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Renovate Your Dinner Plate

A super-simple blueprint to healthy mealtime upgrades.

December 5th, 2012

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quinoa stuffed pumpkin

If you took the dinners your mom used to make and divided them by food group on your plate, you’d have something resembling a peace sign: a third protein (probably meat), a third starch, a third veggie. Well, it’s time to give the peace sign… give it a rest, that is.

QUIZ: Find Out Your Eating Style

The one-to-one-to-one ratio is outdated and we don’t have to keep thinking of meat as the main event with vegetables as a sideshow. Food writer Michael Pollan ("In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto") said it best: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” A plant-based diet is rich in so many essential nutrients that keep us strong and healthy. It’s beautiful to look at on the plate, and easy to pack full of flavor. All this without the saturated fat found in meat that can increase the chances of cardiovascular diseases.

In the midst of holiday madness, entertaining and seemingly inevitable winter weight gain, it’s easier than you might think to eat better. When you start planning your meals this holiday month, ditch the old peace sign and picture a happy house instead. Here’s how to build your house: Start with a solid square of whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Then on top add a pointed roof made up of a small amount of protein.

You don’t have to feel like you’re building from scratch. Think of it more like remodeling. Here are three simple things you can do to revamp and boost the health content of your meals:

MORE: Is a Vegetarian Diet Right for You?

Flip the menu. Instead of smaller portions of vegetables, grain or carb of your choice, consider making this the main portion and the meat a smaller portion. It’s a simple, easy way to get your recommended daily allowance of fruits, vegetables and whole grains! 

Trade up. Instead of using water to make couscous, or another grain, substitute a vegetable broth. Bingo, you’ve just given you and yours a boost of beta-carotene, lycopene, potassium and selenium, to name a just a few nutrients! Go one step further and make your own broth. So simple to do and so rich in phytonutrients.

Take a trip—at the table. Herbs and spices transport you to another world! Think cumin and tumeric and you’re off to India. Chili and lime and Mexico is on the horizon. Five-spice powder and ginger and your heading to the Far East. Let your imagination wander! It’s not just fun, it’s healthy, too. Tumeric’s active ingredient, curcumin, is a great anti-inflammatory and chili is rich in vitamin C.

There are so many fun and delicious ways to build your dinner house—and a healthier home while you’re at it.

COLUMN: The Surprising Power of Homemade Salad Dressing

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