Diabetes: Using a Plate Format to Plan Meals


A plate format (also called the plate method) can be used to help you manage how you eat. It helps you see how much space each food should take on a plate.

  • Using a plate format will help you spread carbohydrate throughout the day, which will help keep your blood sugar level from going way up and way down.
  • A plate format is an easy and simple way to plan meals.
  • It can be used along with other meal-planning methods.

How to use a plate format

A plate format is so simple that you can start using it right away. It lets you see how much space each food should take up on your plate.

  • Post a copy of a sample plate format on your refrigerator. Refer to it until you know how much space different foods should take up on your plate.
  • Picture the food on your plate. Learn how much space each food needs on your plate, and try to picture that amount when you are in different situations, such as eating out or attending an event.
  • Practice. Use a copy of the sample plate format to plan a day's meals and snacks. If you need help, talk with your certified diabetes educator or a registered dietitian.
  • Keep a record. Use a plate format for a week, and keep track of your meals and snacks. You can make copies of the sample for each day. If you have questions about using a plate format, talk with your diabetes educator or registered dietitian.
  • If you have diabetes, check your blood sugar before and 2 hours after you eat. Then write the results on your food record. Doing this will help you see how foods affect your body.

Use a plate that measures 20 cm (8 in.) across. Draw an imaginary line through the centre of your plate, and then divide one of the halves into quarters.

  • Half the plate is vegetables and fruits. Examples are collard greens, kale, spinach, romaine, broccoli, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, carrots, apples, oranges, bananas, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries.
  • One-fourth of the plate is whole grain foods. Examples are whole grain bread, whole grain tortillas, whole grain cereal or pasta, brown rice, or quinoa.
  • One-fourth of the plate is protein foods. Examples are lean meat, poultry, fish, beans, lentils, tofu, nuts, nut butters, eggs, skim or low-fat milk, low-fat cheeses, and low-fat unsweetened yogurt.
  • Make water your drink of choice. Many drinks have a lot of sugar, sodium, or calories. Water is good for your health and helps you stay hydrated without adding calories to your diet.

A plate format is easy to learn. It also can be used along with other methods, such as carbohydrate counting for people who have diabetes.


Current as of: December 20, 2019

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Elizabeth T. Russo MD - Internal Medicine
Rhonda O'Brien MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
Colleen O'Connor PhD, RD - Registered Dietitian

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