What should my plate look like?

If the traditional food pyramid has been getting it wrong all these years and the proportions of a typical plate of food have been lopsided, just what exactly is a Real plate of food supposed to look like?

We've spent a lot of time reading the comments and opinions of fellow Banters on our Facebook Page and there are a few things that come up quite often. We often see people saying something like, "you need to eat 70-75% fat, 20-25% protein and 5-10% carbs." This is followed up with, "That is gross. How am I supposed to get that much fat?" We must say, we totally agree. If one had to look at a plate that was covered in 70% fat, it would be difficult to get through it. But, there is a subtle mistake being made here.

So, what exactly do those percentages mean?

Those percentages refer to a percent of your daily calories. Eating 70% fat and getting 70% of your calories from fat are two completely different things. Remember, fat is the most calorie-dense macro nutrient that exists, while carbs or veggies are incredibly light in calories.

You may think that 70 – 75% sounds like a lot, but fat can come from many different sources and not just one lump of butter. Think fatty cuts of meat, avos, olives, coconut oil, olive oil, lard, nuts and seeds, dairy – are you beginning to see how quickly the percentage can add up?

"One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to think you need to eat more fat than you can handle. You MUST not force-feed yourself more fat than you can handle because you think that is how it’s done. Eat your fill and carry on with life. By force-feeding yourself (with anything) you will not feel any better nor will you lose weight. Fat is the tool we use to maintain our energy levels and appetite. You will know you’re not getting enough if you get hungry before lunch or need to eat more than three times a day. You will know you’re eating too much if you feel NAUSEOUS or you’re not losing any weight."

Let’s look at a basic plate of food:

Before we start, it is important to discuss protein portions. According to Bridget Surtees , a registered dietitian specialising in nutritional therapy for metabolic syndrome sufferers, and co-author of Raising Superheroes , “Protein has a modest insulin stimulating effect that can reduce ketone production, therefore you don’t want to overdo protein. Also any protein not needed in the body can be used to produce glucose.” The amount of protein you should eat depends on your IDEAL body weight for your height. If you are overweight, it is the amount you SHOULD weigh for your height. Bridget says, “Aim to keep protein between 1.5 - 2.5g per kg of ideal body weight, but if you have a medical condition, you should seek the advice of your dietitian or medical practitioner before deciding on how much protein to consume." You may even require less protein than that; we have broken down protein further, read this article for more on protein.

A man who is 1.8m tall, should weigh about 80kgs. If we take that 80kgs and multiply it by 2, his total protein amount for the day would be a maximum of 160g. This equates to about 50g of protein per meal (if he is eating three meals a day)

A typical woman should have a total of about 100g of protein a day (which equates to 30g - 35g per meal).

Let's look at an average plate of food for a woman who should weigh about 57kgs:

- 125g of chicken, with the skin on
- 100g spinach
- 100g broccoli
- 1Tbs butter (the chicken is fried in butter and a dab of butter is added to the broccoli and spinach for extra deliciousness)
- Let’s add a sprinkling of cheese for good measure (17g)
- And for dessert, some fresh raspberries (41g) and cream (2Tbs)

This seems like a manageable plate of food, right? And might even be something you eat quite regularly.

Let’s now enter this meal into our meal tracker to get the breakdown.

banting plate breakdown

From the above we can see that we have 8.7g carbs, 39.5g fat and 30.4g protein – which equates to 6.8% carbs, 69.4% fat and 23.8% protein calories.

But, as we know, no two people are the same – you might find that you are already full without the berries and cream – in that case, don’t eat them. It is very important to stop eating once you are full.

We believe that by keeping your carbs between 25g and 50g a day (depending on your insulin resistance and health issues), your protein to the size of your palm at each meal, and filling up on healthy fats – you generally won’t need to worry about calories at all.

We advise entering everything that passes your lips into the meal tracker - this way you can easily understand the breakdown of your food and how it equates to the number of carbs you are eating each day.

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