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Don't want to count calories? Then balance your plate.

I’ve tried the online food trackers. Entering in my meals and snacks daily (hourly sometimes), negotiating an extra run after work so I could eat that cookie in the lunch room and ‘earn my calories’ (but let’s not get started on earning food…that’s a whole other blog post on why that’s not a great long term strategy)! The point is calorie counting works…in the short term. I know very few people who actually want to maintain this practice more than a couple weeks. It can be helpful to bring awareness to just how many calories are in certain foods if you legitimately have no idea. But it gets boring real fast. It’s difficult and time consuming and don’t you have 1001 other things you would prefer to spend your precious time on? There is a better (and less obsessive) way to estimate your calorie consumption and more importantly put the focus on building a well-rounded meal.

A balanced plate (and diet) can go A LONG way in helping you achieve your weight-loss or health-related goals.

But what does a balance plate look like? Do you know how much carbs, protein, veggies and healthy fats should you have on your plate? And if you do have an idea, how do you measure that without looking like a food-obsessed freak?!

A major problem in North America is that more often than not our serving sizes are out of control. So even when we are trying to make the right decisions and choose less-processed options or opt for home-cooked meals, we are eating way over and above our body’s caloric needs for the day.

Ok, so you need to know what food to put on the plate and approximately how much of it to eat.

First, let’s get back to the basics and break down the four major groups that should be included in all (or at least most) of your meals:

  • Protein
  • Carbohydrates
  • Vegetables
  • Healthy Fats

A simple way to estimate the serving sizes is to use your hand (please note this is a rough estimate only and you should use your own discretion and listen to your body if you are full with less or may need a bit more depending on your lifestyle and activity levels).

When planning a meal think of protein first. Women should look to eat 1 serving of protein approximately the size of the palm of your hand. Men should eat 2 palm-sized portions per meal.

Next, add on veggies. Again you can use your hand. Women should aim for at least one fist sized portion of veggies and men, two fist sized portions. If you are really hungry and think you need some more food on your plate I suggest adding more veggies before the other categories. Veggies are high in fiber which will help keep you full longer and I have yet to meet someone who gained weight eating too many veggies (side note – these veggies should be raw, steamed, broiled, grilled etc. A massive plate of deep fried cauliflower coated in batter isn’t exactly the type of veggies we’re going for here).

Carbs – ohhhhhh…it almost feels like a dirty word these days. It seems everyone and their dog are staying clear of carbs. Here’s the thing…carbs aren’t evil. Yes, some people do react differently to them, so if you are sincerely allergic to them then obviously steer clear. Carbs get a bad rep in the diet world because so many people link carbs to white bread, pasta, rice and other highly processed options. Carbs are much more diverse than that and include grains, starches, beans & fruit. There are plenty of healthy options that will fuel your body and provide you with energy whether you are going for a run, smashing some weights at the gym, doing kiddo drop-offs and pick ups or trying to stay engaged through a meeting at work. Aim to get one hand-cupped serving per meal for women and two hand-cupped servings for men.

Fats are a good addition to your plate with each meal, however healthy fats should be limited as it’s easy to load on the peanut butter on your sandwich or morning toast a little too think, pour a few too many glugs of olive oil on your salad or just want to eat all the avocados. all the time. For healthy fats, aim to eat a thumb-sized portion for women (per meal) and men should eat two thumb-sized portions.

Practice makes perfect, so practice making each meal a nice balance of the above categories. If it feels like too much work, then just commit to focusing on one meal a day. When that becomes second nature you can aim your sights higher Common sense is not common practice. So to help you remember this guideline for portion sizes, I’ve included this super simple page you can print off and place on your fridge as a helpful reminder.


Marisa is BCRPA personal trainer and a fun-fitness-fanatic living the active dream in beautiful Vancouver, BC. She hikes, swims, runs, bikes, bootcamps & yoga's as much as possible, outdoors when possible, and believes everything is possible. Find her on the web at www.motivatedmovementpt.com and on Facebook and Instagram.