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 What’s On Your Plate?

With so many mixed messages around concerning nutrition and health, it can be tricky to work out just what makes a ‘balanced meal’. The good news is there’s a simple formula you can use to help give your family the balance they need for good nutrition. It’s called ‘1, 2, 3’ and it applies principles of the ‘plate model’ of healthy eating developed by nutritionists.

First, stock your kitchen with the right ingredients 
The first step in creating balanced meals is to have the right ingredients in your fridge, freezer and pantry.

·         Protein foods such as lean meat, skinless chicken, fish, seafood and eggs. Vegetarian options for protein food include tofu and legumes (such as lentils, kidney beans and chickpeas). Protein is the building block for all cells in your body.

·         Carbohydrate foods such as rice, pasta, bread, cereals, noodles and kumura. Carbohydrates provide you with the energy that your brain and muscles need to work properly. Where possible, choose wholemeal or wholegrain varieties for extra fibre.

·         Vegetables include fresh, frozen or canned vegetables. Vegetables provide a whole range of nutrients like dietary fibre and folate, while also adding colour, flavour and texture to your meals. Imagine the foods on your dinner plate divided into six portions. Ideally, one portion should be a protein food, two portions should be a carbohydrate food and three portions of your plate should be vegetables.

Next, fix the portions
Now that you have the right ingredients, let’s find out how much of each you need. The serving recommendations for protein, carbohydrate and vegetable foods are based on average requirements for an adult. It’s important to remember that the amount of protein and carbohydrate food required can vary depending on your age or activity level. The portions we suggest can be used as a guide. 

Protein foods: New Zealanders generally eat more than 
enough protein each day to meet their daily needs. You only
need a small amount of protein at dinnertime. A quarter of the plate should be protein. One portion of protein is about the amount that will fit in the palm of your hand, and this should be the amount that takes up about a 
quarter of your dinner plate. A meat portion is just 120 to 150g


Carbohydrate foods: About half the energy we need each day should come from carbohydrate foods. For dinner, a quarter of your plate should be taken up with carbohydrate foods like pasta, bread, rice or potatoes




Vegetables: You need five serves of vegetables every day 
for good health, so having three serves at dinner means 
you’re over halfway there! One serve of vegetables is 
equivalent to about half a cupful, so three serves is 1½ cups. 
To put this into perspective, three serves should fill up half of 
your dinner plate. It’s important to include a variety of different 
coloured vegetables in each meal so you can get the different 
nutritious benefits of each


For great portion size ideas check out

Nutritious balanced meals are as easy as 1, 2, 3 when you use the plate model.

Try using this method next time you cook dinner and you’ll be eating a nutritious, balanced and delicious meal before you know it!

What about Paleo or other diets that cut out food groups?

To be honest, I find that those who stick to this way of eating versus taking out a whole food group, like carbohydrates or fat, seem to have much better long term weight levels.

In particular, I agree that cutting carbs and added sugar is a great thing however most people will find it very difficult to cut carbs completely. Of course it is your choice. However this is an easy, simple and healthful way for the WHOLE family to eat

Some tips to getting the portion size right.

  • Switch to a smaller plate – you’ll eat less but if the plate is full you’ll still feel satisfied.
  • Put the vegetables or salad on your plate first – it will automatically make you cut down your meat or carb servings.
  • Put leftovers away as you serve the rest of the meal – ‘serve’ them into a separate container and put in the fridge. You’ll be less tempted to go back for seconds.

Getting take outs or eating out

  • Choose meals with lots of vegetables or salads – Thai, Japanese or kebabs are great.
  • Choose dishes which contain loads of vegies and get a salad on the side with everything
  • Eat the takeaway off a small portion plate

•    Choose a meal when eating out that has vegies or salad with the dish, rather than just a garnish. For example chicken salad, beef with vegetables. If that is not the case ask for vegies as a side dish

•    Ask for a baked potato or steamed rice instead of chips or wedges.

•    Around 120-150g of meat is a healthy serving size so if it’s much larger, ask for a smaller portion.

•    Wait a while before you order dessert. If you still want one then you may only really need one or two mouthfuls so think about sharing. Or order a cup of tea or black decaffeinated coffee instead


More tips for build a healthier way of eating

All food and beverage choices matter – focus on variety, amount, and nutrition.

·      Focus on making healthy food and beverage choices from all five food groups including fruitsvegetablesgrainsprotein foods, and dairy to get the nutrients you need.

·      Eat the right amount of calories for you based on your age, sex, height, weight, and physical activity level.

·      Building a healthier way of eating can help you avoid overweight and obesity and reduce your risk of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Choose an eating style low in saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars.

·      Use nutrition labels and ingredient lists to find amounts of saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars in the foods and beverages you choose.

·      Look for food and drink choices that are lower in saturated fat, sodium, and added sugar.

o   Eating fewer calories from foods high in saturated fat and added sugars can help you manage your calories and prevent overweight and obesity. Most of us eat too many foods that are high in saturated fat and added sugar.

o   Eating foods with less sodium can reduce your risk of high blood pressure.

Make small changes to create a healthier eating style.

  • Think of each change as a personal “win” on your path to living healthier. Each win is a change you make to build your healthy eating style. Find little victories that fit into your lifestyle and celebrate.
  • Start with a few of these small changes.
  • Consider mindful eating techniques to assist you in weight management
  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Focus on whole fruits.
  • Vary your veggies
  • Make half your grains whole grains
  • Eat and drink the right amount for you.

    Support healthy eating for everyone.

    • Create settings where healthy choices are available and affordable to you and others in your community.
    • Professionals, policymakers, partners, industry, families, and individuals can help others in their journey to make healthy eating a part of their lives.

    Next steps

    Eating well is important for all the family. We can support you with the nutrition and wellness of individuals or the family as a whole. Just contact me to discuss your individual health and wellness challenges and needs or book in for a consultation session.


    Choose my plate (2016) Retrieved from

    Diabetes NZ, (2016) Retrieved form

    Ministry of Health. (2016). Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Children and Young People (aged 2–18 years). A background paper. Retrieved from

    Ministry of Health. (2016). 
    Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Retrieved from  

    Sheena Hendon, (2016). Own notes and articles.  

    Submitted At: 18 April 2016 2:00pm | Last Modified At: 18 April 2016 2:00pm
    Article Views: 2903

    Sheena Hendon specialises in women and baby/child health and treats the cause and symptoms of allergies & intolerances, women's hormones (PMS, PCOS, menopause, endometriosis), stress, depression, anxiety, digestive issues - Crohns, IBD, IBS' bloating, weight management, metabolic imbalances, adrenal and thyroid health,fertility, pregnancy & more

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