Nutrition is a hot and controversial topic. Some folks don't eat gluten, while others practice interval fasting or keto and find it right for them.
I love cooking. I do it often, and I do it a lot. For the past two years, I've been trying to switch to somewhat healthy recipes and reduce the amount of sugar I eat (and it's freaking everywhere). It was a super-helpful decision and foresight because when I was later found to have type 1 diabetes, I didn't have to do much dietary restructuring. I only had to revisit and update the choices of carbohydrates.
I stand against the demonization of dishes and ingredients! It often leads to eating disorders, but learning to fuel your body correctly and develop healthy eating habits is fantastic. In about 10-15 years, your body will absolutely thank you for it.
In this post, I'll share my experience in choosing dishes and ingredients and planning my food for the whole week.
Diabetes Plate Method
First, let's break down the Diabetes Plate Method. It was invented by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) for people with diabetes like me, but it's really just a method of selecting foods with a suitable proportion of macronutrients.
We all know how important it is to eat protein, fat, and carbohydrates, but in everyday life, rarely does anyone count how much protein they've eaten or how much sugar they've had in a day. Before my diagnosis, I thought I was eating very few carbs. Ha-ha! After only one month of counting, I discovered that carbohydrates were around me my whole ass life: a lot of sweet fruit (it's supposed to be a healthy option!), croissants, potatoes, rice, noodles. There's absolutely nothing wrong with these foods themselves. The only problem is the skewed proportion of macronutrients. I was eating primarily carbohydrates and not always the good ones.
To maintain a proper balance of macro and microelements, it is enough to take a plate with a diameter of 20-22 cm and mentally divide it into four parts:
- 2/4 go under non-starchy vegetables
- cabbage (all types and colors)
- mushrooms, tomatoes, eggplant, etc.
- 1/4 goes to protein
- seafood and fish
- cheese, tofu, cottage cheese
- lentils, hummus, falafel
- 1/4 goes to carbohydrates
- rice, buckwheat, and other grains.
- potatoes, yams, pumpkin.
- red beans, peas.
- milk, yogurts, and milk substitutes.
I remembered how my food looked like in my childhood: half of the plate was dedicates to porridge, the second with meat, next to a piece of bread. Fresh vegetables were eaten on the leftover principle as an appetizer.
Why is the Plate Method principle important for planning?
You don't need a pre-prepared menu! You can combine dozens of meals from the foods you see in the list below. We will organize a shopping list and create a weekly menu based on this principle.
Organizing The Shopping Lists
Vegetables And Fruits. The Rainbow Principle.
We already know that 2/4 of the plate should consist of vegetables. We add them into the basket first, along with the fruit.
Vegetables can be a dense side dish or a light salad. When putting together your basket, ensure you have both categories.
To cover the maximum variety of micro and macro elements and eat fewer supplements, choose them according to the rainbow principle. This means you should arrange your ingredients using colors: white, yellow, red, blue, green, or purple.
- White: mushrooms, cauliflower, daikon.
- Yellow: yellow bell peppers, carrots, pumpkin, yams, zucchini, lemons.
- Red: tomatoes, pomegranate, radishes, strawberries, raspberries, peppers.
- Green: broccoli, zucchini, peppers, celery, salads, savory greens, green beans, peas
- Purple: blueberries, plums, eggplant, radicchio, purple onions,
If you take even a few options from each category above – you'll already have a mindblowing amount of options for breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.
Experiment with it, and take at least one vegetable and try cooking it. This way, you will gradually expand your menu.
You should always have some protein in your basket, and it's good if fish and seafood are present. You can alternate them from week to week.
For example, one purchase includes beef, chicken, and salmon—the next: turkey, sea bass, calamari, pork.
Don't forget the different cheeses. They help to diversify breakfasts and main meals. I almost always have cheese in my cart for snacks, cheese for frying, or cheese for sprinkling on salads, like feta or mozzarella.
Each carbohydrate has a glycemic index from 1 to 100. This is the equivalent of the net glucose in the product. The higher the glycemic index a product has, the faster and more dramatically your blood sugar will rise.
For example, white rice flour has a GI of 95 (high) and is often used to replace wheat flour because of gluten. Eating 100 grams of rice flour, for example, in pancakes, is like pouring several tablespoons of pure sugar into yourself at once (and we still smear pancakes with something sweet on top). If you have blood sugar problems or a history of diabetes in your family, it's best to cut back on high-GI foods.
The plate method will also keep you safe from blood sugar spikes. Yes, everyone's sugar rises after a meal without exception! But proteins and fats will slow the fast rise. The total glycemic index of the products on the plate will be lower.
When choosing carbohydrates, favor foods with low to medium GI. Remembering how to do it is simple: these are any maximally unprocessed grains and beans. You can also check GI, for example, here: glycemic-index.net
Incorporate different grains into your diet.
Quinoa can be an excellent base for a salad or bowls. Millet can make a superb porridge with pumpkin on coconut milk. And bulgur can be added to stewed vegetables.
Beans are super convenient to get in canned form. Just 2 minutes and the side dish or snack dip is ready; no need to soak anything overnight and cook for another 2 hours. Beans are cheap, and you can safely take the supermarket's brand. Chickpeas, lentils, and red beans are almost superfoods with many good carbohydrates, fiber, and proteins.
Nuts And Seeds
Seeds and nuts make any dish more fun and instantly add to your Instagram feed. Plus, it's a great snack to replace sweets.
Make yourself a mix of different seeds (sesame, sunflower, flax, pumpkin) and sprinkle them on salads, breakfast, or yogurt. They're high in unsaturated fats, which is straight-up what we need for good cholesterol. They add a fantastic texture: you'll have something soft, firm, and crunchy - more fun on a plate of any salad.
Something that will add zest to any dish:
- Greek yogurt
- Lemon juice
- Lime juice
- Sesame oil
- Pomegranate sauce
- Soy sauce
I cook every day and eat out no more than two times a week. My typical basket for 7-10 days for two people looks like this:
Okay, the shopping list is complete, so what do I do with all these ingredients?
Take vegetables and proteins and combine them! Yeah, you can randomize them just like that.
Here are some ideas and techniques that you can start with.
Throw on a baking tray: cauliflower, carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, peppers. Pour olive oil and sprinkle with your favorite spices. Bake at 200 C. 20 min, and a delicious side dish is ready. Baked beans like chickpeas from a can work really well. Throw them in the tray with the pumpkin or cauliflower.
Zucchini, green beans, cherry tomatoes, and asparagus can be quickly stir-fried. Add boiled potatoes, baked pumpkin, chicken, fish, and eggs.
Cauliflower, broccoli, and green beans are ideal to boil for 3 minutes. They can form the basis of a side dish, salad, or a complete main course.
- Combine raw and baked.
Make a salad as a main dish. Add a can of beans, and add a green salad, greens, feta, and baked carrots. Next time, take lentils instead of beans, or use baked or roasted eggplant instead of carrots.
- Chop up raw veggies.
Cut carrots, cucumber, tomato, and pepper into strips. Put it near the baked or roasted chicken or fish.
- Assemble the bowls.
Boil some cereal, such as quinoa, and use it for a few days. It will be the base for your bowls. Top it with lettuce, add salmon filet or canned tuna, and drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil. Bowls can be assembled from whatever proteins and veggies you have on hand.
Here are examples of dishes I make with the foods listed above. There are no special recipes. I combine what I see in my fridge and combine ingredients according to those rules, and here's the result:
The vegetables in all of these photos are almost the same. They are just cooked in different ways and presented in various combinations with other ingredients.
Accounts for inspiration
Exploring new ideas is a good way to discover new tastes and combinations. Accounts I train my eye on:
- Tom Walton. Lots about vegetables, baking, and unusual combinations
- Julius Robert. A farmer from Britain who has a chic vibe with retro dishes and the freshest vegetables from the bed.
- Jessica Sepel. Food and desserts
- Natalia Rudin. A lot of vegetable dishes.
- Anna's table. Interesting serves, beautiful colors, and combinations of products
By the way, I rarely had to buy anything for dishes from these people. The rainbow principle covers most of the need for all of their recipes perfectly.
- You don't need a special pre-prepared menu.
- Increase the portions of vegetables in your diet and buy them on a "rainbow" basis.
- Take several different protein options at the same time.
- Combine different protein-grain-vegetable options. Experimentation is everything.
- Choose carbohydrates with a low to medium carbohydrate index.
- Seeds and nuts make everything prettier, including the cholesterol level.