Healthy Eating 101: Dinner Plate Upgrades

Set your meals up for success with simple plate upgrades.


By Aimée Suen, NTP


You’ve gotten the shopping down. You’ve made some great, healthy food and you’re all set and ready to eat. Or are you? What you’re eating your meal in or on can also get an upgrade to set you up for achieving your health and fitness goals. There are a few simple things you can change to keep overeating in check and make you feel more full and healthier.

Ditch the Dinner Plate

A larger plate means more food! When people are given a larger bowl or plate, they served themselves larger portions and then overate. Swap out the dinner plate for a smaller salad plate (or grab a smaller, shallower bowl if you’re eating your meal in a bowl). This will help keep your portions under control. Smaller dinnerware also gets filled faster with less food and makes it look like we’re eating a lot when we could be eating less.

Double Down on the Vegetables

So often meals can follow a formula: one protein, one grain, and one vegetable serving. A lot of times, the vegetable ratio can be the smallest, meaning you’re missing out on a good dose of vitamins and minerals. Consider swapping out that serving of grains a few times a week with another serving of vegetables. This will up your vegetable, vitamin, and mineral intake.

You can go with one serving of greens and one serving of a non-­leafy green vegetable, or you could add a small side salad with every meal.

Cut Back on the Meat

You need protein to function, but one size does not fit all when it comes to protein. Protein also doesn’t have to come just from meat. Depending on what kind of meat you’re eating and how often, you could adding more preservatives, salt and fat that could lead to weight gain inflammation, heart problems or strokes. If you’re a frequent meat eater, consider reducing your portion sizes while adding more vegetables or whole grains to your plate. The American Heart Association recommends eating 6 ounces or less of meat per day and for you to portion it out twice a day (3 ounces each portion). 3 ounces of red meat is the size of a deck of cards and for fish looks like a checkbook. With that visual, you can decide if you need to cut back or not.

... And Add More Plant-­Based Protein

If cutting down on your meat makes you nervous about where you’re going to get enough protein, don’t worry. Many plant­-based foods are rich in protein, like beans, dairy, nuts, and certain fruits and vegetables. Plant­-based protein sources also can be enjoyed more often without increasing risks of heart disease or raising your cholesterol.

Higher­-quality plant­-based proteins are also much more affordable than high-­quality, sustainably raised meats. To get the most out of your protein, spread out your consumption throughout the day.

More Water, Please

Though not on your plate, drinking more water with your meal will help you feel fuller, as well as keep you hydrated. Drinking water while eating also helps you slow down. The faster you eat, the harder and longer it takes for your body to register fullness, which can lead to overeating. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register fullness, so the longer you enjoy your food, the more likely you’ll get full on less. Grab a tall glass (16 ounces or over) and fill it all the way at the start of the meal. Drink during the meal and finish the entire glass by the end of your meal. This way you can help your satiety and hydration in one sitting.

Aimée Suen is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner who shares nourishing, gluten-free recipes and nutrition wisdom at Small Eats. She is driven to help others enjoy whole foods and empower them to find their own healthy in all aspects of life, one small step at a time. When she’s not in the kitchen, she’s practicing yoga, in the gym, or learning something new. You can find Aimée on InstagramTwitter and Pinterest.

Second Photo Credit: Jakub Kapusnak/; Third Photo Credit:  Jakub Kapusnak/

Aug 12, 2015

Just a suggestion, if anyone is interested, when I make rice for dinner, I like to make a large amount and save half for the next day! I sautée 1/2 a large green pepper, 1/2 a large sweet onion, a few large garlic cloves chopped and a couple big handfuls of kale mix or fresh spinach in a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil! Stir in the leftover rice, and there you have it!!!! An excellent side dish for chicken or fish!!!👍🏼😉. Enjoy 😎

Aug 12, 2015

Cool dude 🐣😃