To Lose Weight, Rethink Your Plate

Instead of fixating on calories, why not make over your plate?

By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD/LD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

What if, instead of fixating on calories, you could lose weight and improve your health by focusing on what your plate looks like at mealtimes?

That's the idea behind one of the newest concepts in nutrition. Connie Guttersen, PhD, RD, author of The Sonoma Diet, calls it the plate concept. It's all about replacing high-fat, high-calorie foods with more nutritious options -- and enjoying delicious food. Gone are mega-portions of meat and casseroles. The 21st century plate is a colorful display of fruits, vegetables, salads, whole grains, beans, nuts, low-fat dairy, and lean meats, fish, and poultry.

"You don't need to adopt a vegetarian diet (unless you choose to). You simply need to shift your thinking away from the meat-and-potatoes mentality and more toward plant foods," says Elizabeth Ward, RD, author of The Pocket Idiot's Guide to the New Food Pyramids.

Her advice: Strive to cover two-thirds of your plate with plant foods and one-third with lean or low- fat meats, dairy, or other main dishes. (To make sure your main dish is a healthy one, choose lean cuts of meat, cook them with little or no added fat, and trim all visible fat.)

Contrast this with the traditional American meal in which a main dish covers half the plate, and starches fill one-quarter to one-half -- and with any luck, there's room left for a vegetable. All too often, this typical meat-and-potatoes dinner is far too high in fat, sugar, refined carbohydrates, and calories.