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Do you have a happy plate?

Posted Mar 18 2011 11:00am

No folks. I’m not talking about the “happy plate” your mom and dad used to talk about.  You know, when they told you that a plate left with no food on it at the end of a meal was a happy plate.  Hopefully, you have since claimed your right to not clean your plate if you are satisfied with less!

So you may be thinking… What is a “happy Plate”? A happy plate for me is a plate with foods that:

1) Contain the three pillars of satiety: Protein, Fiber, and Fat.

(stay tuned for more on this to come!)

2) Are Yummy

3) Are full of COLOR, specifically from fruits and vegetables

Since March is National Nutrition Month and this years theme is “Eat Right With Color”, let’s focus on happy plates that are filled with color.  Color is pleasing to look at during a meal, and more importantly a meal full of a variety of colors usually shows that it has a variety of nutrients.

A few months ago, I was at a buffet type restaurant and I heard a mother tell her children to make their plates pretty with lots of color.  A few minutes later, the kids came back with proud faces and plates filled with plenty of fruits and vegetables.  I was very impressed and excited that the children were so thrilled about getting their fruits and veggies. This mother’s tactic to help her children enjoy eating healthy at restaurants was genius.

Eating meals and snacks with varying colors is a simple and effective way to get a variety of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals everyday.  So, here’s a list of foods to help you color up your diet:

RED: tomatoes , strawberries, rasberries, watermelon, bell pepper, red grapes, cherries (dried are fantastic too), radishes, red grapefruit, rhubarb, red potatoes, red cabbage, kidney beans

ORANGE: oranges, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, cantaloupe, apricots, mangos, papaya

YELLOW: summer squash, bananas, pineapple, sweet corn, yellow tomatoes (love them), butternut squash, lemon, yellow pears, eggs (not a fruit or vegetable but lots of nutrients and color just the same!)

GREEN: Kiwi, Avocados , Spinach, Romaine Lettuce, Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Zucchini, green grapes, green apples, limes, peas, cucumber, asparagus

BLUE/Purple: blueberries, blue corn, eggplant, beets, purple/black grapes, blackberries, raisins, figs, plums/prunes

There are so many beautiful, colorful foods out there, which means there are endless ways to make your own “happy plates”! And, I’ll have you know that my parent’s definition of a happy plate has since changed.  Not infrequently, my mother sends me pictures of her colorful dinner with the caption “My Happy Plate” under it.  I love it. So, what’s your favorite way to color up your plate? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Post by Janet Zimmerman, a University of Memphis Nutrition Student and Schilling Nutrition Therapy, LLC Intern. You can follow Janet on Twitter as well at

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