How Can You Build a Healthier Plate?

When it comes to healthy eating, making sure you are getting the right amount of each food group in your daily diet can be a little tricky. Or at least it was before the USDA released the “MyPlate” graphic in June of 2011. This model of eating is a simple way to make sure that your diet is varied yet balanced at every meal. 

Not familiar with the MyPlate way of eating?
You’ll notice that the plate is divided into four distinct areas: Fruits, Vegetables, Grains and Protein. Next to the plate is a small circle that represents Dairy.  All of these food groups are important parts of your diet, and getting them in the right amounts will help you to achieve optimum health. 

Additionally, the USDA created several easy-to-follow principles as part of the MyPlate campaign:

Balancing Calories:

  • Enjoy your food, but eat less.
  • Avoid oversized portions.

Foods to Increase:

  • Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.

Foods to Reduce:

  • Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread and frozen meals, and choose the foods with lower numbers.
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

Throughout this blog series, we’ll go through each section of your plate and outline why each section is an important part of your diet and how you can use MyPlate while eating out at your favorite restaurants. I’ll leave you with an example of a meal I recently enjoyed at one of my favorite Healthy Dining restaurants, Seasons 52, to demonstrate that you can enjoy a balanced meal while dining out!

The Grilled Portobello Turkey Burger (470 calories, 21 g fat) has an abundance of fresh vegetables, both with the portobello mushrooms and tomatoes topping the burger, as well as the side salad that accompanies it. The protein is lean and an appropriate portion and is on top of a whole wheat bun. Dairy is found on my plate in the form of mozzarella cheese sprinkled on top of my burger. The only thing missing from this plate to make it completely balanced is fruit. Once I noticed that, I ordered a side of fresh fruit off of the “Mini Indulgence” menu for dessert (50 calories, 0 g fat).

This can be done at just about any restaurant, if you know what to look for on the menu. Here are a few more Healthy Dining menu choices for you to try:

Mango Chile Tilapia (550 calories, 22 g fat) from Chili’s: Chile seasoned tilapia topped with a spicy mango vinaigrette and a mango salsa, prepared with house-made pico de gallo and avocado. Served with rice and steamed broccoli. To balance this meal, just add an 8 oz glass of low-fat or non-fat milk, or, have a Greek yogurt for a snack before or after your meal.

Fit Slam (390 calories, 12 g fat) from Denny’s: Egg whites scrambled together with fresh spinach and grape tomatoes, plus two turkey bacon strips, English muffin and a side of fruit.  To make this a balanced plate, just order an 8 oz glass of low-fat or non-fat milk, or, the Strawberry Banana Bliss Smoothie (250 calories, 0 g fat), which features non-fat yogurt and fresh fruit.

Chipotle Turkey Wrap (390 calories, 13 g fat) from Pitza 42: Sliced turkey, Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese, red onion, lettuce, tomato, and chipotle sauce. Request no chipotle mayonnaise, not included in analysis. To make this plate balanced, order a Side Garden Salad (130 calories, 6 g fat) and an apple (100 calories, 0 g fat) on the side.