When it comes eating healthy, sometimes the information out there can be quite overwhelming. For this reason a simplified guide was developed to address this challenge so as to communicate in the easiest way possible the healthy food choices.
This guide is the healthy eating plate and it does this by illustrating all the major food groups in what should be your dinner plate. This way, it’s much easier to tell which foods you need in your plate and the portions that they should take.
The Healthy Eating Plate Diagram
The healthy eating plate that ‘s recommend is as follows (adapted from Harvard Health’s Healthy Eating Plate):
|Healthy Eating Plate (click to see full resolution)|
Note however that this plate is meant for the general population and not everyone. Special groups of people such as those with certain health conditions have their own special plates which have been recommended by their Doctors and/or Nutritionists/Dietitians.
The healthy eating plate on its own is quite a valuable education tool, but for it to be more effective, it’s important to understand the healthy foods that make up its sections. Without such information, there’s the likelihood that you may make poor food choices even if the portions are right.
So let’s look at the individual groups of food that comprise the plate.
1. Whole Grains
Traditionally, starchy carbohydrates usually take the larger portion in our plates but that’s too much because we need room for other food groups. They should therefore take just a quarter of the plate as the graphic shows.
On the type of carbohydrates, it’s recommended you take whole grains instead of the refined types . You should make sure that at least half of all the grain foods you eat are whole grains.1
Whole grains are grain foods such as wheat and maize from which nothing has been removed. Most of the packaged foods we have in our retail shops are usually refined however whole grains can also be found.
Examples of whole grain foods include: whole meal bread (not to be confused with brown bread), wholegrain wheat flour (e.g for your chapatis), whole grain maize meal (ugali), brown rice, whole grain breakfast cereals etc.
To make sure the foods you buy are whole grain, always make a point of reading the ingredient list that’s found in the food labels.
When it comes to protein, it’s very important you choose healthy proteins. This includes white meat which can be found from poultry, fish and even rabbits and plant proteins from pulses, nuts and some vegetables.
If you’re going to eat red meat make sure to trim out the fat and keep the quantity modest (the size of your palm is a good measure to use). For poultry consider removing the skin as its quite high fat. Also, avoid processed meats like sausages, smokies, bacon, ham etc.
If you can’t afford meat you can use pulses (dry beans, lentils and peas) as good alternative source of protein. Pulses are both readily available and affordable making them an ideal protein source for low income households.
However, to ensure you get the most out you pulses a couple of things can be done which you can find out here.
In our plate vegetables take the largest portion, and that should tell you just how important they are. Vegetables are a rich source of vitamins, minerals and fibre all of which we need on a daily basis.
Some vegetables are also good sources of protein while others are rich in phytonutrients which help protect your body from certain diseases.
There are many type of vegetables that you can incorporate in your plate. To ensure you get the most out of your veggies, try and eat different types of vegetable instead of the usual kale, spinach and cabbage every day.
Indigenous vegetables like amaranth (terere), black nightshade (managu), spider plant (saget) just to mention a few, are particularly nutrient rich and what’s more, can be found in some informal markets.
Fruits take the smallest portion on our plates but that’s because we often forget to include them. Like vegetables, fruits are good sources of vitamins, minerals, fibre and phytonutrients which we need daily.
When it comes to eating fruits, the easiest way to ensure you get the most out of them, is to eat fruits of different colours.
5. Healthy Fats and Oils
Fats and Oils have a bad reputation but the truth of the matter is that our bodies need them too, at least the healthy types. For cooking and preparing foods, it’s recommend that you use plant based oils like olive, canola, corn, safflower, sunflower etc.
And while you’re at it, use more healthy cooking methods that don’t add unnecessary fat and calories to your food. These include steaming, stir-frying, poaching, broiling and grilling, roasting and sautéing.
Other healthy oils can be found in oily fish, nuts and seeds.
You should however avoid or minimize the intake of foods that are high in saturated fats like butter and lard (what about margarine?). Foods with trans-fats should be avoided completely.
|Glasses of Water|
Water is indeed life and therefore it shouldn’t miss a spot in what we take every day. You can take plain water or tea and coffee with little sugar. However avoid taking any caffeinated drinks like tea or coffee immediately after meals as they may interfere with absorption of nutrients from other foods. Also, caffeinated drinks shouldn’t be very strong and should be taken in modest quantities.
Dairy is also an important part of our diet that is often included as part of breakfast. When taking dairy, consider using low fat alternatives like fat-free, low fat milk, skimmed milk and low fat yoghurt.
It’s however recommended to limit milk and other dairy product to no more than one to two servings (1-2 cups) per day as high intake is associated with some chronic diseases.2
Regarding juices, avoid sodas and other sugary drinks as they’re associated with obesity and diabetes. Instead, buy 100% natural fruit juices, however limit them to one small glass a day as they’re also high in sugar.2 Alternatively, you can always make your own fresh fruit juices at home using the whole fruit.
Exercise is not exactly part of the healthy plate but it’s included as a reminder that you need a physically active lifestyle should you want to see the full benefits of health eating.
By eating healthy and exercising regularly you not only stand to maintain a healthy weight but also keep at bay common lifestyle diseases.