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How to Portion Your Plate

We all know the key to good health is to eat right. But what exactly does that mean? If you learned about the food pyramid as a kid, you may think you’ve got a pretty good idea. But guess what — the recommendations have changed!

Healthy eating 2.0

Nutrition experts have been busy, and now it’s time for us to play catch-up with all their new findings. First, repeat after me: “Not all calories are the same.” To get the best nutrition, you need to eat a variety of nutrient-dense foods.

The most recent government recommendations are to fill half your plate with vegetables and fruits, a quarter of your plate with protein, and the last quarter with grains. You may be wondering, “What about the milk?” Dairy is still on the menu, but it should be consumed more sparingly than previously suggested. If another visual helps, download our handout to compare portion sizes to items around your house.

Infographic depicting a balanced nutrition plate with servings of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy

Choosing the best of the best

So, now you know the recommended portion for each food group. But within each food group, there are options that are better or worse than others. Let’s break it down…

Fruits and vegetables

Veggies are the powerhouse of nutrition. Fruit is great, too, but it has more sugar and fewer nutrients than vegetables. So, ideally, vegetables will make up the majority of this half of your plate. When it comes to fruits and veggies, think variety. Eating a rainbow of colors will give you an array of nutrients.


As much as we don’t want to admit it, bacon and fish — while both proteins — cannot be counted as equals. When filling your quarter plate with protein, aim for healthy options like fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and seeds.


Don’t go reaching for those buttermilk biscuits just yet. Some grains, like white bread, have very little dietary benefit and are quickly converted to sugar in your body. Choose whole grains instead, like quinoa, whole-wheat pasta, and buckwheat.


Low-fat or fat-free milk, cheese, and yogurt are all good choices. Try not to exceed two or three servings a day. One and a half ounces of cheese equals one serving. So does one cup of milk or yogurt.

Fats and Oils

The term “healthy fat” sounds like a contradiction, doesn’t it? It’s not! Fat is a necessary part of our diet and can actually help our bodies. The trick is to choose the right kind. Good options include avocados, coconut oil, and extra virgin olive oil.

OhioHealth registered dietitians are available to help you make healthy choices and changes in your diet. Contact us at the McConnell Heart Health Center, we’re ready to support you!