The Green Mountain approach to healthy eating is simple. At most meals, especially lunches and dinners, include foods from three different categories - Grains/Starchy Vegetables, Protein Foods, and Fruits &/or Vegetables.
Forget about counting calories or fat grams, or weighing or measuring food. This can get in the way of listening to internal cues that tell us how much we need. To eat without overeating and also ensure healthy eating, use the Plate Approach.
Suggested Meal Framework
Vegetables &/or Fruit
This simple method will assure we get the proper balance of foods for healthy eating according to the Food Guide Pyramid.
Here’s how it works:
- Visualize dividing a small to medium-size dinner plate in half; then divide one of the halves in quarters.
- Place Grains/Starchy Vegetables on one quarter, Protein Foods on the other quarter, and feature Fruits &/or Vegetables on the remaining half. This provides about one serving Protein Food, one serving Grains/Starchy Vegetables and two servings Vegetables &/or Fruits. When choosing grain foods for the Grains/Starchy Vegetables portion of the plate, choose whole grains most of the time, such as whole grain breads, cereals and brown rice.
- We may or may not want to include a roll (a second serving of Grains/Starchy Vegetables) with our meal. Sometimes we do because a roll ‘finishes’ the meal for us – for example, perhaps a favorite meal of crispy baked chicken, garlic mashed potatoes and fresh broccoli just isn’t complete without an accompanying dinner roll. Other times, we might prefer to skip the roll and just have more mashed potatoes if we’re still hungry after the first serving.
- Use this as the beginning portion. As we eat, we want to assess how satisfied and full we are becoming. That will help us decide whether we need to eat all that’s on our plate, have a little more, or don’t want to finish all we started with. Remember: How much we need to feel satisfied depends on how hungry we are, which depends on many things including your level of physical activity and how much we ate at a previous meal or snack. Don’t expect to need the exact same amount of food at each meal.
- We may or may not want to enjoy a glass of milk with our meal. If we don’t, we can choose it at other times to ensure we get the calcium we need for healthy bones. If the Protein Food we choose as part of our main entrée is a milk-based food, we may not need to drink milk, or a full three servings, during the day to get the recommended amount of calcium. (Note: Postmenopausal women likely don’t get the calcium they need even when consuming three servings of milk foods daily; in that case, consider taking a calcium supplement.)
- Protein Foods are optional as part of breakfast and snacks. It generally depends on what we’re eating (example: most of us like our cereal with milk) and/or how hungry we are – if we’re fairly hungry, a Protein Food in combination with a Grain/Starchy Vegetable or Fruit &/or Vegetable can make for a more satisfying meal or snack.
If we eat according to this approach most of the time, we’ll get the number of servings from each food group as recommended by the Food Guide Pyramid.
Isn’t that a lot simpler than trying to remember how many servings of fruit or other food we eat each day?