Good Health Can Begin With A Balanced Plate

By: Dr. Tammy Lang

With so many different diets available and thoughts on what we should and shouldn’t be eating, it’s no wonder everyone is confused.

I like to keep it simple. The goal is the keep the information and ideas presented as easy to understand, doable and repeatable. Use the following guidelines to help you eat healthy on a daily basis — creating healthy eating habits and choices vs simply dieting.

I begin with what I call “The Balanced Plate.” I recommend half your plate in vegetables. They can be raw, cooked or a combination of both. Aim for a minimum of 3-4 cups of dark leafy greens a day. One quarter of your plate is protein. Ideally this is about 3-4 ounces but can vary depending on the protein sources you choose. One eighth is healthy fats like olive oil, avocados, nuts or seeds and the final eighth is dedicated to starchy carbs like potatoes, grains, beans, legumes and fruit. The starchy carb section is also where the not so healthy foods would be like cakes, crackers, chips, sugary treats and candy. This allows for the occasional indiscretion or treat, but is limited in quantity and frequency.

It is helpful to understand the categories of foods in regards to macronutrients. Macronutrients are defined as the primary blocks of food that provide your body with energy. There are 3 principal categories: Protein, Carbohydrates and Lipids or Fats. The following fall into the protein category: meat/lamb/bison, poultry, pork, fish/seafood, eggs, dairy, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds.

Carbohydrates mostly come from a plant origin. What I consider healthy carbs are vegetables, fruits and some grains. Unhealthy carbohydrates are items like cookies, cakes, crackers, candy, soft drinks and sugar. Lipids or fats have both plant and animal sources. These are foods like avocados, olives, fatty fish, butter, nuts and seeds. Many of the above mentioned foods have a little crossover belonging to two categories. I like to categorize them by which is most dominant. For example, almonds are both protein and fat, but predominantly fat.

Finally now that you know what to eat, an important component of the balanced plate is knowing how to determine your portions. In the world of super-sized everything, we rarely are served or see the proper portion sizes of foods. For the balanced plate I recommend the following: Protein: 3-4oz, Vegetables: 3-4 cups , Starchy Carbohydrates: 1 cup, Fat: 1-2 Tablespoons.

Dr. Tammy Lang

A great tool to use to approximate serving size is your hand.

  • The palm of your hand and thickness is approximately 3-4 ounces of meat, poultry or seafood.
  • A closed fist is approximately 1 cup.
  • The front fingers of a closed fist is approximately ½ cup.
  • Your thumb is approximately 2 Tablespoons and the tip of thumb to the first knuckle is about 1 Tablespoon.
  • The tip of your index finger is approximately 1 teaspoon.

Developing healthy eating habits doesn’t have to be confusing or as restrictive as you might imagine. I hope “The Balanced Plate” helps you as much as it has helped so many of my patients.

Dr. Tammy Lang takes a functional approach to achieving your health goals utilizing the power of food and nutrition coupled with and identifying lifestyle habits and root cause(s) to help you achieve optimum health.  For more information, visit her website at, email her at, or check out the South Jersey Center For Nutrition and Wellness Facebook page.