Proportions Are Easier than Portions

It’s important to get the right amounts of vitamins, minerals and different types of food each day. However, tracking servings can be hard, especially for people who are concerned about their blood sugar. In a blog, we gave tips for figuring out each portion using nothing but the palm of your hand. But, over the course of a day, it can be a chore to remember what portions you’ve already had and what types of food you might be lacking. While we can remember the basic layout of the food pyramid, it can be challenging to remember how many portions of each type of food you’re supposed to be eating.

That’s why we like the USDA’s MyPlate. Instead of telling you how many servings you should have a day, it tells you what your plate should look like — proportions instead of portions. This way you don’t have to think as much: half of your plate should be fruits and veggies, the other half should be protein and grains. It also suggests a helping of dairy at every meal. It’s a transparent system, instead of trying to figure out what a portion is, you just need to think of your plate as having quadrants. Follow the simple method, and you can go ahead with your day.

Image Left to Right: MyPlate, USDA; Healthy Eating Plate, HSPH

But, as much as we like MyPlate, the Healthy Eating Plate from Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School might be better. It doesn’t change very much at all, but adds just enough extra advice to kick it from being good and helpful guidelines to being great! The newer system stresses that whole grains are good and are better for you than overly processed carbs that lack fiber. It reminds us that not all proteins are created equal: fish is better for you than a hotdog. It shows that healthy oils have a place in our diet. Finally, it questions the presence of dairy at every meal. Dairy undoubtedly has a place in your diet: healthy fats, protein, vitamins and minerals are all packed into dairy. But, little evidence suggests that an overabundance of dairy will aid your bones or health. Instead, the Harvard plan suggests, water, coffee and tea are better options for drinks at mealtime.

Whether you support MyPlate or the Healthy Eating Plate, these guidelines can be much easier to remember and follow than the outdated food pyramid that was not only built off a base of carbohydrates but additionally required people to take what they ate from meal to meal. Using the plate method, each meal stands by itself, and you can relax and enjoy it!

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