You Are What You Eat So Eat The Harvard Healthy Eating Plate
Hippocrates was right when he once said, “Let food be thy medicine.” A healthy eating pattern can reduce your risk for developing heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. There is a direct link between what we eat and our risk of disease. So if you’re looking to eat healthier, make your plate look like Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate at each meal.
The Healthy Eating Plate was developed by the Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School. They have taken the best available scientific research to create healthy eating recommendations that actually offer details on what you should eat. What Take Care Coaching loves about the creation of this plate is that it was not influenced by food industry lobbyist. It is exclusively based on science. As Take Care Coaching strongly believes in evidence based best practices, we try to follow the Healthy Eating Plate and encourage our clients to explore it too.
Let’s breakdown the 7 parts to the Healthy Eating Plate into more detail. First is the vegetable section, which is the largest on the plate as research has found so many benefits to eating lots of vegetables. In addition to supplying you with important vitamins, minerals and fiber, eating a variety of vegetables every day can fight inflammation in your body, reduce your risk of disease, help you maintain a healthy weight, lower your blood pressure, and more!
The Healthy Eating Plate recommends including a variety of vegetables in your diet. For example, try to include all different colors on your plate, like purple cabbage, spinach, and carrots. Eat the rainbow! It’s important to note that potatoes are not included in the vegetable section. We eat too many potatoes (as French fries and chips). Plus, potatoes have the same effect on our blood sugar as candy.
The whole grain section is the next largest section. The Healthy Eating Plate is very specific in wanting you to eat more whole grains, such as whole wheat rice, farro, barley, buckwheat, and bulgur, rather than refined grains like white rice and white pasta. This is because whole grains offer more fiber and vitamins than the refined variety. Plus, things like white bread can actually act like sugar, which over time can raise your risk of heart disease and diabetes.
For the protein food group, the Healthy Eating Plate recommends fish, poultry, beans, and nuts. Again, variety is key here too so you want to eat lots of different protein sources. The Healthy Eating Plate encourages you to limit meat and avoid all processed meat as we know this can raise your risk of heart disease, colon cancer, and weight gain. Back in 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) said consuming processed meat, like hot dogs, is just as bad as smoking! So don’t do it or do your best to limit your intake.
Next up is the fruit group. Fruit is great and as a nutrient dense food, it provides amazing benefits to the body; however, we don’t need as much fruit as vegetables in our day. The Healthy Eating Plate wants you to make sure to have more vegetables than fruit and not overdo it on some fruits, like bananas, as they’re high in starch and sugar. It’s also important to note that fruit drinks, even 100% juice, do not count as a serving in the fruit section.
Water is strongly encouraged throughout your day. Low sugar tea and coffee is also okay. The Healthy Eating Plate takes a strong stance against fruit drinks, sodas, and other sugary beverages since sugary drinks are major contributors to the obesity and diabetes epidemics we’re currently facing. Do your best to avoid or limit your intake here. It also recommends to limit your milk and dairy intake as high consumption is linked to an increased risk of developing prostate cancer and even ovarian cancer.
For healthy fat, the Healthy Eating Plate wants you to stick to unsaturated fats, like oils. Olive, avocado, canola, and other plant oils are healthy fat choices and can actually reduce harmful LDL cholesterol. It is also recommended to avoid saturated fat (think butter) and avoid all trans-fat (like packaged cupcake frosting) as these types of fat are harmful to our health.
Lastly, the Healthy Eating Plate has an icon for activity. In addition to eating lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats, and drinking water, staying active is proven to lower your risk of developing certain diseases. It can also control your weight, help you sleep better, and reduce your stress. Check out our HHS Physical Activity Guidelines summary blog for more information about your activity recommendations.
In summary, research supports that to live a healthy lifestyle and lower your risk for developing chronic disease, eat the Healthy Eating Plate. As Michael Pollan states, “Eat food. Not too much and mostly plants.” The Healthy Eating Plate recommends just this. Make sure each meal is majority vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, healthy fats, water, and don’t forget to exercise! Based on research, it also recommends to limit refined grains (like white rice and pasta), potatoes, candy, sodas, red meat, processed foods, and dairy. Check out our resources to learn more.
If you’re looking to improve your eating and need some support and accountability to get started, email Info@TakeCareCoach.com. We’re currently offering a free 20-minute session. We hope to hear from you soon. Happy eating!
Harvard Health (2011). Healthy Eating Plate: https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthy-eating-plate
Pollan M. (2009). In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. It is recommended to read the book, but for a video summary check out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=37NHX2iZrBA
World Health Organization (2015). Q&A on the Carcinogenicity of the Consumption of Red Meat and Processed Meat: https://www.who.int/features/qa/cancer-red-meat/en/