The Balanced Plate

A healthy diet should comprise three balanced meals per day and snacks as needed. But how should you assemble your plate?

The balanced plate model is a simple tool designed to help you prepare your meals. It can help you allocate your carbohydrate intake, so that you feel full and nourished until your next meal or snack.

The size of your plate can vary according to your appetite, but the proportions of the different food groups remain essentially the same.

The foods in the same food group on the balanced plate have a similar carbohydrate content.

  • Starches*
  • Fruit*
  • Vegetables**
  • Milk and Alternatives*
  • Meat and Alternatives
  • Fats

* Foods containing carbohydrates

** Vegetables containing carbohydrates, but in much smaller amounts (potatoes are considered a starch because they are higher in carbohydrates than the majority of vegetables)

Image from: Meal Planning for People with Diabetes at a Glance, © Gouvernement du Québec, 2014

Half of your plate should be composed of vegetables.


  • Choose deeply coloured vegetables and vary them.
  • To save time, chop your vegetables as soon as you get home from the grocery store or buy them pre-cut. That way they will always be ready to add to your meals or to blunt your hunger before supper.
  • Frozen vegetables are available all year long and are also an excellent, nutritious solution for busy weekday evenings. Sautéed in a pan with a little oil and some fines herbes, they add colour and flavour to your meals.
  • Add vegetables to your omelettes, spaghetti sauces and soups.
  • Add vegetables to your diet as a snack; dip raw vegetable slices into humus (chickpea purée) or your own homemade dip.

A quarter of your plate should be composed of starches.

To increase your intake of fibre, choose whole-grain rather than refined products:

  • Whole-wheat pasta over white pasta.
  • Brown rice or wild rice over white rice.


  • Introduce fibre slowly to your menus to give your intestines a chance to adapt, and drink lots of water to avoid constipation.
  • Try whole-wheat couscous, quinoa, bulgur and buckwheat to accompany your main courses.

A quarter of your plate should be composed of meat or its alternatives.

Meat and meat alternatives are an important source of protein.

  • Choose lean cuts of meat.
  • Remove the visible fat from meat, as well as the skin from chicken.
  • Add fish to your menu twice a week.


Canned tuna and canned salmon make practical and economical sandwich fillings or additions to your salads.

Fruit can be eaten along with a meal, as a dessert or a snack.

  • Choose whole fruit rather than fruit juice.
  • Choose 100% pure fruit juice and limit your consumption to small amounts.


Fruit sauces and fruit salads with no added sugar are practical choices for your lunchbox or snack.

Milk and its alternatives can be eaten along with a meal, as a dessert or a snack.

Opt for milk and yogurts with 2% milk fat (M.F.) or less, and low-fat cheeses with 20% milk fat (M.F.) or less.
If you choose soy milk, be sure it is enriched with vitamin D and calcium, and opt for plain or vanilla, which contain less sugar.

Fats also belong on the balanced plate.

Eat them in moderation: fats for cooking, salad vinaigrettes/salad dressing, and fats naturally found in foods (meat, milk products, etc.).

Useful resources: PDF to download.

Research and text: Diabetes Québec Dietitian Team

June 2014 (updated on June 2018)

©All rights reserved Diabetes Quebec


Diabète Québec. Ministère de la santé and des services sociaux du Québec (2014), Meal planning for people with diabetes at a glance.

Agence de santé and services sociaux de la Mauricie and du Centre du Québec. (2011). PRIISME diabète, Module 6 : L’alimentation [Online]