Discover How the Harvard Eating Plate Can Improve Your Diet

The Harvard Eating Plate is a guide to making healthy, balanced meals. In general, it encourages consumers to make good food choices and eat foods in appropriate portions.
Discover How the Harvard Eating Plate Can Improve Your Diet

Last update: 26 February, 2021

The Harvard Eating Plate has become a key tool in nutrition education around the world. It’s a methodology a group of nutrition experts from Harvard University created that seeks to promote healthy eating visually and simply.

With these recommendations, you may be able to lose weight, thus enjoying the positive health implications this could have in the medium and long term.

This method is based on a series of simple and easy-to-apply guidelines that we’ll teach you below.

The Harvard Eating Plate, a response to a current social need

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), obesity has reached epidemic proportions globally. Although the Harvard methodology initially focused on this population, any healthy adult can use it due to its many benefits.

In other words, you don’t need to be overweight or obese to include it in your lifestyle as another healthy option. The goal of the Harvard Eating Plate is to offer a simple methodology to help people make balanced meals.

The Harvard Eating Plate and the food pyramid

In recent years, the popularity of the Harvard Eating Plate has made it one of the nutritional references of society. You can find many examples of dishes that follow this methodology. For example, in social media, food campaigns, and public health campaigns, among others.

This is increasingly positioning the Harvard Eating Plate as a reference framework in food education. On the other hand, it casts doubts on and brings to light some of the weaknesses of food education. One of the most questioned points has been the well-known food pyramid that, until relatively recently, was the main model.

Different studies state that the Harvard Eating Plate has certain advantages over the food pyramid. One of them is the visual way it shows food proportions and portions. This makes it easier for people to learn how to use it and incorporate it into their daily lives.

Another strength is that the Harvard Eating Plate only shows foods of healthy origin and, unlike the food pyramid, it doesn’t show foods rich in sugars or empty calories that can only be consumed sparingly.

A healthy meal.
The Harvard Eating Plate has managed to stand out above the traditional food pyramid, as it has certain advantages. One of them is that it only shows healthy foods.

The Harvard Eating Plate: description and makeup

One of the goals of the Harvard Eating Plate is to favor the inclusion of fruits and vegetables daily, making them the foundation of the diet. These two food groups are a healthy source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Also, they’re rich in carbohydrates that provide the body with the energy it needs. An article published in the International Journal of Epidemiology associated their regular consumption with a lower risk of mortality.

Another strong point of this methodology is that it advocates a reduction of cereal intake. In other words, it can help people avoid basing their diets on these foods.

Food distribution

Along these lines, and based on the image that you’ll see below, the food distribution of the Harvard Eating Plate is the following:

  • 50% of the plate should be vegetables, preferably seasonal. Vary the cooking method (baked, grilled, etc.). You can combine or compliment this part of the plate with fruits.
  • The other half of the plate is divided into two halves. The first half, or 25%, consists of complex carbohydrates. In other words, products that the food pyramid included in most of its versions. This group includes bread, pasta, rice, quinoa, spelt, and other grains. It also includes starch (potato and sweet potato). You should prioritize the consumption of whole grains. Also, avoid refined products or white flour.
  • The last 25% of the plate consists of sources of protein. Meat, fish, eggs, legumes, and vegetable protein belong to this group. Harvard experts recommend consuming legumes, fish, and poultry and limiting excess meats, cold cuts, or fatty cheeses.
  • They also recommend one to two daily servings of dairy products.
  • These experts encourage the intake of natural foods, thus avoiding adding too much sugar to drinks, already sugary drinks, or fruit juices. Also, they state that the main drink should be water.
  • You should choose olive oil to make your meals, raw whenever possible and with cooked foods. Limit your consumption of excess trans fats, such as using butter or margarine to cook foods. According to research published in the journal Cardiology, these types of lipids are linked to inflammation and health problems. There’s a connection between the intake of trans fats and cardiovascular risk. Thus, you need to limit their consumption.
The Harvard Eating Plate.
The Harvard Eating Plate (Harvard, 2017)

Other recommendations

It’s important to remember that leading a healthy lifestyle goes far beyond your diet. Although the Harvard Eating Plate is a good nutritional reference for a balanced diet, you also need to take your individual needs into account.

On the other hand, you need to remember that having a good relationship with food goes far beyond what you eat. Making healthy food choices to take care of yourself, not to simply look good, is one of the important foundations of your relationship with food.

Watch your habits to improve your state of health

Don’t forget that you should pay attention to your eating habits for your entire life. Nothing is stable or rigid, since your needs could change. Thus, remember that you need to be flexible with your diet.

The Harvard Eating Plate is simply another tool that can help you improve your eating habits. That doesn’t mean that it’s the only option, nor that not using it means you’re doing something wrong.

Be flexible and understand that it takes time to learn how to manage your diet. In fact, this may become a valuable habit throughout your life.

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  • Gil, J.F. (2019). El paradigma de la alimentación saludable en educación primaria. ¿Nos estamos equivocando? EmásF, nº 56, pp. 13 – 29. Universidad de Murcia. Recuperado de:
  • Aune D., Giovannucci E., Boffetta P., Fadness LT., et al., Fruit and vegetable intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer and all cause mortality a systematic review and dose response meta analysis of prospective studies. Int J Epidemiol, 2017. 46 (3): 1029-1056.
  • Wilczek MM., Olszewski R., Krupienicz A., Trans fatty acids and cardiovascular disease: urgent need for legislation. Cardiology, 2017. 138 (4): 254-258.