Simple & Healthful Meal Planner - Plate Method

  • 3 Minutes Read
  • Dec 3, 2014

If you want a simple meal planner, there is nothing quite as simple as the original Plate Method. This meal planner controls both total carbohydrates at meals as well as calories.

Simple & Healthful Meal Planner - Plate Method

If you want a simple meal planner, there is nothing quite as simple as the original Plate Method. This meal planner controls both total carbohydrates at meals as well as calories. This is accomplished by making non-starchy veggies the star of the show and having starches and fats take a back seat. Protein foods come to the rescue to help one feel satisfied with reduced carb content. Dessert gets a make over- fresh fruit is featured vs. cakes, cookies or candies.

Plate Method Basics

Plate size: 9 inches. Larger plates mean larger servings, more carbs, and more calories. Use a ruler or tape measurer to measure the diameter of your plate (the widest spread).

Half Plate of Non-Starchy Veggies

You can mix two or more types (e.g. salad and asparagus) or just go double on one type. There are many non-starchy veggies to choose from:

Quarter Plate of Starchy Veggies or Whole Grains

Choose whole foods, minimally processed, and keep the skins on if possible.

Starchy Veggies: potatoes, peas, corn, dried beans (e.g. kidney, black, pinto, chickpeas, etc.) and dried peas (e.g. lentils, split peas),

Whole grains: examples include brown rice, whole wheat pasta, quinoa, whole grain bread, buckwheat.

Want gluten-free whole grain ideas? Check out the list from the Whole Grains Council:

Quarter Plate of Protein Food

Protein helps you fill up - meat, fish, seafood, poultry, and wild game. Get the most bang for your calories by choosing lean cuts (trim visible fat), avoid deep-fat fried food, and remove skin from poultry. A quarter of a plate will contain about 3 oz cooked foods, supplying about 21 grams of protein.

Cheese, nuts, and seeds are also good sources of protein, but they are much higher in calories for the same amount of protein grams. For instance, 3 oz of cheddar cheese has about 340 kcal for 21 grams of protein whereas 3 oz of lean pork tenderloin has only 120 kcal for the same amount of protein. 3 oz of peanuts will run you about 560 kcal to obtain 21 grams protein. Read this article about leaner protein choices at MyNetDiary:

Egg and egg whites are also protein foods. Egg yolk contains cholesterol so if your doctor has recommended limiting the number of egg yolks to consume (usually 1 a day is okay), then go up in egg whites (almost all protein and no cholesterol).

Tofu is also a good source of protein - 6 oz provides about 150 kcal and 15 grams protein. Veggie burgers are an easy way to get more soybean protein with fewer calories. And if you can tolerate gluten, Seitan is high in protein but low in calories (it is wheat gluten with most of the carb fraction removed).

One Serving Milk or Yogurt

The idea is to get a healthful carb that is also high in protein. If you choose unsweetened almond or rice beverage, that is just fine but just be aware that it is lower in protein than milk, yogurt, or soy beverage.

1 cup low fat or skim milk, unsweetened or light soy beverage, light or nonfat yogurt, or dairy substitute beverage.

1 cup milk or 1 small container of nonfat Greek or light yogurt is 1 carb choice.

If you prefer water with your meals, you can move this to a snack instead.

One Serving Fresh Fruit

Pick fresh fruit or plain frozen fruit to maximize portion size while keeping calories low.

1 small piece fresh fruit or 1/2 large piece (e.g. banana or grapefruit)

1/2 cup grapes or cut up mixed fruit

1 cup berries, cherries, or melon

1/2 cup drained canned fruit (in its own juice, not syrup).

Dried fruit - the equivalent serving is only 2 tablespoons

Fruit juice - the equivalent serving is only 4 fl oz (1/2 cup or 120 ml)

1 serving of fruit is 1 carb choice.

Total Carbs per Meal

Carbs are limited to 3 carb choices per meal (45 grams total carbs per meal). If you focus on whole foods that are minimally processed, then fiber intake is generous - that is good for overall health but also helps you fill up. To learn more about carb choices and diabetes meal planning, please read this article at MyNetDiary:

Total Calories per Day

The Plate Method provides an average of 1500 kcal per day if you follow the basic guidelines. Choosing high fat starches (e.g. croissants), higher fat cuts of meats, and adding fats (other than what is used to cook the food) and sugars will also add extra calories.

This meal planner works well when you really follow the guidelines. If you don't eat veggies, then you will be hungry.

If you prefer to eat smaller meals, you can easily move part of the meal to a snack, about 2 hours after the meal. This works well for both weight control and for Type 2 diabetes - you are just eating the same amount but spread out.

Plate Method Visuals

Kaiser's Plate Method:

Harvard's Healthy Eating Plate

American Diabetes Association Healthy Plate

And if you want more info about how to use the classic Plate Method, see this link: and this link for Plate Method placemats you can purchase: Idaho Plate Method Handouts:

Enjoy the Plate Method! I think you will find that limiting excess starches and fats in your meals will be an easy way to both control blood glucose and calories.

Diabetes->Carbs & Carb Counting Meal Planning & Diets->Dinner Meal Planning & Diets->Plate Method
Katherine Isacks
Katherine Isacks, MPS, RDN, CDE - Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE)

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