Build a Healthy Eating Plate with Soul Food!

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Proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals…there are a lot of nutrients to keep track of! Making sure you get the right amounts of each (and remembering which foods can provide them) can be overwhelming. That’s why learning about cuisines with diverse nutritional offerings can make eating healthy so much easier! Soul Food is a fantastic cuisine for building a nutritionally diverse and rich dinner plate that helps you eat and live healthier.

The Healthy Eating Plate

Many of us grew up learning about the Food Pyramid and how it can serve as a guide for healthy eating. However, nutritionists have also come up with simple alternative that can easily help you eat healthy from meal to meal: the Healthy Eating Plate. The Healthy Eating Plate is a way to visualize a healthy diet by dividing your plate up like a pie chart based on food groups. If your plate matches the portions of the Healthy Eating Plate, then you can be sure you’re eating a balanced diet!

Copyright © 2011, Harvard University. For more information about The Healthy Eating Plate, please see The Nutrition Source, Department of Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health,, and Harvard Health Publications,

You can break the Healthy Eating Plate down into as little as 5 basic components:

  1. Fill most of your plate with fruit and vegetables
    About half of your plate should consist of fruits and vegetables, with more vegetables than fruit if possible. The more different colors of vegetables you can fit into a meal, the better! Diversifying the vegetables you eat guarantees you’re receiving the full range of important vitamins and minerals.
  2. Dedicate a quarter of your plate to whole grains

    Whole grains like whole wheat, brown rice, or quinoa are rich in fiber and complex carbohydrates and contain less sugar than refined grains such as white bread.

  3. Power up another quarter of your plate with protein

    Protein is essential for keeping our cells healthy and our body functioning properly, but not all protein sources are created equal. Fish, poultry, beans, and nuts are all healthier alternatives than red or processed meat.

  4. Use oils in moderation

    Healthy vegetable oils like olive or canola oil are preferred, and trans fats should be avoided whenever possible.

  5. Skip sugary drinks

    Even if the food on your plate is healthy, having a sugary soda on the side can lead to an imbalanced diet. Sticking primarily to water or tea helps keep you hydrated while limiting sugar intake.

  6. Building a Soul Food Plate

    Now that you know all about the Healthy Eating Plate, it’s time to build your own! Soul food has no shortage of delicious vegetable options, so filling half your plate is easy with choices like crispy kale, collard greens, or honey roasted sweet potatoes. The whole grain portion of your plate is a great chance to experiment with unique options like whole wheat pasta salad or farro and tomato pilaf. Finally, make your plate really shine with classic, protein-rich dishes like BBQ chicken, blackened catfish, or Old Bay shrimp.

    With all your favorite choices combined, you’ve put together the perfect Healthy Eating Plate—soul food style!

    To learn more about how you can change your health through food, check out our other healthy living videos.