healthy eating plate

Are you confused after reading hundreds of articles by nutritionists who recommend you to eat exactly 1200 calories a day? Are you looking for a simpler solution that can help you choose the healthiest food in an easier and a better way? Well, you don’t have to look any further! This article is for you.

This article is about the very popular “healthy eating plate” developed by experts at the Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health.

After reading this article, you’ll :-

  1. Be able to choose the best available food in the market
  2. Be self sufficient to plan every meal in the most healthiest way without spending time calculating calories!
  3. Be actively staying away from being overweight, obesity, cancers and non-communicable diseases like diabetes and hypertension
  4. Lead a healthy and productive life

Interested? Let’s do this by answering some simple questions. So here we go…

What is Healthy Eating Plate?

Healthy Eating Plate is a conceptual plate created by a team of experts at the Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School. The plate shows the proportions in which various nutrients should be included in every meal.

Kindly see the image above to better understand the idea of the Healthy Eating Plate.

 

The Healthy Eating Plate helps consumers make the healthiest choices—whole grains, a colorful variety of vegetables, and a healthy selection of proteins from fish, poultry, nuts, or pulses.

The concept of the Healthy Eating Plate is based entirely on science. Here is a rough work-up of the plate :-

Whole Grains : One quarter of the plate should be whole grains. The choice of the whole grains is according to your taste and geographical location. Give more emphasis on eating whole grains instead of refined and polished grains. Examples of whole grain food includes whole-wheat bread, brown rice, whole-grain pasta. Limit the use of white rice and white bread that are more popular in the Indian markets nowadays.

Fats : Denoted by a small bottle of oil on the top left of the Healthy Plate. Choosing healthy cooking oils like the Olive oil and Canola oil (mono-unsaturated fatty acid rich oils) rather than butter, vanaspathi etc. Trans fats like the ones found in chips, fries, should be totally avoided.

ALSO READ : A Guide on choosing the Healthy Fats

Healthy Proteins : Healthy proteins occupies another quarter of the Healthy Eating Plate. Choose better sources of proteins like pulses, nuts, fish, meat in the right amount. Avoid red and processed meat. Fried meat items (like KFC) and fried fish (popular in South India) should also be avoided. Limit the use of red meat and cheese.

Vegetables : Vegetables occupies the most space in the plate. The more and greater the variety of vegetables you eat, the better. Choose more of fibre rich leafy greens. Raw or steamed vegetables can be eaten as such or as salads after springing a few drops of olive oil. Potato and French Fries don’t even count as vegetable part of the plate.

Fruits : Fruits of all colours should be made a regular part of every meal that you eat. All fruits are rich in several vitamins, anti-oxidants, fibres and amino acids. Prefer eating fresh and seasonal fruits. Consumption of fruit juice should be limited to one small glass per day.

ALSO READ : Health benefits of Kiwi fruit &

Can Diabetic persons eat Fruits safely?

Water : Water is an essential part of any meal that you eat. To learn more about the right amount of water to be taken every day, click here.

The Healthy Eating Plate recommends the use of pure water after every meal. Avoid carbonated drinks (sodas) and sugar rich water. Other beverages (like tea and coffee with less sugar) are also fine. But, the use of milk and dairy products should be limited. The Harvard experts recommends to limit milk and dairy products by one to two servings a day. This is because, researches have found out that these products have little benefits and more harm if taken in excess. Moderate  consumption is beneficial for children and not necessarily for adults.

ALSO READ : Health benefits of drinking one glass of water on empty stomach.

At the bottom left of the plate, you’ll be able to see a “running man” which gives emphasis on physical activity.

Are the relative sizes of the Healthy Eating Plate sections based on calories or volume?

The relative sizes of the sections simply shows the relative proportions of each of the food groups to be included on a healthy plate. They are not based on specific calorie amounts, and they are not meant to prescribe a certain number of calories or servings per day, since these numbers vary from person to person. The aim of the Healthy Eating Plate is to illustrate one way to put together a healthy meal that fits within the recommended guidelines.

This plate gives more importance on the quality of food rather than the quantity. The whole grains, vegetables, healthy proteins, fruits and oils all yield carbohydrates after digestion. It doesn’t matter how much carbohydrates you are eating (high or low). What really matters is the type of carbohydrates that you’re eating. This is simply because there are some good sources of carbohydrates (as shown in the plate) as well as the bad sources of carbohydrates (like french fries, sugary drinks, potatoes etc).

Healthy Eating Plate for India

Indians are very fond of cereals and pulses. These two food groups makes up the bulk of majority of an average Indian’s diet. There have been many articles in the internet and in many magazines on how much carbohydrates and fats an Indian should eat daily. The idea of “low-carbs” diet have always been confusing. The good news is that the Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate can easily be made a part of the Indian diet plan too. Let’s see how to do that by taking some examples of the popular Indian foods.

Rice with Curry : Switch white or refined rice with brown rice. Add the relative amount of vegetables required in the form of curries and salads. Don’t forget to include pulses to fulfil the “healthy proteins” component of the plate. Proteins can also be obtained from fish or meat curry, or even an egg. A small cup of sliced apple or orange or grapes or any seasonal fruit along with this meal will make it perfect.

Roti (chapathi) with Dal : Three to four rotis made of whole wheat (not white refined wheat) along with Dal curry (for proteins) or fish curry (again proteins) can be made a routine meal. Add a slice of fruits too.

ALSO READ : The healthiest Balanced Indian Diet

egg with whole wheat bread
Scrambled egg with whole wheat bread and a slice of tomato. Image credit – Devika

I’ll write more on some other healthy Indian foods that you can easily prepare in the next few weeks.

Why You should follow the Healthy Eating Plate?

Indians do not give much importance to fruits and vegetables in their diet. Almost all Indian food items are designed with either very little or no vegetables or an excess of fruits!

The following are the benefits of strictly adopting the idea of the Healthy Eating Plate :

  • Stay away from cardiovascular diseases like stroke and heart attacks by using heart and cholesterol friendly oils.
  • Stay away from Diabetes by eating more of high quality good sources of carbohydrates (whole grains, healthy proteins, vegetables & fruits) that have a favourable effect on the glucose metabolism in the human body.
  • Reduce the mortality risks if you’re already a heart disease patient.
  • Maintain normal body weight and prevent obesity.
  • Prevent cancers of the intestines, stomach and colon.
  • You’ll not feel tired after having a meal!
  • Get long lasting energy all round the clock.
  • You don’t have to calculate the calorie content of each food item that you’re eating. All persons have different body weight and their food requirements varies depending on many factors like gender, age, climate etc. By following this method, all you need to do is make each and every one of your major meal comparable to the Healthy Eating Plate. Care must be taken not to omit any minor details elaborated above. And please do not add any new items to the plate to make it a big one.

 

At the end of the Meal

Think of the Healthy Eating Plate as a guide to plan a healthy, balanced meal. Always picturize the plate while serving on a dinner plate ; or packing your kid’s lunch box. Try pasting a copy of the Healthy Eating Plate on the kitchen door or refrigerator at home. It might help you to get a visual guide to portioning out a healthy plate. Try out the concept of the Healthy Eating Plate for a few weeks and let me know how it went for you. Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Follow me on Twitter @BeingADoctor 

Dr Prasoon

Dr Prasoon

Author at BeingTheDoctor
Dr Prasoon, founder of BeingTheDoctor is a qualified medical practitioner who finds time to write articles on "health" and his "clinical experiences". He is currently engaged in providing primary health care services in rural India. Learn more in the "about" page.
Dr Prasoon
The Indian version of Healthy Eating Plate
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2 thoughts on “The Indian version of Healthy Eating Plate

  • July 26, 2016 at 7:53 pm
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    A word about fruits ,even though contains tons of micro nutrients also is rich in sugars. Atleast most are. So for a growing child like the author said is good and may get away with slight excess, grownups need restriction. It’s difficult to accept restrictions for fruits but please be mindful. And always include good and regular exercise routines.

    Best,
    Dr Azeem Davul

    Reply

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