We have all heard that a balanced diet is the best way to ensure you get all the vitamins and minerals you need to be at your best health.  However, how many of us really eat a balanced diet most days of the week?  What is considered a balanced diet?  Now, we could keep track of everything we eat every day of the week and count the number of servings of each food group we eat...or not!  There are diagrams to help us understand what a balanced diet is, but the various shapes and colors used to represent the amounts of each food group you need each day can be confusing to understand. Therefore, to simplify a balanced diet, let's take it one balanced plate at a time...

Now when I say plate, I don't necessarily mean an actual plate, but just the whole of your meal...kind of like a pie chart.  To have a balanced "plate" use the following rules:

1.) Half of your plate should be vegetables, mostly non-starchy vegetables such as leafy greens, green beans, broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower, to name a few.  An average serving per plate is about 1 cup...2 cups if you're eating salad greens.  Starchy vegetables such as potatoes, corn, and peas would go into the starch section of your plate...

2.) One-fourth of your plate is usually some form of starchy food to provide whole grains such as whole-grain bread, rice, pasta, quinoa, or some other type of grain with the typical serving being about 1/2 cup cooked.  Other starches can include corn, peas, potatoes, or squash.

3.) The last one-fourth of your plate should be your protein source such as meat, poultry, seafood, tofu, or beans.  The average serving of protein should be about 3-4 ounces of lean beef or 4-5 ounces of chicken, seafood, beans, or tofu.

This balancing act can be applied to your snacks as well.  For each snack, which should be no more than around 200 calories, you should balance a protein-rich food with a carbohydrate source.  Some examples of balanced snacks include:

Protein                                     AND                                             Carbohydrate

  • 1 cup yogurt                                                                          2 tablespoons granola
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter                                                 1 slice wheat bread
  • 1 ounce cheddar cheese                                                        5-7 wheat crackers
  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese                                                         1/2 cup diced fruit
  • 1/4 cup almonds                                                                    1/2 cup diced fruit
  • 1 ounce string cheese                                          1 cup grapes or 1 medium piece of fruit