Building a healthy plate and creating balanced meals is made simple with the Healthy Plate Model. This model outlines principles to ensure your meals contain the right portions of different food groups and a healthy mix of vegetables, fruits, carbohydrates, fats and proteins.
This model is also an effective tool in preventing and managing Type 2 diabetes as the recommended food groups are aligned with the dietary recommendations for diabetes.
Make the most of fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables should make up half of your plate when you are dishing up your meal.
The colour of fruits and vegetables reflects their richness in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre. Therefore, it is recommended to choose a variety of vibrantly coloured fruits and vegetables when building your plate. Having a variety of colours on your plate means you are receiving a good range of nutrients.
Eating at least 400g or 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day helps to ensure an adequate daily intake of dietary fibre and reduces the risk of developing NCDs.
You can improve your intake of fruits and vegetables by;
- Including them in every meal
- Eating them raw or fresh as a snack
- Consuming those that are in season
- Making sure to consume a variety of different types
Choose whole grains
When building your meal, carbohydrates should fill ¼ of your plate. Wholegrain varieties of carbohydrates like barley, quinoa, oats, brown rice, wholewheat bread and wholewheat pasta help to keep you feeling fuller for longer. They also have less effect on blood sugar and insulin levels than more refined carbohydrates.
Remember that according to the healthy plate model, potatoes are considered a carbohydrate rather than a vegetable.
Eat enough protein
Fish, poultry, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds are all great protein sources. This should make up the last ¼ of your plate. Try to choose lean protein sources and limit the consumption of processed meat.
Consume small amounts of healthy fats
It is recommended to choose healthy vegetable oils like olive, canola, soy, peanut, flaxseed, sesame, and other plant-based oils that are high in unsaturated fat. Unsaturated fat is the “healthy fat” that helps to reduce ‘bad’ cholesterol and is better for the heart compared to animal fats.
Drink plenty of water
Water should be your first choice of drink to make sure you are getting enough fluid and prevent dehydration. Remember that tea also contains water and can be included in your water consumption for the day provided little to no sugar is added.
Tips for drinking more water:
- Refill your water bottle throughout the day and keep it with you
- Choose water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages
- To make it more appealing, add ice to your water or choose sparkling water
- Have a glass of water with each meal
- To give it more taste, add lemon or other fruit like strawberries and blueberries to your water
Here are 5 healthy Counterweight summer recipes that you can make by following the principles of building a well-balanced plate:
Remember that the principles can be applied to any meal even if a plate is not used. When cooking a mixed meal like a salad or stir-fry, you can use the guidelines by proportioning half of the ingredients to a variety of colourful vegetables and/or fruits, a quarter of the ingredients to whole grains, and a quarter of the ingredients to be lean proteins.