You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.
Healthy, balanced meals are made up of non-starchy vegetables, protein (from a plant or animal source), and high quality carbohydrates, which can be starchy vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and/or fruit.
How to Build a Healthy Meal
1. Start by filling half your plate with non-starchy vegetables.
- Fill half your plate with the same non-starchy vegetable, or chose two or more. Your vegetables can be raw, steamed, roasted, grilled, or however you prefer them.
- For a list of which vegetables are non-starchy and which are starchy, click here.
2. Choose protein in an amount that fits on one quarter of your plate.
3. Add a starchy vegetable, legume, whole grain and/or fruit for the final quarter.
Choosing foods in these same proportions, even when you don’t fill up your whole plate with food, will help you feel satisfied and get all the nutrients and fiber you need without taking in more calories than your body can use.
Sometimes the same dish contains both vegetables and protein, such as stir fried chicken with vegetables. It doesn’t matter if the foods on your plate aren’t distributed into even quarters. Just follow the plate guidelines in the same proportions, so that the non-starchy vegetables you eat take up double the amount of space on your plate as your protein does. This usually means you need to add more vegetables to your meal, even when your protein entree contains vegetables.
Some foods can count in more than one section of your plate. For example, legumes and quinoa both count as either protein or starchy vegetables. You can serve quinoa with grilled chicken and count the quinoa as a starchy vegetable; or serve quinoa with fruit and count it as your protein.
Browse the recipe library and use our meal planning template to help you create your own weekly meal plan. Click on the sections of the plate below to see recipes that fit into each of these categories.