Understanding the Plate Method of Eating

by HealthfulMD

The plate method is an easier way than the old pyramid to teach children and adults, about what to eat and how much to eat. Using the plate method will help you eat healthier.

What is the Plate Method of Eating?

Teaching People about Healthy Eating

Symphony Paper PlateThe Plate Method is a way of teaching people what foods they need to eat at each meal. It is one of many food representation guides. 

Several countries like the U.K., Germany, Mexico and Sweden have been using a plate as a teaching method for encouraging healthy eating and portion control. For 20 years the United States has been using a pyramid.

The Plate Method was originally developed as a way of teaching people with diabetes about portion control and what to eat at each meal.

The Plate Method of eating has gone on to become an easy way to teach adults and children about how to eat the right amount of foods from different food groups.

In addition the Plate Method is likely to gain in popularity and use with the announcement that the food pyramid, which has been used for 20 years to teach people about healthy eating, will be replaced with a new plate icon.

Paper Plates available on Amazon.

The New Food Plate

Read More about MyPlate
The USDA with Michele Obama unveiled the new Food Plate. The Food Plate replaces the old Food Pyramid as a quick and easy way to teach people what to eat and how to eat healthier.

Plate Method Table Setting

Composite Image © Kirsti A. Dyer
Set a Plate with the Plate Method
Set a Plate with the Plate Method

Images: Plate from Ratnesh, Orange from Mradrck, Water glass from Matchstick and Utensils from Microsoft clipart.

The Plate Icon to Replace the Food Pyramid

Read more about the plans to replace the Food Pyramid with the Plate Method
The USDA is replacing the Food Pyramid used for the last two decades as the food representation guide with an easier to understand plate designed to encourage healthy eating.

Basics of the Plate Method

From the American Diabetes Association

The Plate Method is a way to visually control your diet. According to the American Diabetes Association the breakdown of food on your plate should include:

  •  1/2 of the plate should be filled with non-starchy vegetables.
  • 1/4 of the plate should be filled with carbohydrates - bread or cereal
  • 1/4 of the plate should be filled with lean protein, including other protein sources like tofu, beans and nuts.
  • 1 serving of Milk, yoghurt or calcium
  • 1 serving of fruit


The plate used for adults should be a 9 inch plate. Using larger plates will increase the portion sizes. Using smaller plates will decrease portion sizes, which could be very helpful for those trying to lose weight or using the method with children.

With such a simple way of showing how to eat, people can quickly and easily get the concept and start implementing the Plate Method on the same day they learned it.

One of the greatest benefit to filling half of the plate with vegetables and including a serving of fruit is that by doing this at every meal, you will be sure to get your recommend amount of 5 - 9 servings of fruits and vegetables each day.

Image of Handout © Kirsti A. Dyer

Plates to Use with the Plate Method

9 inch Plates Make using the Plate Method Easy
Symphony Design Paper Plates, Poly-Co...
Bambu 9-Inch All Occasion single use ...
Only $13.99
Reusable/Disposable Divided Plastic P...
$39.33  $31.05

Create Your Plate

From the American Diabetes Association

Poll on the Plate Method

What do you think about the Plate Method?
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Articles on the Plate Method

More Information and Resources on the Plate Method

Eat right with the plate method
An easy way to make sure you’re eating the right amount of food is to use the “plate method.” Look at your plate.

The Plate Method Education Materials
Link to the PDF File from the Nutrition and Diet Files Internal Medicine Department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine

Create Your Plate
Create Your Plate is a fast and easy way to choose and eat the foods you want. First focus on your portion sizes. Then make healthier food choices.

Manage Your Diabetes with the "Plate Method"
A way to improve your health and trim your waistline for better diabetes management is to change the proportions of food on your plate.

The Plate Method - dLife
This is one of the most basic methods to begin with when attempting to eat healthfully with diabetes from Lara Rondinelli RD.

The Idaho Plate Metho
The Idaho Plate Method is used for diabetes meal planning. It also works well for weight loss, teaching good nutrition, and in improving blood glucose and lipids.

Portion Control Made Easy

From Sharp Health Care

Plate Method Placemat

© Kirsti A. Dyer
Plate Method Used for Teaching Children
Plate Method Used for Teaching Children

Teaching the Plate Method of Eating

Teach Adults and Children about Portion Control and Healthy Eating

For the past 5 years I've gone into both of my daughters classrooms to teach them about the basics of nutrition and healthy eating.

I discovered that the plate method, not the pyramid was the easiest way to explain healthy eating to children ranging from 1st through 5th grades. I've also taught the technique to Brownies (Girl Scouts) and 4-H groups.

Teaching the plate method to grade school was easy, interactive, fast and fun.

plate method

  1. Each child got their own paper plate and a crayon or marking pen.
  2. Divided the plate in half and mark the large section for veggies.
  3. Divide the lower half into quarters and mark one section for meats, nuts & beans and the other section with cereals & grains.
  4. Flip the plate over and have them draw two circles on the back. 
  5. Mark one circle with milk (or calcium) and the other with fruit.

I end up giving each of the children a handout with the full table setting, so they can see how to set their plates at every meal.

It is a very fun and interactive teaching technique that quickly gets the point across to children. I've heard reports from the parents that their kids have come home to teach them how to set up their family meals.

Make it Easy Use Divided and Portioned Plates

Use Special Dishes with Eating

An easy way to use the plate method every time you eat is to only use dishes that have been divided into portions like those from Corelle. NUBY even offers divided dishes for children, which is a great way to get children used to eating the correct portions at every meal.

You can also use use special dishes like those from Precise Portions or Slimware that have the portions artfully displayed withing the designs of the plate.

Divided and Portion Control Dishes

Easy ways to Portion out Your Meals
Lenox Butterfly Meadow 9-Inch Divided...
Only $99.95
9" FOCUS Portion Control Plate, Micro...
Precise Portions
Corelle Livingware 8-1/2-Inch Divided...
$15.81  $18.99
Nuby Embossed Section Plate, 2 Pack, ...
Luv N Care/NUBY
Slimware Urban Safari Portion Conscio...
The Portion Plate (Adult)
portion plate
Only $15.95

News on the Plate Method of Eating

The Plate Method in the News
Finding a Balance Between Healthy Aging and Nutrition  425magazine.com
Healthy meals start with planning  mayoclinic.org
Managing Your Diabetes Diet: A Look at Nutrition  Yale Medicine
Healthy Eating Plate | The Nutrition Source | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health  HSPH News

Books on Plate and Portion Methods

Learn More about Plate and Portion Methods from these Books
Portion Savvy: The 30-Day Smart Plan ...
Atria Books
$11.61  $5.99
The Full Plate Diet: Slim Down, Look ...
Bard Press
$14.14  $13.99
The Portion Plan: How to Eat the Food...
$12.56  $12.09
Updated: 01/19/2012, HealthfulMD
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Comment on the Plate Method of Eating

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kab on 06/02/2011

I think this is a great system. It's seems more relatable and easier for some to learn.

ohcaroline on 05/31/2011

I'm glad they are changing. I never really cared for the "pyramid" plan.

HealthfulMD on 05/31/2011

I think so too. It was a big reason why this was the method that I would use for teaching children about healthy eating.

tandemonimom on 05/31/2011

Much simpler than the food pyramid!

Jimmie on 05/30/2011

Simple visuals really help people remember. Thanks for the free printables too!

mandeesears on 05/30/2011

I am impressed with this method. I have never heard of it but as someone that has a hard time losing weight (hypothyroidism), I think it could help! Thanks for explaining!

Dianne on 05/30/2011

This looks much better than the pyramid.

HealthfulMD on 05/30/2011

Glad you found the page. It shouldn't take long to get the hang of what needs to go on a plate. The kids love drawing on plates. Probably should use different ones to eat off of though...

petunia on 05/30/2011

The plate method of eating makes so much more sense than the pyramid we learned as children. I am trying to eat healthier and will return to this page until my plate is correctly balanced! (Yes, the grandchilden and I will be drawing on paper plates next week - their mom will love that!)

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