Delicious and fortifying, this scientifically sound eating philosophy lets you enjoy incredible meals, while emphasizing foods that promote health to reduce your risk for cancer and other chronic diseases.
Too often, the traditional American plate is not a healthy meal. Many Americans rely on fast food or processed food. A typical home-cooked dinner is often planned around a large portion of either red meat or poultry, with some potatoes or other starchy vegetable on the side, and sometimes a small serving of a green or non-starchy vegetable. Meals like these often contain too many calories, and not enough health-protecting vitamins and minerals.
At the center of the New American Plate is a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans. These foods are rich in fiber, vitamins, and other natural substances called phytochemicals that help keep you in good health, and protect against cancer. They are also naturally low in calories.
Ready to eat better and move more, but need a little support?
Join AICR’s new Healthy10 Challenge today! This is a free 10-week interactive online program to help you improve your diet, nutrition, physical activity and weight for lower cancer risk and better overall health. The challenge includes two major components—nutrition and physical activity—that will help you eat smarter and move more. Each week you will receive a new challenge along with tips and tools to help you conquer the challenge. Each challenge is based on AICR’s 10 Cancer Prevention Recommendations.
What’s the focus of the New American Plate?
The keys to the New American Plate are simple: portion and proportion.
Rather than overload your plate with big servings and centering eating around meat, the New American Plate helps you plan meals that are filling, well-balanced, and packed with nutritional value.
The goal is to have vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans make up 2/3 (or more) of each meal, and animal protein to make up 1/3 (or less). This shouldn’t be seen as a rigid diet, but as an opportunity to be creative and flexible with your meals!
The New American Plate should not be confused with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). Though there is some crossover between the two, there are also some distinctive differences between DGA and AICR’s cancer prevention recommendations.
These meals will leave you pleasantly satisfied, and will help you maintain your weight, and take care of your overall health and well-being.
How to Transition to the New American Plate
We know that making extensive changes to your diet can be tough. It’s common to get used to your dietary habits, and transforming your approach to nutrition can be an effort.
You don’t have to change everything overnight though. You can move to the New American Plate gradually. Little by little, you’ll find new ways of eating, and if you stick with it, eventually you’ll likely find that following the New American Plate’s model becomes second nature.
Take it one step at a time. When adjusting your meals to include more plant-based foods, even small changes can provide real health benefits. Every new vegetable, fruit, or whole grain and lentil/bean contributes disease-fighting power. And all the calories you save may make a real difference to your waistline.
Stage 1: The Old American Plate
The typical American meal is heavy on red meat, fish and poultry. Take a look at this plate. Fully half is loaded with a huge (8–12 oz.) steak. The remainder is filled with a hearty helping of buttery mashed potatoes and peas. Although this meal is a home-style favorite, it is high in calories and low in phytochemicals and fiber. A few changes, however, will bring it closer to the New American Plate.
Stage 2: A Transitional Plate
Start by making your meat portions smaller. Our transitional meal features a more moderate (4–6 oz.) serving of meat. You then want to increase the size of your veg portion and reduce the size of your carbs portion. Again, in our example we’ve opted for a large helping of green beans prepared with your favorite herbs and the addition of a filling whole grain (seasoned brown rice). Making these changes increases the proportion of nutritious, plant-based foods. This plate is on the right track, but doesn’t yet take advantage of all the good-tasting foods the New American Plate has to offer.
Stage 3: The New American Plate
This meal is a great example of the New American Plate. To achieve this meal you’ll be opting for an ever smaller portion of meat. The modest 3-ounce serving of meat (fish, poultry, or red meat) pictured here fits AICR guidelines for cancer prevention. This plate also features a wider variety of foods, resulting in a diverse assortment of cancer-fighting nutrients. Rather than just a single portion, opt to include a wider range of vegetable types in your meals. Two kinds of vegetables increase the proportion of plant-based foods, and a healthy serving of a tasty whole grain (brown rice, barley, kasha, bulgur, millet, and quinoa) completes the meal.
Stage 4: Another Option
There are many ways your meals can fit the New American Plate template. Here’s another example. In a one-pot meal – like this stir-fry – you can reduce the animal foods and increase the plant-based ingredients without even noticing. Swap out some of the meat for vegetable alternatives. This plate is bursting with colorful vegetables and hearty whole grains, which are packed with cancer-fighting vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Fish, poultry, or occasionally red meat is used as a complement, adding a bit of flavor and extra substance to the meal.