min read

How to build a balanced plate

Take the guesswork out of preparing a nutritious, balanced and satisfying meal with this simple guide to building a healthy plate.

Written by
Sanchia Parker
Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist
Reviewed by

Setting up your meals using the plate method helps manage portions easily and provides guidance on getting the right proportion of each food group in the meals. 

The benefit of using the plate model to structure meals is that no measuring or weighing is, which can be time consuming. It also allows flexibility in choosing whichever foods are preferred rather than having to follow a strict meal plan. 

How to plate a meal

Simply start by taking your empty plate and filling it as follows: 

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Half the plate with non-starchy vegetables or salad. Leafy greens such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, green beans and peppers and more.

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A quarter of the plate is good quality protein such as chicken, salmon, tofu, eggs or yoghurt.

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A quarter of the plate is a healthy carbohydrate such as 1 bread roll, brown rice, quinoa or wholemeal pasta.

Add a source of healthy fats such as ¼ avocado, 1 tbsp olive oil or a tbsp natural nut butter.

Foods to choose


Vegetables are incredibly nutritious, providing us with fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.  Aim for half a plate of non-starchy vegetables or salad at lunch and dinner. 

(Note that starchy vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes are higher in carbohydrates and therefore form part of the carbohydrate part of the meal) 

This includes:

  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Bamboo shoots
  • Bean sprouts
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage (green, bok choy, red)
  • Capsicum
  • Carrots 
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Chicory
  • Cucumbers
  • Daikon
  • Eggplant
  • Greens (spinach, silverbeet, kale, mustard)
  • Green beans
  • Kohlrabi
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce (rocket, iceberg, oak)  
  • Mushrooms
  • Okra
  • Onions
  • Radishes
  • Snow peas 
  • Spring onions
  • Sprouts
  • Tomatoes
  • Turnips
  • Water chestnuts
  • Zucchini


Protein is an important part of building bones, muscles and skin. Protein helps the body grow, and repair itself. It also helps make antibodies that fight off infections and illnesses.  

Meat: Poultry, lamb, beef, pork

Fish or seafood. Fresh or canned salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring or sardines. Prawns, basa, cod, oysters, and any other fresh seafood. 

Eggs: Chicken, duck or quail

Dairy: Yoghurt (we suggest natural Greek yoghurt), milk or milk alternatives (check your milk alternative contains added calcium), kefir, paneer, and cheese. 

Vegetarian alternatives: Tempeh, TVP, nutmeat or tofu (check the ingredients to ensure it contains ‘Firming Agent (Calcium Sulphate)’. This ensures the tofu will contain beneficial calcium to help with bone health).


Grains, legumes, beans and starchy vegetables such as potato and sweet potato are examples of healthy carbohydrate foods. 

Carbohydrates provide thr body with energy. When carbohydrates are eaten, the body breaks it down into glucose. Glucose is the preferred energy fuel for the body. If the body doesn’t use all the glucose it needs, it’s stored in the liver and muscles as a reserve. 

Grains, legumes, beans and starchy vegetables are called complex carbohydrates as they provide our body with fibre and other beneficial nutrients. In contrast, simple carbohydrates are things like sugar, honey, cakes and biscuits which are low in nutritional value and should be eaten sparingly.  


  • 1 medium potato
  • ½ cup cooked rice, pasta, noodles, quinoa, oats
  • 1 bread roll
  • 1 slice sourdough
  • ½ wrap

Healthy Fats

Healthy fats provide an important role in many processes within the body. They help build cell walls, allow the brain and nervous system to function, and produce a range of hormones. 

Healthy fats are digested slowly, meaning that adding a source of healthy fat to your meals can help you feel fuller for longer. 

Aim for 1 serve at each meal. 

  • ¼ avocado
  • 1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive oil
  • 30g nuts or seeds
  • 6 olives
  • 1 tbsp natural nut paste

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