Simple Guide: How to Build Your Perfect Plate

Find out what and how much of each food group to include to make your plate perfect.

Healthy nutrition comes down to eating a balance of wholesome and nutrient-rich foods. Picturing a balanced plate can be an easy guide to make sure you’re getting that variety to keep you healthy and thriving. Find out what and how much of each food group to include to make your plate perfect.

Why build your perfect plate?

A healthy eating routine is important at any age. Every meal or snack time provides an opportunity to improve your health. It's the small choices that add up over time!

For healthy nutrition, focus on a balance of the wholesome stuff. A good combination of the macronutrients: fat, carbs, and protein plus lots of nutritious fruits and vegetables. The more a food resembles the way it's found in nature, the better it is for your body. 

When it comes to portions, keep in mind that they are becoming bigger these days. In fact over the last 20 years, they’ve increased by 20-60% (1). That’s a lot of extra, and even if it's healthy, it adds up! So how can you build a healthy plate with good portions?

How to build a balanced plate

Now keep in mind that this is an average recommendation. You may need more or less depending on your age, sex, height, weight, and level of physical activity. Women may also need more if they are breastfeeding or pregnant. Plus some days you may be more hungry than others and it's important to listen to your body. If you work out a lot - you also require more energy. With that said, go grab a medium sized plate, up to about 10 inches (or 25cm) in diameter to get started. 

Vegetable or fruits

Start by filling half of your plate with vegetables (spinach, broccoli, zucchini, green beans, asparagus) or whole fruits (berries, apple, banana, grapes, melon). 

Fruits and vegetables are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals which keep your body in optimum shape, such as strong bones, healthy skin and eyes. They are also rich in fiber which can keep you satisfied and improve your digestive wellness (2). 

Whole carbohydrates

Then make a quarter of your plate wholesome carbs (brown rice, whole grain bread, whole grain pasta). Aim for at least half of them to be whole grain. 

Whole grains contain the entire grain such as with whole wheat flour, oatmeal, brown rice, and whole grain cornmeal. Refined grains on the other hand have had the brain and germ removed. It makes for a more self stable product but removes fiber, iron, and B vitamins which help with heart health and energy levels (3). 

Lean proteins

Then fill the last quarter with lean protein (beans, tofu, fish, chicken, or eggs). Aim for meat or poultry options that are leaner and include lots of plant-based protein such as beans, peas, lentils, seeds, and nuts. 

Protein is important for body health and maintenance. Incorporating a variety of protein foods can help you get protein, healthy fats, fiber (for plant-based), and vitamin D which is good for mental health and bone strength. 

Healthy fats

Next, add a portion of healthy fat (avocado, olives, oil, nuts). As a rule of “thumb”, men should aim for two thumb-sized portions and women for one thumb-sized portion per meal.

Healthy fats boost heart, brain, and skin health. They also aid in reducing inflammation which has been linked with chronic disease (4). 

Extra for activity 

If you live an active lifestyle, you may need bigger portions or snacks. This can help fuel your muscles and aid in repair. There are some examples: 

  • Fruit and unsweetened yogurt 
  • Whole grain crackers, vegetable crudite and cottage cheese
  • Peanut butter on whole wheat bread
  • Small handful of nuts and berries 

Learn more specifics here: Fit Fuel: What To Eat Before And After A Workout.

Everyone's needs are different

Everyone is different and has different needs when it comes to nutrition. On your health journey, you may prefer to, or need to, eat more or less on certain days. What’s important though is to generally focus on balanced, whole foods for better health and long lasting health.

Want to find a plan tailored to your needs? Download Lifesum to guide you.. 

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All of the content and media on Lifesum is created and published for information purposes only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Users should always consult with a doctor or other health care professional for medical advice. If you have or think you are at risk of developing an eating disorder, do not use the Lifesum app and seek immediate medical help.