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Slide show: Healthy meals start with planning

Updated: 04-13-2013

Healthy meals start with proper portion sizes

Photo showing a healthy dinner with the proper portion sizes

You're interested in having healthy meals at home and when you eat out. You have a good idea of what foods to choose for healthy meals. But do you have a good idea of portion sizes? Did you know that you're likely to eat more when you're presented with larger portions of food?

Restaurant portions and food packaging have skewed Americans' perceptions about serving sizes. So how can you reset your expectations about healthy meals and proper portion sizes? Rethink your plate. This guide will show you how.

Typical restaurant-style steak dinner

Photo of typical restaurant-style steak dinner

Look familiar? This typical restaurant-style meal offers only two food groups — meat and starch — in oversize portions. It adds up to around 1,500 calories.

A better steak dinner

Photo of steak dinner with proper portion sizes

Here's a steak dinner that offers more variety and more-appropriate portions. Note that the steak takes up only a fourth of the plate, same with the brown rice. The rest of the plate is filled with vegetables. Even after adding fruit, salad and skim milk, the whole meal is still less than 500 calories.

Downsizing starts at the plate

The MyPlate graphic makes it easy to remember portion sizes for the food groups.

One way to judge portion sizes and create healthy meals is to start at the plate. That's why the Department of Health and Human Services replaced the old food pyramid with a dinner plate. The new graphic is a reminder to choose the proper proportions from each of the food groups.

As you see, half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables, preferably nonstarchy vegetables. Good choices include spinach, carrots, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, cucumbers, beets and peppers. Grains fill another section. Choose brown rice, whole-wheat pasta or whole-wheat tortillas.

Protein completes the plate. Healthy options include chicken or turkey without the skin, fish and other seafood, and lean cuts of beef and pork. Round out your meal with an 8-ounce glass of fat-free milk.

Lunching large

Photo of oversize burrito with sides of sour cream and guacamole

How does this lunch of an oversized burrito and sides stack up? It's obvious at a glance that it's short on fruits and vegetables and high in fat. What may not be obvious is that this lunch is more than 1,000 calories — enough for two people.

Lunch done right

Photo of healthier burrito with sides of salsa, fresh avocado and rice

This regular-sized burrito made with grilled chicken, fresh veggies and a whole-wheat tortilla is a healthier way to indulge your taste for spicy fare. Fresh salsa and avocado slices replace the guacamole and sour cream and up the veggie count. All for less than 500 calories.

Typical breakfast

Photo of eggs, sausage and English muffin

Many people's idea of a traditional breakfast is eggs, sausage and white toast, which leaves little room for fruits, vegetables or whole grains. It can also add up to a lot of calories — the version shown here is around 750 calories.

Remaking breakfast

Photo of eggs, grapefruit, mixed berries and a whole-wheat bagel

This breakfast is not only lower in calories (just more than 400), but also a great illustration of the plate method — half of the plate is fruit, one-fourth is protein and the remaining fourth is whole grain.

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