By the ShopRite Health and Wellness team
You’ve probably heard health and wellness experts talk about the importance of “balancing your plate,” but do you know what it means? And, more importantly, do you know why balancing your plate might be the simplest and most powerful way for you to live a healthier and more fulfilling life? Below, ShopRite’s team of dietitians explain why “balancing your plate” is an easy way to achieve your fitness goals while still enjoying the foods you love.
Q. What does balancing your plate mean?
Having a balanced plate means incorporating various food groups into your meal. For example, instead of eating a plate of spaghetti and meatballs, which consists mainly of grains and protein, considering balancing this meal out with a side salad or incorporate some chopped vegetables into the meatballs.
Q. What are the components of a balanced plate?
A balanced plate includes all the food groups – whole grains, lean protein, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy.
Q. What are some great reasons to balance your plate?
Balancing your plate is a way to stay on a healthy track without getting bogged down in having to focus on consuming certain nutrients or worrying about counting calories or carbs. Plus, when you balance your plate you don’t have to exclude “forbidden” foods from your diet, because everything in moderation is allowable. One day your plate could be filled with broccoli and cauliflower with a Parmesan crusted chicken over chickpea pasta, the next day, you could be enjoying fish tacos topped with fruit salsa, with brown rice and a cabbage slaw. The options become endless when you are mindful of your portion sizes, and you can take advantage of all the choices you have.
Q. Are there any tips for quick, easy and affordable ways to balance your plate?
Balancing your plate doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. Choosing items that are in-season or buying in bulk can cut down on the grocery bill. For example, in the summertime you can indulge in fresh berries, but during the winter when they’re not in season, consider purchasing frozen to stick to budget. For grains, buy in bulk or, if you don’t eat in as often, consider buying from measure-your-own bins to get the exact quantity you need for a recipe. Another great way to find affordable protein options is to consider plant-based sources, such as beans and lentils.
Q. What about mixing and matching texture, flavor and temperature — how does that fit in?
Mixing and matching textures, flavors, and cooking techniques is essential to prevent yourself from getting bored and keep yourself, and your family, interested in meal time. A great way to balance texture and flavor while cutting back on costs is to try a blended burger. Mix lean ground meat or poultry with chopped and sautéed mushrooms for a savory burger that helps to balance the plate by adding in a serving of veggies in the burger.
Q. Where do snacks fit on the balanced plate spectrum?
Snacks are a great option for between meals when you need a little pick-me-up. Just as meals should include several food groups, aim for two-three food groups for snacks too. Consider pairing an apple with peanut butter to get a source of healthy carbohydrates with a protein punch. Or, if you’re on the go, enjoy a serving of trail mix that includes nuts and seeds to keep you full until the next meal.
Q. Do kids/adults have different balanced plate needs?
Kids and adults of every age should aim to have a balanced plate that includes all food groups. The differences in quantity of food may depend on the age, activity level, and gender of the specific individual.
Q. How can you balance your plate while at spring and summer parties and barbeques?
Food tends to be a part of any gathering. Luckily, remembering balance is a perfect way to navigate those nice weather celebrations. If the party is buffet style, choose the items you want the most, but don’t forget to fill your plate with lots of veggie and lean protein-filled dishes. Of course, it’s also okay to take bite-sized portions of more indulgent courses and desserts – (mostly) everything is okay in moderation. Balance is truly the perfect way to have your cake, and eat it too!
Q. How does a balanced plate diet help in the short term and the long term of a person’s diet?
A balanced plate will help keep you on track with your health goals, whatever they may be. Looking to lose weight? For the short term, making sure your plate includes all food groups can assist you in “immediate” weight loss. Long term, sticking to the balanced plate rule will ensure the weight stays off and you can maintain your goal weight without sacrificing the foods you love.
For more information on balancing your plate, stop in the office of your local ShopRite dietitian. To find a dietitian near you, visit ShopRite.com.