The Plate Method

The plate method is a simple way of eating balanced nourishing meals without things getting overcomplicated. No counting calories or tracking macros, simply looking at each meal and breaking into 3 components (protein, non-starchy vegetables and carbohydrate) and eating a proportion of each (¼, ½, ¼, respectively). Well, that’s it, I guess we’re done here… but if you are interested in learning more about this and some examples, keep reading.

Where does it come from?

This method has been used by many different people and groups for different reasons but is frequently used in relation to the management of diabetes. This is because following the plate method can help you to eat a well-proportioned meal which help manage blood sugar levels. But eating a nutritionally balanced meal is not only helpful for those with health conditions it can be great for anyone wanting to nourish their bodies without having to follow anything too complex.

How does it work?

When building yourself a meal imagine your plate has a line running across the middle of it, dividing it into two equal halves. Fill one of those halves with non-starchy vegetables chose a mix from:

  • Asparagus
  • Aubergine
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Courgette
  • Cucumber
  • Greens – kale, spinach, lettuce, swiss chard, spring greens, etc
  • Green Beans
  • Mushrooms
  • Squash
  • Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Any other veg you can think of not on the starchy-veg / carbohydrate list

Next you split the other half of the plate into two equal parts which would be a quarter of the total plate each. One of these gets filled with a protein source:

  • Soy – tofu, tempeh
  • Beans/legumes – lentils, black beans, chickpeas, edamame beans etc
  • Nuts
  • Seitan
  • Lean meats
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Cottage cheese

The last quarter of the plate gets filled with carbohydrate:

  • Whole grains – brown rice, oats, buckwheat, quinoa, wholemeal bread or pasta, etc
  • Starchy vegetables – potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips
  • Beans and legumes
  • Fruit / dried fruit
  • Dairy products

That’s it, your plate is complete.

What does this look like in reality?

So it can be as easy as half your plate being a spinach, tomato, cucumber and olive salad with a quarter of the plate filled with a bean burger and the last quarter with sweet potato wedges. Or maybe a roast consisting of: half a plate of carrots, cabbage and green beans, a quarter of a plate of chicken, and a quarter of a plate of roasted potatoes and parsnips.

Things can get a little more complicated with combined foods, let’s look at a few examples:

Pizza – in this case your pizza probably fits the protein and carbohydrate categories so have that take up half the plate and fill the other half with salad or non-starchy veg.

Stir fry – you can prep the ingredients and aim for half the plate of veg, quarter of noodles or rice and a quarter with some tofu, edamame, prawns, chicken, etc.

Bean chili with rice – your bean chili (made of beans, onion, pepper, celery and tomatoes might cover your protein and some of your non-starchy veg, the rice is your carbohydrate and you could add in some green beans to finish off your half plate of non-starchy vegetables.

The Exceptions?!

The most common meal where the plate method doesn’t seem to work so well is breakfast.

Who wants to top their porridge with cabbage? Not my idea of a tasty way to start the day. When it comes to a sweet breakfast, we can adapt the plate method to fit. Half the plate is your oats and any nuts/seeds which is your protein and carbohydrates and the other half could be fruits which are lower in sugar such as citrus, berries, kiwi, grapefruit, avocado. You could also try a savoury porridge with carrots and cinnamon (think carrot cake vibes) or grate in some courgette. Just search online for savoury porridge or oatmeal recipes and you’ll be amazed at the inspiration you’ll get.

Whilst we want the focus to be on vegetables, fruits are also a great way to get those vitamins and minerals in so as long as blood sugar management isn’t your priority for using the plate method you can sub some of the vegetables for fruit. Please note, that if you do have diabetes or another health condition where blood sugar management is important, please seek advice from a dietician or specialised nutritionist before changing your diet plan.

So that’s it, that’s the plate method. I hope you found this interesting and maybe provided some inspiration for you to see how easy this could be if you want to find a simpler way to eat in a more nutritionally balanced way without restricting or having to calculate how many grams of each food you can eat!

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