The only tip you need to eat healthy at (almost) every meal
We know restriction and dieting don’t work…so what does? 👀
I am absolutely 100% guilty of writing headlines like this all the time. “Eating This ONE THING Will Do X”—lower blood sugar, risk of disease, reduce inflammation…you get the picture. But truthfully, there isn’t a one easy fix for everything. Sure, certain foods can benefit our bodies in positive ways—like how tart cherry juice benefits inflammation and muscle recovery, or how avocados can positively benefit our cholesterol numbers. But if you’re aiming for a varied diet with all kinds of plants, lean proteins, and healthy fats, everything will pretty much even out.
But that sounds so vague, doesn’t it? Even though we desperately want to be the kind of people that are constantly eating a variety of foods in our diets, our culture just doesn’t make it easy to execute. Fast food chains are readily available yet don’t offer a ton of variety in terms of fruits and vegetables. Healthy foods at the grocery store have higher price tags compared to ultra-processed, shelf-stable foods. And when we’re at a restaurant and our sandwich or burger is served with a choice of salad or fries, how can we say no to that golden, crunchy deliciousness?
I know I’m preaching to the choir here, so that’s why I figured I would give in to our “quick fix” tendencies with one simple tip I like to follow to keep my meals healthy. And yes, it’s not all of my meals—I would say I follow that 80/20 rule pretty hard. Because sometimes our meals aren’t always meant to be healthy, and a Wendy’s chicken nugget dipped in a Frosty just hits the spot. (Don’t knock it til you try it.)
This nifty tip came from a registered dietitian I worked with last year. You see, my father has been managing a type 2 diabetes diagnosis for almost 23 years now. While I’ve never had a doctor tell me I’m prediabetic or anything, I wanted to learn how to be more conscious of my blood sugar levels and how to take care of my health for the long term. So even though I talk to dietitians all the time for work, I wanted to work with one who could help me develop a nutrition plan for my personal health.
I divide my plate into sections.
Thankfully, her plan was simple and massively easy to follow. Because my concern was blood sugar management, she walked me through the Diabetes Plate Method—and it’s super simple. Here’s what it looks like.
As you can see from the graphic, the plate is split up into sections. The first is to fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables. While vegetables are still considered a source of carbohydrates ( I know, not what you normally hear from diet culture, but it’s true), most are not considered “starchy” because they are lower in carbs but bursting with all of those micronutrients that benefit our body. Plus, they are filling thanks to their high-fiber content.
Second, fill a quarter of your plate with protein foods. This counts for both animal and plant-based protein sources, so beans and legumes would fit in this category (even if they are higher in starch) as well as plant-based meats. The American Diabetes Association also lists cheese here as well, given that dairy is actually a great source of protein as well as calcium (yay, healthier aging bones!)
The last quarter of your plate is for carbohydrate foods. This is where those higher-starchy vegetables come in (potatoes, squash, peas) as well as whole grains. Again, beans and legumes can fit in this category, as well as dairy products like milk and yogurt (due to lactose, a natural sugar in dairy).
Fruit is also in this category…but let’s talk about it.
Wait…is fruit a carb?
I feel like fruit gets a bad rep, and I get it—it’s higher in carbohydrates and sugars compared to vegetables. However, fruits are a great source of micronutrients and antioxidants just like vegetables and should be happily welcome into your eating plan.
Now I wanted to mention that the Diabetes Plate Method does put fruits in the carbohydrate category for diabetics to easily manage blood sugar. But I do think it’s important to note that fruit actually gets its own category in the MyPlate method, which is through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. While you can absolutely fill half of your plate with non-starchy veggies, MyPlate says you cab sub in half for fruit instead, if you wish.
However, because my mission is to manage my blood sugars (and I secretly love vegetables), I’m happy to fill my plate with non-starchy veggies. And when it comes to fruit, I typically choose to eat smaller amounts either with my breakfast, topped on my dessert, tossed it in a salad, or sometimes I just eat it as a snack (apple with peanut butter is my favorite). Needless to say, I’m not too worried about it.
Remember, do what works for you.
I’m a big advocate for taking back your power when it comes to your health. While this method works well for me, you should find what works well for you. I highly recommend chatting with a registered dietitian (RD or RDN) who can give you specific pointers for your health. This plate method works well for me because of the health concerns I have (i.e. blood sugar), so talk to someone who will take your concerns into account.
Some plates don’t always follow the exact method—like a breakfast salad. Yep, you read that right. This week you should absolutely make yourself a breakfast salad.
If you’ve been following along with our monthly meal plan (a paid Forkful feature that has become a major benefit in my life), you may have noticed that breakfasts this week featured this Eggs & Green Bowl—aka, a breakfast salad. Before you wince and move on, just hear me out.
This salad is just a whole different way of enjoying eggs in the morning. It sort of feels like making a potato hash, but it’s heavier on the kale than the potato. If you toss together the greens with your onion and roasted potato in the morning, then add your two fried eggs on top, it doesn’t really feel like a salad. It just feels like a warm breakfast bowl.
Here are my breakfast salad tips I recommend:
Roast your potatoes in advance. The recipe calls for roasted sweet potato or cauliflower, but I just used yellow potatoes that I bought at the farmer’s market last Sunday. I cubed them, tossed them in olive oil with salt and pepper, and roasted them on a sheet pan at 400 degrees for 35 minutes. That way when the morning rolls around, the potatoes are in the fridge, cooked and ready to go.
Toss the greens in the skillet. The recipe will tell you to toss your greens in the skillet with your onions and roasted potatoes. This is especially important if you use a tougher leafy green, like kale.
Hot sauce? Why not! I liked adding hot sauce to mine to give it a little something something.