Those of you who remain “loyal” to your eating plan and workout routine, may have heard of the healthy eating plate… But, those of you who aren’t big fans of a more balanced diet, it’s most probable that you don’t know what this is! How would it seem if you had someone fixing your plates and showing you the exact quantity you should eat for breakfast, midday snack, lunch, and so on and so forth? Wouldn’t that be very helpful and effective? This -and not just this- is somewhat the reason why the USDA Centre for Nutrition Policy and Promotion decided, in 2011, to replace the healthy eating pyramid with the healthy eating plate.
Technically, this plate describes, shortly, which are the food groups that we should consume in our everyday lives and the quantities that we should have on our plate. The assistance of a doctor or a health professional is definitely valuable and irreplaceable, but it’s good to take advantage of all the information that such a source can give us, from the moment that it is based on scientific research, of course.
So, what does the healthy plate include?
1. Protein: This plate informs us about the amount of protein that we should have on our plate – specifically, at least 25% of your plate should consist of protein. However, we have to choose the proper protein source, too. So, choose a variety of different proteins and amino acids, such as chicken, turkey, lean ground meat, eggs, fish, legumes, and starchy vegetables (which are also rich in fiber). Avoid overconsuming red and lunch meat.
As for dairy products, they also contain protein, calcium, and vitamins, and they contribute to the bones’ good health. However, it would be good to not overconsume them and to prefer products that are low-fat and low-sugar.
2. Carbs: A maximum of 25% of your plate should consist of carbs and specifically, complex carbs. Which are they? The so-called “good” carbs. So, prefer whole-wheat products -bread and pasta, whole-grain rice- and foods like barley, wheat, and oats. All these foods are rich in fiber and they help in keeping the blood sugar levels stable.
3. Salad-Vegetables-Fruits: Of course, the biggest part of your plate (50%) or over the 1/3 of the food you consume every day, has to consist of salad, vegetables, and fruits. Not only are they low in calories, rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals, but they will also fill you up and so, you won’t overconsume food for lunch or dinner every day…Make sure to eat at least 5 different kinds of vegetables and 2 fruits in your everyday life. The fruits will become a part of your breakfast, midday or afternoon snack.
4. Fats: It is good to consume fatty foods that contain unsaturated fatty acids, like the avocado, nuts, oils -like olive oil, sunflower oil- or even kinds of butter -like peanut butter or almond butter. Avoid foods that are high in saturated or trans fats.
5. Two more things that are included in the healthy eating plate is water and exercise. Water (or tea), to remind us that we have to stay hydrated throughout the day, and exercise to help us maintain a balanced body weight, without getting so anxious about the calories we’re going to consume. We should drink 6 to 8 glasses of water every day and exercise 3 times a week, medium to high level intensity. Moreover, eating a little more once in a while is not an exaggeration, provided that we generally follow a healthy lifestyle.
I personally like that idea of the healthy eating plate and I would encourage everyone to print it and put it up on the refrigerator, in order to see it every day. You should, of course, know that this is for an average adult, and in no case for kids under 2 years old. Neither kids that are 2 to 5 years old should follow this rule, even though it would be good to gradually teach them which foods they should consume in their everyday lives. For more information, ask a health professional, dietician-nutritionist.
This article was written in collaboration with Kitchen Lab’s Sports Nutritionist Anna Maria Volanaki, MSc, BDA, SENr.