How to Fill Your Plate to Lose Weight
Let’s start with the long-held belief that you have to consume fewer calories than you are expending in order to lose weight. These days, that thinking has evolved — the quality of calories matters too, though watching your numbers is a good place to start.
Dividing Up Your Plate
The five basic food groups haven’t changed since you were a kid — fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy — but the recommended ratios of each on your plate definitely have.
But these ratios can vary based on your age, sex, height, weight, and activity level — and certain health conditions or dietary restrictions may also alter your ratios as well.
Whatever your ratios, if you’re looking to lose weight, how you fill up those categories on your plate is just as important as the ratios themselves.
What to Eat To Lose Weight
Want to drop pounds and still feel full? Build a better plate by putting these four tips to work.
1. Boost your fruits and veggies
Adding more fruits and veggies to your diet is an easy way to fill your plate without consuming more calories. “The plate should also ways be at least half or up to 70% of non-starchy veggies such a salad, grilled peppers and onion, steamed broccoli, or sauteed green beans,” recommends clinical nutritionist Jacqui Justice, M.S., C.N.S.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics concurs with the USDA’s MyPlate site that you should aim for two cups of fruit, though it proposes 2½ cups of vegetables (rather than one cup) as your daily goal.
Whole fruits and vegetables not only provide important nutrients, they are also a low-calorie way to feel full. Consider the small handful of crackers or nuts in one of those 100-calories snack packs compared to 3 medium bell peppers, 13 cups of kale or 5 cups of broccoli — all of which clock in around 100 calories!
Okay, you may not want to eat 13 cups of kale in a sitting, but divided over 2–3 meals, cooked with bell peppers and cilantro and mixed into eggs, or sauteed with garlic and onions as a base under salmon, can make for one plate-filling, appetite-satisfying, low-calorie meal.
Try experimenting with different colors, varieties and preparation methods.
2. Be picky about your protein
Protein is not only an important building block for our bodies but an important component of metabolism.
As the Harvard Chan School of Public Health points out, the source of that protein is important if you’re looking to drop pounds. Consider this: a four-ounce broiled sirloin steak has 33 grams of protein but five grams of saturated fat, while four ounces of grilled sockeye salmon has 30 grams of protein and just one gram of saturated fat.
Both will fill your plate, but one has five times the saturated fat.
Aim for making a quarter of your plate a high quality, low-fat protein option such as fish, beans, boneless chicken breast, or tempeh.
3. Fill up on fiber
Fiber slows down digestion, and instead of being broken down into sugars like other carbs, fiber simply passes through our bodies. In the process, it helps us feel full longer.
A 2019 study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that participants had increased weight loss when they increased the amount of dietary fiber they consumed.
While the USDA recommends 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men age 50 and younger, most adults eat less than half of that, consuming a measly 10–15 grams of fiber a day.
To boost your fiber intake, try eating more whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and adding more beans and legumes to your diet.
4. Use a smaller plate
Want to feel satisfied and eat fewer calories? Switch out your dinner plate.
One study published in Obesity Science & Practice suggested that decreasing the size of the plate had the potential to increase the participants’ estimates on how satisfied that amount of food would make them.
When the same amount of food was shown on a larger plate, the results suggested that respondents may be less satisfied and have the potential to eat more.
The takeaway: Try swapping your 12-inch dinner plate for an 8- or 10-inch plate.