If you are looking to adopt one new healthy habits, we urge you to take this one. Do it as a family. Include the kids. Make it your family mission!
When it comes to healthy and tasty eating for all members of your family: we present to you the healthy plate. Ta-da!
Simple enough to remember. Applicable for all meals. For all eaters. All the time.
We are not counting anything, we are not keeping track and focusing on specifics. We just focus on one meal at a time, 3 components + snacks.
Visualize your plate. Divide it in 3 like you would if you were to serve (rather huge) pieces of pie.
1/3 of the plate = Protein sources
1/3 of the plate = Veggies
1/3 of the plate = Grains products
On the side = Fruits and a glass of water (or milk)
Proteins are the building blocks of your body. They will get you feeling satisfied and full. Think meat (eggs, chicken, pork, etc), meat alternatives (tofu, tempeh, etc.), beans and legumes (chickpeas, red beans, lentils, etc), fish and seafood (salmon, shrimp, sardines, etc), dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.), and nuts (peanut butter, almonds, pecans, etc).
Veggies are sources of fibres and a ton of nutrients. Fibres will help you feel full and stay full longer. Nutrients ensure that your bodily functions are A-OK. Think outside the box here. Be adventurous. Salad, soup, roasted/steamed/raw veggies. Mix the ones your family prefers with the ones that you never pick at the grocery store because you are not sure how to prepare them (Google it!).
Grain products provide carbohydrates and fibres (specially if they are whole grains like whole wheat pasta/bread). We all need carbs to live as our brain and muscles are using it for energy. We don’t need added refined sugars (like syrups and white sugar, or super transformed food like breakfast cereals, granola bars and juice – but that is another story). We do need complex carbohydrates as found in grain products. Think bread/pita/tortilla/naan, rice, pasta, barley, quinoa and all these other fancy grains that are available in bulk at the grocery store.
Fruits are simply delicious. Isn’t that a sufficient reason to eat them? OK, they also provide nutrients, antioxidants, and fibres. They make for a nice snack or dessert, and they bring colour and flavour to your meal.
A glass of water (or milk).
Based on your preference, but water should be your main drink throughout the day. That is not to say you cannot enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning and the occasional glass of wine with dinner!
Healthy plate = 1/3 proteins + 1/3 veggies + 1/3 grains, with fruits + water
What about breakfast? And snacks?
Breakfast as we know it is rather carb-rich (and sometimes refined sugar-rich). Here are ideas to balance it out:
- toasted english muffin + peanut butter + banana slices
- tortilla + scramble eggs + slices of tomatoes
- granola with nuts + yogurt + apple
- pancakes + glass of milk + berries
- smoothie (milk + veggies & fruits) + nuts
- grilled cheese sandwich + cucumber
- left-overs from dinner (Maude’s favourite!)
And for snacks, you can aim to get at least 2 out of the 3 components of the healthy plate:
- muffin + fruit
- crackers + cheese
- yogurt + fruits
- crudités + dip
- toast + hummus
Apply the healthy plate even for breakfast and snacks.
Where do pleasure foods go?
For Maude it’s chips, sour candies, and dark chocolate with the caramel pieces inside (oh so delicious).
For Marie it’s chocolate chip cookies, and fancy cheese.
For you, is it a piece of cake? Bacon? Cupcakes? Pizza?
YUP. You can eat those as part of your healthy plate… And not feel guilty about it.
(Oh, and we actually don’t believe in guilty pleasure).
We aim to eat this healthy plate for most of our meals, most days.
Life is life, and it is more than okay to enjoy pleasure foods that are not making up the components of the healthy plate. Picture the healthy plate as your foundation, and these pleasure food sometimes complete your meal as you celebrate with friends, share a traditions with family or simply because.
So…that should be my new habit? Really?
Eh, we told you. No over-the-top goals. We want something that is easy to remember, apply and explain.
If we aim to eat this healthy plate for most of our meals, most days, it would actually be a big win. We are not talking extreme dieting, cutting down calories and starving ourselves.
We are looking for actions that you can adopt for the rest of your life. Actions that will become engrained in your routine and become second nature. Habits that will eventually not require that much efforts, and will bring benefits to you and your family: balanced meals, variety of food, portion control, more energy, less cravings, no banned food.
Adopting the healthy plate is feasible and realistic for your family. Steady nutrition changes will become long term habits with long term benefits.
Where do we go from there?
Not a fan of veggies?
You’ve banned bread/potatoes/pasta…?
Oops, we never eat proteins it seems like!
It’s time to shake your old habits and get into a new mindset.
You can do this. All of your family can do it. It’s time to lead by example, rally the troops and make it happen… one meal at a time.
Here is the strategy: start. with. one. meal.
Maybe you’re the type who prefers to plan and get used to the idea. Select the best conditions: a weekend, when your fridge is full, when you have helpers to cook, when you have time to breathe.
Or maybe you jump right into it and try it out on a Monday night? No dilly-dallying.
Yes but… my kids are picky eaters
We see it: you’ve got 5-6 go-to-meals the kids won’t complain when it’s on their plate. Their favourites. The ones that aren’t necessarily what you’d hope for them to eat but you figure the peace of mind is TOTALLY worth it. How do you bring the idea of the healthy plate without generating a hunger strike?
1 – The collective effort. You put them in charge. Depending on their age, your kids (and partner!) can select either the protein source they want to eat, the side veggies, the fruit dessert, or even the recipe they would enjoy eating that week. It’s empowering as you trust them, they are more likely to eat it (or try a bite) if they had a say in the menu, and it can be a shared task between all members of your family.
2 – The silent chef. You select one of their favourite meals, and slightly modify it so you get a healthy plate. Perhaps it is to add a side of veggies (think side salad, appetizer soup, platter of crudités + dip), or some grains (a slice of bread, grilled pita or cooked riced), or to make sure there is a protein source as the main component of your meal. Choosing their favourite meals and adding side components is a good intro as there is an element of known, and it can be reassuring for some eaters.
Whatever the strategy you want to employ with your family, give it a try. Today. Or tomorrow. Don’t delay. Small changes can lead to big results.
And then came the question period
With whoever notices or wonders what the heck this green thing is, start the dialogue. Don’t lie
. Explain why the change and name the 3 components of your healthy dinner.
For young kids, you can ask them if they can recognize what is the veggie? Or make them list potential ideas for grains.
For teenagers and adults, specially if they participated in the menu elaboration, share your feedback. Does it taste good? Do the components work well together? If it is a hit (or good enough meal!) write it down. Slowly build your bank of meal ideas.
Make it a family matter. All family members can adopt a healthy plate and participate in the elaboration of the weekly menu.
Oh, and remember…
Adopt the golden rule
while you’re at it: let them serve themselves, don’t force them to finish their plate, and try to avoid all comments on What, How, and If they decide to eat 1, 2 or any component of their healthy plate.
You take a deep breathe, remind yourself they won’t let themselves die of hunger and you focus on your own plate. You did your duties as a parent, now enjoy your meal.
Everyone is in charge of their appetite. Challenge yourself to let it go and enjoy yourself during family dinners.
Dietary Reference Intakes
Children and Healthy Eating