The Most Important Half of Your Plate

Dietitians often use the “Healthy Plate,”  combined with portion control, to help people plan healthy meals in order to help control their blood sugar, lower cholesterol and to lose weight.  The healthy plate is similar to the USDA’s “My Plate,” except that half of the plate is just vegetables, instead of fruits and vegetables.  The other half of the plate is divided evenly between lean proteins and high carb (and hopefully high fiber!) foods. Also, corn, potatoes, and peas  count as a starch, not a vegetable.  Beans and legumes count as a protein and a starch.  There you have it- the healthy plate in a nutshell!

How does the healthy plate method help with weight loss and blood sugar control? Vegetables are high in fiber, water, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and very low in calories. As you eat more vegetables, you will naturally start eating less of the high calorie, high carb, high fat foods that contribute to chronic disease and weight gain when consumed in excess.

The main problem of the typical American diet, is that it is full of high fat proteins and highly refined carbs, with very little room for vegetables.   If you are like most Americans, as far as your diet goes, Incorporating more vegetables into your diet is the #1 most important thing you could do to improve your health and your family’s health. 

Since veggies are so important, I decided to share what eating the healthy plate way would look like throughout the day and give you some tips to get started.

Breakfast:

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Breakfast Burritos
  • Toss a handful of spinach into the pan while frying your eggs.
  • Toss in a handful of spinach or kale to your favorite Smoothie Recipe.
  • Make a Veggie Quiche with a potato crust instead of a normal crust.
  • Try Breakfast Succotash
  • Make a Breakfast Burrito: Saute onions, green and red peppers, and a diced sweet potato in olive oil. Heat until soft. Add black beans. Combine until heated through. Serve with avocado, salsa and cheese on corn tortillas.
  • Eating out? Get a veggie omelet!

Lunch: IMG_0303

  • Make a meal out of your salad. Salads are a great way to fill up on vegetables, but they don’t always fill me up. To make a salad a complete meal, add some lean proteins like baked or grilled chicken, a hard boiled egg or roasted chickpeas. Then add a high fiber carb, like cooked quinoa, corn or more beans.  For more filling power, add a sprinkling of sunflower seeds, almonds or avocado.
  • Add leftover steamed or roasted veggies from the night before to your lunch sandwich or wrap
  • Take vegetable soup or stew to work with you.

Snacks: Try Veggies and Hummus or veggies and dip

Dinner:  Veggie should be the main event at dinner time!

  • Start Dinner with a simple side salad
  • Sauté or Roast Fresh Vegetables to go with your dinner.
  • Steam frozen vegetables in the microwave, sprinkle with some cheese or your favorite dressing.
  •  Stir extra frozen veggies into pasta, rice or casseroles before cooking.
  • Scroll down for more inspiration!
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    Salmon, “fried” rice and roasted peppers, onions and zucchini

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    Salmon with steamed broccoli and carrots, and asparagus mixed with rice
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Vegetarian version of the healthy plate featuring roasted potatoes, zucchini and onions and chickpea, spinach and rice stir fry
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Baked chicken with roasted asparagus and carrots

What’s your favorite way to eat vegetables? Please post a comment! I’d love to hear from you!

From My Kitchen: A Breakfast Makeover

One of my favorite meals to have for dinner is breakfast. The problem with a typical breakfast is that it’s usually loaded with extra calories, saturated fat, sugar and cholesterol!  Commercial breakfasts are even worse. Recently I made breakfast for dinner with a few tweaks to make it a little healthier. Keep reading if you would like some tips on how to keep breakfast healthy and delicious!

Tweak #1– Add a green smoothie to supplement the pancakes and eggs with some fruits and veggies. My go-to smoothie recipe is to combine the following.

Simple Green Smoothie (makes 1 tall smoothie or 2 short smoothies)

  • 1 cup frozen tropical fruit blend (Mangoes, pineapple, strawberries, bananas etc)
  • A hefty handful of spinach
  • 1 TB of Flaxseed/Chia seed blend
  • Just enough liquids to make the blender work right. Lately, I’ve been adding  a mix of milk, orange juice and water.

Tweak #2

Veggify your eggs! Whenever I scramble eggs or make an omelet, I load them up with spinach, peppers, onions or even asparagus. For the best flavor, sauté the veggies in a little olive oil, salt and pepper and cook until slightly tender before adding your eggs. Spinach, however, can be added with the eggs, since it wilts very fast.

Veggie Egg Scramble (serves 2)

  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 8 stalks of asparagus, washed and cut into 1 inch pieces.*
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 eggs

Sauté onions and asparagus in olive oil until crisp tender. Whisk eggs and pour into pan, cook until eggs reach desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

*Tip on the asparagus- Break bottom woody part of each stem off before chopping, and discard.

Tweak #3

Change your grains. Whether you are making waffles, pancakes, muffins or even coffee cake, you can replace half the white flour with whole wheat flour. The end result is usually a bit denser, but just as delicious and a lot healthier. For french toast, I use whole wheat bread instead of white bread. For an extra nutritional boost, through in a 1/4 cup of oat bran or ground flaxseed to your recipe.

Tweak #4

Skip the butter and use a heart healthy spread. My personal favorite is Smart Balance flax oil blend. And of course don’t forget pure maple syrup, way better than the fake stuff!  Also, when it comes to pure maple syrup, a little goes a long way. Stick to 1-2TB of syrup, as just 1TB has 50 calories!

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