Table with Pitcher and Plates
When I was diagnosed with diabetes almost 9 years ago, I began the journey of finding the best way to eat to help control this disease. I've never been great at following any of the meal plans I've seen, but during my early-summer diabetes classes I received a poster-sized handout concerning a way of eating that I think I can stick to. It's called the Idaho Plate Method or Rate Your Plate. This is the plan I want to use for the next 6 weeks while I'm trying to adjust to a new medication. I've followed it very closely for a few days now, and my sugar levels have been well-balanced - whether through this way of eating or through the meds, I don't know.
I do know that this is the easiest plan I've ever used, though. The best thing about it is that it will work for anyone, diabetic or not, who needs to lose weight or just wants to eat a balanced, healthy diet. No special foods are required, and you can adapt this to any food preferences you have, such as whole foods or vegetarian. I am moving more and more toward whole foods - those that you cook from scratch using fresh ingredients, rather than packaged and processed foods. But that's another whole post!
Here's how the plate method works. Divide your plate in half with an imaginary line down the middle. Now divide one of those halves in half, giving you 2 quarters on one side of your plate, and one-half on the other. Now we're going to fill in each of these sections with a particular food group.
Since I'm diabetic, my first concern is how much carbohydrate is in my meal. The three food groups that contain carbohydrates, meaning foods that will raise your blood sugar, are starches, fruits, and dairy products. Although I eat portions from these food groups daily, I limit the amounts and types of them that I eat. So the first quarter of my plate will have a starch of some sort, either a whole-grain bread, a starchy vegetable like peas, corn, or potatoes, or another starchy food like rice or pasta. Just one serving. Either bread, starchy veggie, rice or pasta.
In the other quarter on this side of the plate, I'll have a moderate portion of a protein such as meat, cheese (cheese is a meat substitute), peanut butter, an egg, legumes (dried beans and peas), or vegetarian protein such as tofu. Note: I have never eaten tofu, and have no plans to do so in the near future. But I do eat chicken, beef, pork, and fish. And cheese. And the occasional legume.
Now, the other half of my plate is still empty. I am going to fill the entire half with vegetables! No potatoes or corn or peas, though; those belong in the "starch" quarter of my plate, if I choose to eat them. No, this half of my plate will be filled with at least two kinds of watery vegetables, like green beans, broccoli, asparagus, zucchini, or a salad.
You may notice that I haven't given myself any fruit or dairy products. These go above my plate. I will have a small piece of fruit or 1/2 cup of fruit. And on the other side is my dairy - either 1 cup of milk or 1/2 cup of yogurt (actually, my nutritionist told me to eat 1 cup of yogurt as a serving, but that's a lot of yogurt!).
For things like casseroles and pizza, I just imagine my plate and each component of the meal. For example, on Fridays we have pizza. I make myself a very thin crust and put it in a cake pan. Then I top it with whatever meat and cheese we're having, and I add veggies to mine, like mushrooms, onions, and/or peppers. Then I make myself a salad. At the table, I don't have the pieces of my pizza separated, but I have a starch (the crust), protein (the meat and cheese), and 2 servings of veggies (the veggies on the pizza plus the big salad). I will eat some fruit for dessert, and maybe some yogurt later to round out the meal.
Read more about the Idaho Plate Method, including free downloads for weight loss and diabetic meal management. The free downloads have meal ideas, suggestions for eating out, how to have a dessert within the plan, and how to plan snacks. And exercise. It always comes back to exercise! I'll be back later with portion sizes and how to recognize them without having to measure every little thing.