Healthy Eating for Your Active Lifestyle

Nourish Move Thrive

How do you plan healthy meals for yourself and your family? Do you pour over cookbooks, magazines and Pinterest for ideas? Do you count calories or follow a diet with lists of food to include and avoid? Or, is planning too overwhelming, so you wing it? The Balanced Plate removes the stress of meal planning by providing a simple blueprint for healthy meals.

The Balanced Plate


Meal planning made simple

Whether you thrive on creating elaborate meals or make eating decisions more spur of the moment, using the balanced plate can help ensure you are eating healthy meals. A balanced lunch and dinner include choices from all four food groups in Canada’s Food Guide.

  1. Start with a nine-inch plate. Plate sizes have grown over the years and 12-inches are now the norm. Research on the psychology of eating has shown that when food is served on larger plates, portions look smaller and people eat more. Choose a medium-sized plate about the size of a Frisbee; this may be a salad plate rather than a dinner plate. If you choose to use a large plate, fill only the middle with food rather than going to the very edge.
  2. Fill half of your plate with vegetables. A good strategy is to plan meals around the vegetables since they are high in nutrients and low in calories. Try to include more than one type of vegetable so that you do not get tired of your favourites. Two cooked vegetables, a salad or a cooked vegetable paired with a salad are a few options for adding colour and variety to your plate.
  3. Fill one-quarter of your plate with whole grains. Whole grains provide your body with energy and contain fibre to keep you full long after you have eaten. From traditional choices, such as whole grain breads, rice and pasta, to more unique options, such as quinoa, barley, farro or bulgur, you can switch up your whole grains to keep your meals interesting and delicious.
  4. Fill one-quarter of your plate with meat and/or alternatives. The protein in these foods will boost your satiety and help you maintain muscle. Take advantage of the wide array of options for this section of the plate: lean meat, poultry, fish, beans/legumes, eggs, tofu and nuts/nut butters.
  5. Add a glass of milk to complete the meal. You probably already know that milk can help you meet your needs for calcium and vitamin D. Many Canadians also do not get enough potassium or vitamin A, two other nutrients found in milk. Plus, milk provides protein.

Advice for your healthiest diet

“Healthy eating is more than choosing healthy foods. How you combine those foods is also important. It takes a variety of foods to help you feel satisfied, stay healthy and maintain your weight,” says registered dietitian Jaclyn Chute. For example, while raw vegetables are a healthy choice, if they are all you eat for lunch you will likely have low energy and miss out on important nutrients. A more balanced meal could include raw vegetables, pita slices, hummus and a glass of milk. Remember, sometimes the amount of food in one area of your plate needs to be reduced, while another is increased to maintain balance and keep calories in check. For example, consider a meat and veggie stir fry with rice. To create balance you may need to increase the amount of veggies and reduce the amount of rice.

Jaclyn Chute

Registered Dietitian

Jaclyn (BSc, RD) is a registered dietitian and nutrition educator at Alberta Milk. Integrating the science of nutrition with the taste of great food is her passion, whether at work or in her kitchen.

Article posted on February 1, 2014



Active Tip

Dress in layers and where appropriate warm footwear when working out in the winter. Over dressing is better than under dressing as clothes can always be removed.

The Expert Says

“Healthy eating is more than choosing healthy foods. How you combine those foods is also important. It takes a variety of foods to help you feel satisfied, stay healthy and maintain your weight,” says registered dietitian Jaclyn Chute.