The ‘Plate Model’ - An effective way of setting up a healthy balanced meal!

The ‘Plate Model’ - An effective way of setting up a healthy balanced meal!

September 18, 2018

In today's blog, sports dietician Harriet Walker gives us some tips on setting up a balanced meal, eating out, label reading and healthy eating!

It doesn’t matter if you are a vegan, paleo, Mediterranean, IF or whatever, the plate set up outlined in today's blog is a super simple and effective way for anyone wanting to set up a healthy balanced meal and get their portions right. In a few simple steps you will be on your way to filling and nutrient dense meals, no matter who you are or what diet pattern you like to follow! 

The ‘Plate Model’ is an easy and quick way to guarantee you are on track with a healthy plate of food using appropriate portion sizes. Use these steps to set up your plate or a nutritious and satisfying meal!

1. Choose 1-2 cups of non-starchy vegetables as your base (Go for lots of colour)

2. Choose a wholegrain or starchy carb serve (about ½-1 cup) 3. Choose 80-150g of a lean protein, cooked weight

4. Then add a healthy fat source like a tablespoon olive oil, ¼ avocado, 30g fetta, small handful of nuts

5. Use vinegar, yoghurt or herb based dressings to add some flavour and pull the meal together.

In addition to this, here are some additional tips for snacking, label reading and eating out!

1. Choose your snacks - don’t let them choose you. Snacks can add more quality food to your day and keep you away from cravings, but unless you have them planned, there are a lot of less optimal choices you can fall into.

2. Go for unprocessed first! Nuts, seeds, fruit, chopped veggies, eggs and dairy all make for great snacks, are filled with vitamins, minerals, fibre and protein and are lower in energy naturally! When looking at packaged foods go for high fibre.

3. Aim for more than 3g per serve of fibre (that’s the definition of a high fibre choice)

4. Choose protein based snacks. Protein is satisfying, helps maintain stable blood sugar levels and will help keep you full. Boiled eggs, nut and seed bars and natural yoghurt are good examples for protein based snacks. Around 10g of protein for a snack would be good to aim for.

5. Avoid overloading on just refined carbohydrate. Low GI carbohydrates mixed in with healthy fats and protein mean that blood sugar levels won’t rise as drastically. And you won’t be susceptible to that 3pm crash you get after a sugary snack.

6. It’s important to look at the sugar content of packaged foods. One teaspoon is about 4-5g, so check the label and aim for less than 10g per serve as a goal to start with. Do the maths, if the label says a product contains 45g of sugar, would you add 9 tsp sugar to your food? Probably (hopefully) not, so perhaps it’s not the best choices.

7. Less than 120mg of sodium per serve is considered low sodium.

8. Use the 'per 100g' on a nutrition panel to compare products.

9. Remember to look at recommended serve sizes on the nutrition panel. Some products state the nutrition information for 2-3 serves when you might think it is describing the whole thing

10. When eating out, once a week fully enjoy the meal and don't worry! If eating out more often look for words like 'grilled', 'baked', 'steamed' 'poached' and choose tomato based sauces over creamy ones.

11. Always order a side of extra vegetables to fill up on

12. Think about sharing a dessert if you have a sweet tooth.


Harriet Walker is a fully accredited sports dietitian and personal trainer.  She has worked with hundreds of clients, including professional athletes, to help them reach their nutrition, health and training goals.  When Harriet is not working in the nutrition, you will find her competing at a local and national level in a number of sports including surf boat rowing and strong woman competitions.

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