Dietary guidelines are designed to suggest foods and food patterns that provide all the nutrients and bioactive compounds our bodies need, while avoiding those we don’t need (like too much sodium, starch, added sugars, and unwanted additives). MyPlate, based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, recommends filling half our plates with fruits and vegetables, about a quarter with grains, and about a quarter with lean protein. “When following MyPlate, the Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter recommends meeting the grain component with minimally processed whole grains, and eating plenty of nuts, seeds, fish, and poultry to maximize healthy fats, proteins, and other nutrients,” says Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, dean of the Friedman School and editor-in-chief of Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter.
While we sometimes eat meals where each food category is separate, we often eat mixed dishes like sandwiches, casseroles, stir fries, and stews, where everything is tossed together. While at first glance it may seem difficult to think of mixed dishes in terms of MyPlate guidance, applying the recommended proportions can actually be a guide to confidently building healthier mixed-dish meals.
Choose Flavor: A recent study in the Journal of Food Science found that people enjoyed recipes prepared as low-meat/high-vegetable dishes at least as much or even more than when they were prepared as high-meat/low-vegetable dishes. These results may be in part due to the bright, colorful fruits and vegetables adding visual appeal, as well as texture and flavor. Legumes (beans and lentils), nuts, seeds, and minimally processed whole grains can do the same.