Introducing the concept of a balanced diet – The Plate Method

Food provides the energy our bodies require to function. The energy in food is measured in units called calories. No food contains all of the nutrients our body needs and hence, eating a variety of foods in sufficient amounts is required. A healthy, nutritious diet consists of many different foods, preferably consumed throughout the day, and is sufficient in quantity and quality to meet individual’s need for energy (calories) and other nutrients. It should be highlighted that there is no ‘‘one-size fits all’’ diet and nutritional needs are specific to each person. Balance and variety in the diet equals ensuring that we get enough, but not too much, of the energy and nutrients we need.

The Plate Method offers a straightforward approach to healthy eating in today’s complex dietary landscape. By segmenting a standard plate into sections, half for non-starchy vegetables (e.g., carrots, tomatoes, spinach, lettuce etc.) a quarter for protein (e.g., meat, fish, eggs) and a quarter for foods high in carbohydrates (e.g., brown rice, pasta, potato), this method ensures a balanced intake without complex calculations.

While fats are not portioned on the plate, incorporating healthy fats like olive oil complements the emphasis on lean protein and low-fat vegetables. Critical factors for success include prioritising protein intake, avoiding processed foods, and aiming for plate balance. The visual guide of the Plate Method helps individuals achieve the correct proportions of each food group for a well-rounded diet, ensuring essential nutrient intake.

Embracing the Plate Method signifies a journey towards a well-balanced diet, focusing on increased protein, reduced processed foods, and the right proportions 9,10

Understanding macronutrients and their roles

The foods we eat provide us with nutrients – substances necessary for the growth, repair, and maintenance of body tissues (e.g., muscle, nerves etc.) and for the regulation of vital processes (e.g., breathing, blood circulation etc.). As the body cannot produce most of the nutrients, we must receive adequate amounts from the diet to meet our individual nutritional needs. 

There are two types of nutrients: Macronutrients and Micronutrients. 

Macronutrients are the nutrients that provide energy (calories) and are required in large amounts to maintain proper body functions and carry out the activities of daily life. Carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids are the three types of macronutrients.

Are the main source of energy for the body. They provide the calories needed for activity, growth, body functions, maintenance and renewal of body tissues. Generally, carbohydrates come from plants

Foods rich in carbohydrates are rice, maize, wheat, and other cereals, foods made from cereals, all types of root crops such as potatoes, and cassava, legumes, vegetables, fruits and sugars.


Provides amino acids that function as the “building blocks” of life. Amino acids are combined in the body to create protein substances required to form, build and repair body tissues (e.g., muscles, hair, bones etc.) and maintain a strong immune system by producing antibodies to fight diseases. 

Protein exists in foods from both animal and plant sources, which provide different combinations of amino acids. Animal-source foods high in protein are all types of meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese and yoghurt. Plant-source foods rich in protein are legumes, nuts, soybean.

Provide the highest level of energy of any nutrient. They play an essential role in our bodies by helping to create new cells, storing energy, and making molecules that we need. Dietary fats supply essential fatty acids required to absorb vitamins A, D, E and K. Fats protect the cells and internal organs, allow us to store calories to be prepared for time-periods food is scarce, and regulate body temperature. The fatty acids in fats can be divided into unsaturated fatty acids (including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) and saturated fatty acids. Dietary fats naturally found in foods of plant and animal origin. Fats from plant foods tend to have a higher proportion of unsaturated fatty acids, while animal fats (with the exception of some fish) tend to have a higher proportion of saturated fatty acids.

By understanding what macronutrients do and where we can find them, we can make good choices about what to eat and stay healthy 11–13.

Explaining main food groups

Our food choices have a significant impact on our overall well-being and can help prevent serious illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. To maintain a healthy diet, it is  important to consume a variety of food groups, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, dairy, meats, fish, seafood, oils, fats, and drinks. 

For individuals with gluten intolerance or celiac disease, gluten-free options are also available. 

To ensure a balanced diet, aim for five servings of fruits and vegetables, 5-8 servings of whole grains, and 2-3 servings of dairy. It is crucial to consume the other food groups in moderation. Keep salt intake to a maximum of 5 grams daily and limit processed sugars to promote better health11,14.

Exploring micronutrients for energy and focus

Micronutrients work together with the macronutrients to provide energy, build and maintain tissues and to regulate all body’s processes. They are required to assist the body perform specific functions that promote growth, reproduction, and help maintain well-being, health and life overall. Micronutrients, i.e., vitamins, minerals, and trace elements, are needed in smaller quantities than macronutrients.

There are different types of vitamins and minerals that our body needs to stay healthy. Each vitamin and mineral has a specific function in the body and must be supplied in different, adequate amounts. Some vitamins dissolve in water and need to be taken regularly, while others dissolve in fat and can be stored in our bodies for more extended periods. Meanwhile, minerals are pivotal for overall health and are categorised as significant minerals and trace elements based on their recommended daily intake 9,14.

Is an essential vitamin that helps our body function properly and prevents diseases like cancer and heart problems. Vitamin B12 is primarily found in animal-based foods, and it can be challenging to get enough for people who do not eat meat or dairy. However, there are supplements and fortified foods that can help maintain healthy levels of these vitamins.
Dissolve in fat and can be stored in our body for a long time. Vitamin D is essential for strong bones, and our body produces it on its own with enough sunlight. However, if we don’t get enough sun exposure, we may need supplements to avoid vitamin D deficiencies.

Are minerals that our body needs to stay healthy. Calcium helps keep our bones strong, while sodium regulates bodily fluids. There are also other minerals, like iodine and fluoride, that are important for our health, especially during pregnancy.

Highlighting the benefits of hydration and tips for staying hydrated at home
Is essential for our well-being as it helps keep our body functioning correctly. It does not add to our energy reserves, but it keeps us going. Water accounts for a large part of our body weight and it is the main component of body fluids. It transports nutrients and compounds in blood, controls body temperature, and gets rid of waste. We lose water daily and our body does not store it, so we need to replenish it through the foods and liquids we consume. Staying hydrated has many benefits, including improved physical performance, better brain function, healthy skin, and body temperature regulation. To stay healthy, it is recommended that we drink around 8 to 10 glasses of water per day. The key is to make water your go-to drink.


Is a psychoactive substance that is not required by the body. It can contribute a significant number of calories to the diet and its consumption is a causal factor in more than 200 diseases, injuries and other health conditions. According to the World Health Organization, drinking alcohol is associated with an increased risk of developing health problems such as mental and behavioural disorders, and major non-communicable diseases such as liver cirrhosis, some cancers and cardiovascular diseases. Due to its short- and long-term health harms, adults of legal drinking age are advised to choose not to drink, or to drink in moderation by limiting intake to 2 drinks or less in a day for men or 1 drink or less in a day for women, on days when alcohol is consumed. It should be unambiguous that it is not recommended that individuals who do not drink alcohol start drinking for any reason, and that if adults decide to drink alcoholic beverages, drinking less is better for health than drinking more.

Caffeine in coffee can disrupt sleep if consumed too close to bedtime. Sugary drinks are not suitable for our health, so it’s recommended to avoid them.

Here are some tips to stay hydrated at home 11

  • Drink plenty of water, and you can add some flavour to your water by putting fruit slices in it. 
  • Set a schedule for drinking water; use apps to track your water intake.
  • Choose water-rich fruits and vegetables.
  • Carry a water bottle with you.
  • Limit alcohol, caffeine, and sugary drinks.
  • Start and end your day with water.




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BDA. Vegetarian, vegan and plant-based diet Food Fact Sheet. BDA 2021.


CDC. Food Labels | CDC. 2023. (accessed 3 Nov2023).


Alice Callahan P, Heather Leonard PR, Tamberly Powell MR. Nutrition: Science and Everyday Application. 2022.