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Food Groups for the Plate Format

Foods are grouped into the following categories for a plate format. The amount of space that each food group should take up on your plate is stated.

Serving size is listed for each food. You can estimate serving size using the size of your fist as about 1 cup or about 1 medium whole fruit.

Bread/starch/grain

Choose a food from this group to take up one-fourth of your plate for each meal.

  • 1 slice of bread
  • 1 ounce of ready-to-eat cereal (check the label for quantity that equals 1 ounce)
  • ½ cup cooked cereal, pasta, rice, or other cooked grain
  • ¼ cup cooked dry beans, lentils, split peas, or corn
  • 1 small potato
  • ½ cup sweet potato or yam
  • 1 cup winter squash

Vegetables

Choose foods from this group to take up half of your plate for each meal. You may choose to omit this group at your breakfast meal.

  • 1 cup raw leafy vegetables
  • ½ cup other vegetables, cooked or chopped raw

Fruits

Choose a food from this group for each meal.

  • 1 piece of fruit, such as a medium apple or orange
  • ½ banana
  • ½ cup chopped, cooked, or canned fruit
  • ½ cup juice
  • ¼ cup dried fruit

Milk and yogurt

Choose a food from this group for each meal.

  • 1 cup (8 ounces) fat-free or 1% milk or low-fat, sugar-free yogurt

You may sometimes choose ½ cup pudding or ice cream.

Meat/protein

Choose a food from this group to take up one-fourth of your plate at each meal. You may choose to omit this group at breakfast. For the serving size of this group, use a serving that is about the size and thickness of a deck of cards.

  • 2 to 3 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish
  • Count the following as equal to 1 ounce of meat:
    • ½ cup cooked dry beans
    • 1 egg. Limit egg yolks to 3 or 4 per week. You may choose to have fewer egg yolks.
    • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
    • 1 ounce of cheese
    • ¼ cup cottage cheese
    • ¼ cup cooked dry beans, lentils, split peas, or corn
    • 4 ounces of tofu

Fats, sweets, and alcohol

Eat fats, sweets, and alcohol sparingly.

  • Be careful not to eat too much saturated fat (animal fat or fat that is solid at room temperature). Saturated fat usually is found in meat, cheese, and butter. Choose foods with more monounsaturated fat, such as olive oil, canola oil, avocado, nuts, or olives. Possible choices include:
    • 1/8 of an avocado
    • 1 tablespoon oil-based salad dressing
    • 1 teaspoon soft margarine or oil
    • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • Talk to your registered dietitian about ways to have limited amounts of sweets in your meal plan.
  • You can use artificial sweeteners such as saccharine, aspartame (NutraSweet), and sucralose (Splenda). You also can use saccharine and sucralose in place of sugar in baking and in coffee and tea. But people who have the rare disease phenylketonuria (PKU) cannot have aspartame, because it contains phenylalanine.
  • If you drink alcohol, limit it to no more than 1 drink a day for women and 2 drinks a day for men. Note for women who are pregnant: No amount of alcohol is known to be safe for the developing baby (fetus).
By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Rhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
Last Revised January 25, 2013

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 25, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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