How to design a healthy dinner plate

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Designing a healthy dinner plate is both an art and a science. The average dinner in North America has improper portions and usually has the focus on the wrong part of the meal. For example, a dinner of spaghetti and meatballs might have some protein and vegetables in the sauce, but the star of this dish is the pasta, which is of course very carb-heavy AND high on the glycemic index.

For another example, let’s take a look at your classic steak and potato dinner. This tends to consist of a huge piece of steak along with an enormous pile of starchy potatoes. Sometimes we have some vegetables on the side, but it seems like the meat and carbs take center stage in this dish. Yes, protein is part of a healthy dinner, and there is nothing wrong with having some carbohydrates in your meal. Yet we tend to overeat protein and carbs at dinner. Vegetables are such an important part of our diet, however they have somehow become an afterthought when it comes to dinnertime. I’m sure you know how important it is to include lots of vegetables in your diet, so try approaching dinner differently by making veggies front and center on your plate.

What your dinner plate should look like


½ your plate should be vegetables, as they are the main event of a healthy dinner plate. Try them roasted, grilled, raw, steamed, or in a salad. Some examples of what you could put here include:

 Spinach

 Kale

 Romaine lettuce

 Broccoli

 Cauliflower

 Carrots

 Onion

 Brussels sprouts

 Asparagus

 Bell peppers

 Beets

 Mushrooms

 Cucumbers

 Eggplant

 Radishes

 Celery

 Artichoke

 Arugula

 Dandelion greens

 Beet greens

 Swiss chard

 Watercress

 Alfalfa sprouts

 Bok choy

 Zucchini


¼ of your plate should consist of grains and/or starches. This may seem strange to people who are used to loading their plates up with carbs (as we all so often do), but a single serving of carbohydrates is actually only the size of your fist! You’ll notice that certain veggies are listed in this section rather than the Vegetables section. These are starchy veggies that are high in carbohydrates, so rather than filling half our plate with these, we want them in our smaller grains/starches section. Here are some examples of what you could put into this section of your plate. Keep in mind that whole grains are encouraged over white, refined grains.

 Quinoa

 Rice

 Buckwheat

 Amaranth

 Whole wheat pasta

 Bulgur wheat

 Rye

 Barley

 Millet

 Potatoes

 Sweet potatoes

 Corn

 Peas

 Pumpkin

 Squash

 Parsnips

 Plantain

 Beans

 Lentils


¼ of your dinner plate should be protein. People often get their protein from animal sources (meat or dairy), but there are also some great plant sources of protein you can try incorporating into your diet. Here are some examples of protein you can use for this quarter of your dinner plate:

 Chicken

 Beef

 Turkey

 Lamb

 Pork

 Veal

 Fish

 Eggs

 Cheese

 Tofu

 Yogurt

 Soy beans

 Nuts

 Seeds

How to use this healthy dinner plate design

Your dinner plate doesn’t need to be separated out into sections like this. Just keep these areas in mind when you’re planning your dinners. For example, you could have a meal of kale salad, chicken breast, and roasted sweet potatoes OR you could combine them all together on your plate for a delicious kale-chicken- sweet potato salad. Eating healthy foods can still be enjoyable! Try to mix up your ingredients each night, since variety in your diet ensures you are getting a broader spectrum of the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients your body needs. For more tips on healthy eating, book a consult with a Naturopathic Doctor today.


Image courtesy of:  Lauren Lester

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