken! Prefer not to have green beans? Try zucchini! The amazing part about customizing your plate is that you can make it just the way you like it.