Seasonal Eating and The Plate Method

A Healthier You

Seasonal Eating and The Plate Method

Staci NormanContributor: Dr. Staci-Marie Norman, PharmD, DCES

It’s finally summer! Here in northern Indiana, we skipped over spring and went straight to the 90-degree weather of late summer. I am not complaining because I love the sunshine and heat of summer after the long, cold, dreary winter. I also love the fresh vegetables and fruits available during summer to perk up my usual menus and that my husband takes over dinner duty at his beloved grill!

A while back, I talked about an easy eating plan that is balanced and portion-controlled called The Plate Method. It's a great way to get more wonderful seasonal summer foods onto our plates.

  • First, divide your plate in half. This first half of your plate is devoted to green leafy vegetables. This section can be extremely easy to fill in this season of fresh produce. Pile up fresh lettuce, spinach, baby kale, or arugula, and add diced tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots, or any other addition you like for a beautiful salad. Keep it light with a vinaigrette or just the tiniest drizzle of a creamy dressing. Or take some lovely fresh asparagus, broccoli, or green beans, toss them in a little olive oil, and grill them. Grilling vegetables is a great way to amp up the taste with little mess. Depending on the vegetable, you may need a special grill basket. The great thing about filling half of your plate with vegetables is that you are filling up on low-calorie, high-fiber foods that help make you feel full and are usually gentle on your blood glucose. So head to your local farmers market and stock up on fresh produce to fill your plate with this week.
  • Now divide the rest of your plate into quarters. You can fill the first quarter with starch or any carbohydrate you choose. Want some fresh corn on the cob? That goes in this quarter and is very yummy cooked on the grill. How about those creamy, soft new potatoes or red potatoes? Those go in this quarter. Or you can have pasta, rice, or bread in this section of the plate. Remember, starch or carbohydrates that are less refined or processed are often better options for blood glucose management.
  • The last quarter of your plate is for protein. You might choose chicken, fish, pork, turkey, tofu, lentils, beans, or red meat. Try sticking to leaner cuts of meat and skinless poultry to decrease the fat and calories in your diet. Increasing your fish consumption can be very beneficial for your Omega-3 fatty acid levels, which can help prevent cardiovascular disease. I find my fish consumption goes way up in the summer because of the grill! Not only does grilling fish make it taste fantastic, but I don’t have that dreaded “fishy” smell in my house.

There are two minor caveats to the plate method:

  1. You should use an 8 or 9-inch plate. Unfortunately, the average dinner plate in the US is 12 inches and could be as large as 14 inches. For portion control, you do want to stick to a smaller plate. Many salad plates are 8 or 9 inches, so try using those plates.
  2. You should be careful that you don't pile your food a mile high. That defeats the purpose of portion control and the plate method.

Dr. Staci-Marie Norman, PharmD, DCES received her bachelors from Purdue University (’94) and her Doctor of Pharmacy from the University of Oklahoma (’96). In 2000 Dr. Norman added to her credentials by becoming a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist. She is currently the Clinical Coordinator and staff pharmacist for Martin’s Pharmacy. Dr. Norman is a national faculty member for the American Pharmacist Association, teaching certificate programs in both diabetes and cardiovascular disease. She serves on the advisory board that oversees development and revision of these programs. Along with teaching and development responsibilities for APhA, Dr. Norman serves as a peer reviewer for research grants and publication submission. Dr. Norman has also spoken for Abbott, Bayer, Lilly, Mannkind, and Lifescan as a diabetes specialist.