Diabetes Forecast

The Healthy Living Magazine

3 Tips for Using the Plate Method at Home

Smart ways to plan meals, shop for healthy groceries, and right-size your portions

By Lara Hamilton, RD, CDE
Learn More about Eat Well America


It's easy to use the Diabetes Plate Method at home. Here are three "store to stomach" tips for healthy eating:

Step 1: Plan Your Meals for the Week

Planning your meals for the week will help you be more successful with healthy eating. Select recipes you'd like to make and put together a grocery list. See our plate ideas for full-meal deals and shopping lists. Also, check out these cookbooks and resources that offer healthful recipes and meal planning ideas.

Step 2: Shop Smart

Stock your home with nutritious foods that will help you fill the sections of the plate. If the veggies fill only the baby seat area in your grocery cart, will that be enough to fill your plate? Probably not. In fact, to fill half your plate with nonstarchy vegetables for most meals, think about filling more of your grocery cart, bag, or basket with vegetables. Focus on making selections in the produce and frozen vegetable sections. Reduced-sodium and no-salt-added canned vegetables are also good choices.

For the other foods on your plate, try to shop the perimeter of the store, where the fresh, whole food items such as fruits, vegetables, yogurt, and meats are located. Limit your time in the aisles, which tend to contain processed foods with a lot of added sugar, unhealthy fat, and sodium. The whole grain, bean, canned fish, and nut sections of the store are also good places to shop.

>> Get a basic, healthy grocery list that will help you put together healthy meals.

Step 3: Right-Size Your Portions

Here are a few tips to remember about serving healthful portions of food.

Nonstarchy Vegetables
Enjoy a colorful variety of vegetables to brighten your plate. With 1/2 of your plate filled with vegetables, your options are endless for delicious combinations. If you are still hungry after you finish the food on your plate, have a salad with a low-calorie dressing to satisfy your appetite and get an extra serving or two of vegetables at the same time.

Grain/Starchy Foods
Fill about 1/4 of your plate with grains or starchy foods. This is usually about 3/4 to 1 cup of a starchy food. If you pile the food too high in this section, you may get more calories and carbohydrate than you need.

Protein Foods
Fill about 1/4 of your plate should be filled with protein foods. That's equal to 3 to 4 oz of cooked chicken or pork, roughly the size of a deck of cards.

Combination Foods
With a casserole or soup that contains grains or starchy foods, about 1 cup will count as the grain/starch and the protein sections of the plate.

More Tips for Portion Control

  • There are various measuring, dishware, and container products that help with portion control. Plates and lunch containers with divided sections that can be used for the various food groups.
  • Plastic baggies can also help with keeping portion sizes in check.
  • Learn what sensible portions look like by using measuring cups to gauge right-size portions. For example, use a measuring cup to scoop out 1/3 cup cooked brown rice or 1/2 cup whole wheat pasta to see what it looks like on your plate.

>> See how to use the plate when you dine out.