VEGGIE TALK: Why Do We Have To Fill Half Of Our Plate With Vegetables?

by | Jan 15, 2012 | Health Habits, Nutrition Support, Uncategorized

Let’s face it, most Americans eat with their plates filled with starchy foods like the all-time favorite mashed potatoes (or fries!) and of course – meat (favorites being burgers and steaks!) You’ll be surprised if you can see some veggies on the plate, anywhere. This just proves that people are totally unaware of what SHOULD really be on their PLATE as well as the proper serving sizes. Health concerns arose because of the rapid growth in cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity cases all over the US. With this in mind, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) launched “MyPlate”, a tool which shows a picture of a plate divided into four portions (Fruits, Vegetables, Grains and Protein plus Dairy on the side). Well, if you will ask me, it was just a simpler version of the Food Pyramid Guide because it’s all visual and easier to follow. But it lacks a bit of information which I believe is very important to know – it didn’t say how big the plate should be and you have to hunt to find the ideal portion size or percentage of food per category. And these factors ultimately affect our caloric intake per day.

So the question is, are you one of them?  Are you confused and still don’t have a clear picture on how much food portion should really be on your plate? And also how big your plate should be?

Let’s take a minute and reflect on your plate…

  1. 1. What size is it?   9″____     10″ ____    11″____    12″____ in diameter.
  2. Generally, what is the largest serving of food on your plate?
    Starchy Foods (Potatoes, Corn, Peas, Beans) ______   Meat ______   Vegetables ______
  3. Generally, what is the second largest serving of food on your plate?
    Starchy Foods (Potatoes, Corn, Peas, Beans) ______   Meat ______   Vegetables ______
  4. Generally, what is the third largest serving of food on your plate?
    Starchy Foods (Potatoes, Corn, Peas, Beans) ______   Meat ______   Vegetables ______

Like we always say, when it comes to food… SIZE DOES MATTER! Especially when you are watching your weight, or trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Over time, plates are getting bigger and bigger in size. People nowadays use dinner plates which are 10 to 12 inches in diameter, but the American Diabetes Association recommends a 9 inches in diameter only, because the bigger the size, the more calories you get in your meals.

The HALF PORTION should contain Non-Starchy Vegetables (leafy greens, yellow and red veggies), a Quarter Portion for Lean Meat (about the size of a deck of cards), and another Quarter Portion for 2 servings of Starchy Vegetables it could be any of the following: beans, grains, bread or potatoes. A serving of Milk and Fruit should also be included in the diet but it is represented outside the plate.

I’m sure you would want to know “Why should half of your plate be filled with VEGGIES?

The answer is very simple – this is the best and the only way you can achieve “optimum health”. It is patterned after the American Diabetes Association’s “CREATE YOUR PLATE” or also known as the “HEALTHY PLATE METHOD”. This way you significantly reduce the amount of calories you consume in your meals, but would likely be better nourished and definitely feel full afterwards. This approach helps lower your total calories by half. Because NON-STARCHY VEGETABLES are naturally 95% water, most are very low in calories and don’t contain any fats at all, which are known to be beneficial to those aiming to lose weight. People with diabetes and cardiovascular disease will also benefit from this because eating this way, you get a high amount of fiber which helps lower sugar and cholesterol levels in the blood.

VEGETABLES are important and should be included in everyone’s daily diet because it contains key nutrients and beneficial compounds: fiber, vitamins (vitamin A, B-complex, C and K), minerals (potassium, calcium, magnesium, selenium, and iron), and phytochemicals (these are non-nutritive compounds that help prevent free radicals from damaging cells in the body which may lead to chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.

Penn State University conducted a study in 2008, where the results showed the effectiveness of this HALF PLATE diet. Participants who used this method consumed fewer calories without feeling hungry, as compared to those who used plates with smaller portions of vegetables and larger portions of meats and grains. An additional study published in the “Archives of Internal Medicine” in 2007, showed that participants with Type 2 Diabetes who used store-bought portion-control plates shed more pounds and had better blood sugar control even with less medication than those who received usual care in the form of dietary teaching.

Need I say more?
There is no doubt that veggies are good for you, all you have to do is prepare it with less fat and salt. Your options are endless, just use fresh herbs and spices to add flavor in your veggie dish. Be creative and make it colorful – best if you could use all of the five colors (green, orange, purple, white, and red). Then fill half of your 9″ plate with it. Start now, practice the Plate Method wherever you are and you’ll be sure you’re on the right track with your diet!



  1. United States Department of Agriculture: “MyPlate”. accessed December 20, 2011.
  2. American Diabetes Association: “Create Your Plate”. accessed December 20, 2011.
  3. New York Health and Hospitals Corporation – Diabetes Wellness Center: “Portion Control”. accessed December 20, 2011.
  4. University of North Carolina School of Medicine: “The Plate Method”. accessed December 20, 2011.
  5. University of California San Francisco Medical Center – ILD Nutrition Manual: “Plate Method for Healthy Meal Planning”. accessed December 20, 2011.
  6. Nanci Hellmich. “Small Diet Tricks Seem to Work, Says Experts at Obesity Society”; USA Today; accessed December 20, 2011.
  7. Archives of Internal Medicine Vol. 167 No. 12, June 25, 2007: “Portion Control Plate for Weight Loss in Obese Patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus”; Sue D. Pedersen, MD, FRCPC; Jian Kang, MSc; Gregory A. Kline, MD, FRCPC. accessed December 20, 2011.
  8. The American Institute for Cancer Research: “The New American Plate: How It Works, Proportion and Portion Size”. accessed December 20, 2011