“I want to eat healthy and balanced meals, but where do I start?”
Have you ever asked yourself this question and then answered, “I have no idea how to eat healthy or where to begin!”
Eating healthy meals does not have to be difficult. With a few simple guidelines and ingredients, you’ll be on your way to creating your own healthy and most importantly, tasty meal!
Historically, most Americans have loosely guided their food choices based on government guidance from the “Food Pyramid.” Those guidelines still exist but are now referred to as “My Plate.” However, for those choosing a plant-based diet there is another version to guide your healthy meal creations and that is “The Power Plate”, created by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
The Power Plate
The Power Plate consists of four food groups; fruit, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. In general, The Power Plate recommends filling your plate with a colorful variety of each of the groups, at every meal. This is the simple secret that will teach you how to eat healthy.
We all have different dietary needs, so the amount on each plate will vary. But if you need a bit more guidance, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, outlines serving sizes for an average adult in their Vegetarian Starter Kit (see page 8). It is always a good idea to check with your healthcare provider before starting a major diet change. But, adding more vegetables to your diet is really a no-brainer!
Fruits – 3 or more servings per day
Fruits are rich in fiber, vitamin C and beta-carotene. Fruits high in vitamin C such as citrus, melons and strawberries should be included at least once per day. Whole fruit is a better choice than juice, which does not have very much fiber. One serving size = 1 medium piece of fruit, 1/2c cooked fruit or 4 ounces of juice
Legumes – 2 or more servings per day
Learn about these protein powerhouses on our blog; Power to the Pulses. Legumes are good sources of fiber, protein, iron, calcium, zinc and B vitamins. This group also includes chickpeas, soymilk, tempeh and tofu. One serving size = ½ cup cooked beans, 4 ounces tofu or tempeh, 8 ounces soymilk
Whole Grains – 5 or more servings per day
Grains are rich in fiber and other complex carbohydrates, as well as protein, B vitamins and zinc. Creating a meal with the focus being a filling grain, is a great base for your plate. Rice, pasta, corn, millet, barley, quinoa, bulgur, buckwheat groats and tortillas are part of this category. One serving size = 1 slice of bread, ½ c hot cereal
Vegetables – 4 or more servings per day
Vegetables are chalked full of super powered nutrients; they provide vitamin C, riboflavin, iron, calcium, fiber and many more. Dark leafy green veggies such as kale, collards, mustard, turnip greens, bok choy and broccoli are especially good sources of these nutrients. One serving size = 1 cup raw vegetables, ½ c cooked vegetables.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine says the serving numbers are suggestions only. Eat a variety of plant food throughout the day! The Committee also recommends eating food fortified with vitamin B12 or taking a supplement. Find all of their guidelines, a shopping list and recipes here.
You can find loads of recipes here, from the Physicians Committee. I love these recipes because they actually show how much protein, vitamins, fiber, and other nutrients, you get from each serving. A few worth trying on your new plant-based journey:
- Lentil Cucumber Salad
- 10 Minute Mixed Veggie Stir Fry
- Yes You Can, Black Bean Chili
- Sunshine Chickpea Burgers
- No Bake Brownie Bites
If you are new to plant-based eating, go slow, try a couple meals a week. Stock your pantry and refrigerator with ingredients that will make it easy for you to put together plant-based meals. The easier you make it for yourself, the more likely you are to embrace your new lifestyle!
Melita’s Table is here to support and encourage you, never to judge. We support you, wherever you may be on the path to greater health. We believe in you and we know you can do this!
Cheers to a healthy new YOU!