1 Mealtime Mistake That’s Making You Gain Weight

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1 Mealtime Mistake That’s Making You Gain Weight

The next time you sit down to eat, take a good long look at your plate before you dig in. The food you’re eating and the way you prepared it might be totally healthy, but there could be another, almost invisible factor causing you to eat more than you originally intended to. And if you’re interested in losing or maintaining your weight, letting this little mistake slip under the radar could be getting in the way of your goals.

Your portion sizes might be too big, and the way you plate your food could be the reason why. Your healthy-eating game plan seems airtight: You diligently set your brown rice down, top it with a lean protein like chicken, and finish things off with veggies. But here’s the rub: Arranging your food in this format may cause you to accidentally pack on too much of some foods and too little of others. According to Maxine Yeung, M.S., R.D., owner of The Wellness Whisk, when you plate your carbohydrate and protein first, “by the time you get to the veggies, there’s little room left on the plate.” In a well-rounded meal, she says, veggies should be the main focus. So you don’t want to plop them on the plate like an afterthought.


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“Changing the way you view your meal to make the vegetable section your primary focus is so important because they contain all the fiber, vitamins, minerals, and water your body needs,” Yeung explains. So what’s the best way to plate your food? Veggies first, then protein, then grains—if it sounds upside down, that’s because it is. This method, developed by Yeung, is called plating backwards, and it’s an extremely simple solution to the common too-big-portion problem.

Making it a mealtime habit is easy. When you plate, Yeung says you’ll want to aim for your portions to be 50 percent non-starchy vegetables, 25 percent lean protein, and 25 percent carbohydrates. If you plate the classic way (carbs, protein, vegetables) you’re more likely to end up with 50 percent carbs and 25 percent vegetables. To strike the right balance, she says, “Start by filling about half your plate with vegetables, then add protein and carbohydrates in about equal portions.” And if you’re still unsure about your portion sizes, she suggests using MyPlate’s visuals as a guideline.

While Yeung primarily likes to use this method at home, she says you can also apply it to mealtime at buffet-style situations, and even while choosing an item from a restaurant menu. Using this trick forces you to look at your meal in a different way. So when you’re flipping through dinner options, whether it be on Seamless or at your favorite Mexican spot, you’ll be more inclined to spot the dishes with larger vegetable portions.

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  • InnocentJameis

    Whatever tub tub moron wrote that piece of warm garbage wasted their time. Not too much time though, as they couldn’t even proofread it or correct typos or mistakes

  • Jayjay

    Perhaps someone could invest in a proofreader if you plan on posting this for people to read.

    • TJ

      Maybe you could keep your snarky comments to yourself?

      • collaroygal

        Jayjay is correct. These are very short articles, no reason to have such mistakes as :
        Yeung says you’ll want to aim for your portions to be 50 percent non-starchy vegetables, 25 percent lean protein, and 25 percent carbohydrates

        And she doesn’t mention fats at all. How do you think your body gets most of the vitamins delivered? it is via fats.

        • dick

          Wate is tha typo mestake?

        • davedave12

          Dumbo, you do not make room on the plate for fat – fat is in side the meat or maybe the cooking oil — you do not make a portion for fat

          • Evalen

            Wow you have a attitude problem saying not to eat like a pig and calling someone Dumbo.
            Actually she is right, fat is important in your diet. There are good fats and there are bad fats. Portion control is the ans. We can also eat to much of a good thing. Most fats in meat is not really good for you. things like olive oil, and coconut oil are good fats for you.

      • christabel

        People who write for a living should know how to do it.

  • Cosmixd

    Veggies should be the main focus haha OK Mrs secret vegan

  • Frank

    Get a food scale. Input your macros in the morning and diligently stick to them. Don’t guesstimate, especially with starch and sugar. You will almost always under estimate.

    • davedave12

      if you just remember to not eat like a pig, you do not need a food scale — life is not that complicated — Protein –size of your palm, fat– size of your thumb, carb/starch — what fits in your cupped palm — veggies, as much as everything else put together – pretty much all you want unless you have drowned them in cheese

      • Aaron Young

        “if you just remember to not eat like a pig,” <–that's sound advice (sarcasm). There is nothing wrong with adding precision with a food scale. Eventually that will help folks get a feel for how much food they're eating and they can eyeball their portions but your cookie cutter one size fits all approach is missing the mark. What works for you doesn't work for everyone and tracking portions and macros will work WONDERs for folks who struggle with weight. It also aids in discipline–but who needs discipline? Just do what your supposed to do and don't do what you're not supposed to do right?

      • Patrick Henry

        You are an a$$, the only protein you should put in your mouth is sperm.

      • Diane923

        If you eat out often, you will lose your sense of what a good portion size should be. “Eat like a pig” is a slur on people with eating disorders – good nutrition shouldn’t be used as a club to make value judgements on people. Your answer sounds like you are a nutrition snob who never had an over- or under-weight problem. The article at least sticks to the topic and gives a nod to the difficulties that some people do have with what seems so simple to someone like you.

        • davedave12

          Eating right is extremely simple — not easy, but extremely simple– just look at any cake or donut, at home or the office — the fit people are not wolfing it down. overweight people eat too much, simple

          • lopear11

            Not true. I have been overweight since I was 6 yrs old. My younger sister ate much more than I did, but she was quite thin. My father always used to say to me, ” I don’t understand why you are so heavy, you barely eat anything!”. Turns out, I had a metabolic disorder (that was undiagnosed until I was in my 20s). By that time, I had already been on numerous diets (my first one being when I was 6), so my metabolism was wrecked. Also by that time, I had developed an unhealthy relationship with food. It didn’t help that every other week, the “experts” are constantly changing their minds about what is good food or bad food… one week bread is out, the next week they tell you not to skip bread… then it’s — FAT IS THE ENEMY!! Two years later (after losing 80 pounds and wrecking my gallbladder), I was told I wasn’t eating enough fat! Then it’s… eat a high protein diet… oh no wait.. meat is bad, vegan’s where it’s at! I could go on. Point being, don’t judge all overweight people the same. And you’re wrong.. I’ve seen and known many thin people who eat MORE sugar laden sweets and junk food than I ever thought of eating.

          • Not.An.Ass

            you’re an ass.

          • davedave12

            Name calling, that makes you….. classy, mature helpful???

        • TheElfHerself

          I usually intentionally separate my food so I have half leftover.

          • davedave12

            My food has separation anxiety

        • Pdiddy Dduh

          Its not a slur on people with eating disorders because they dont have one unless they are starving themselves which I dont think is what you mean. We have normalized obesity in the country. It takes a lot of work to stay fat eating a lot. How many calories does a 400 pound fatty consume a day to maintain that?

          • David Keys

            Pdiddy Dduh I am wasting my time because I can tell you are very arrogant. As an older person I am way overweight. As a person in my twenties I weighed around 130. I am 5 foot 10. I don’t as a hobby see how much I can consume. That being said I have no willpower whatsoever. I hope that you never have to deal with that. I had tons of willpower when I was younger. All I had to do was say I wasn’t going to do something and I didn’t have problem one not doing it. I am sorry you have such a disdain for people who have a problem. I don’t think that obesity has been normalized in this country. Instead I think it clearly shows how the majority of people have a problem that you obviously do not. I hope you never have that problem because it is heartbreaking to know that you look bad and hope people don’t think you look as bad as you feel. Even worse when you were not thinking about it, and you see your comments that make a person feel worse still. You very much have a wonderful day.

          • All1

            As a bodacious woman I will remind you and myself at the same time. We only allow people to steal our joy. Delete the idiots with harsh words. They are cowards hiding in cyberspace! All the best to you!

          • Yelizaveta Liza Golub

            The reason that people develop eating disorders is because they do starve themselves!!! Why does a person weigh 400 pounds? Because after being slightly overweight they go on diets and literally starve to death. Their evolutionary survival instinct kicks in which thinks they are literally going to die and starve to death. So the brain gets INTENSE urges to eat and not eat reasonably but eat like they will never see food again because the brain is literally under the impression that famine is about to strike and it needs to load up on food to survive. The person (incapable of fighting their survival instincts) feels like a failure because once again they were unable to fight off the “simple way of eating right” and they go on a more strict diet and the pattern repeats. Dave and Pdiddy, I do not know what you consider to be the hardest thing you have dealt with in life, but for obese people eating normally and without guilt is literally as hard as the hardest thing you have dealt with. How do I know this? I am a formerly morbidly obese child turned psychotherapist who is very familiar with eating disorders. If anyone is reading this read “brain over binge” for help with regulating eating and the urges/cravings or thinking about food literally all day long. If you are a person who struggles with any food issues, guilt, shame, or worthlessness, feel free to write me with your struggles (for free obviously) ylgtherapy@gmail.com

          • e.Bosselini

            I like what you have written here. Are you a licensed therapist or nutritionist? I own a personal training studio and I have clients that can use some mental fitness and motivation. Would love to discuss this more with you.

          • Yelizaveta Liza Golub

            Licensed Mental Health Counselor
            Feel free to email me at ylgtherapy@gmail.com

          • Thank you so much for the response. I will email you soon.

          • Christina

            Love your answer! You did a great job at explaining reactive brain and eating issues. I wish everyone got this!!!! Thanks for sharing!

          • Yelizaveta Liza Golub

            Happy to spread knowledge and blessed to experience the freedom of the mental prison I was stuck in.

          • Carole

            I disagree with some of your comments. It is not necessarily that obese people “starve themselves on diets”. There is recent research that finds that eating carbohydrates and sugar DRIVES hunger. The more carbs and sugar one takes in the hungrier the person gets. Many obese people have insulin resistance and cannot lose weight because they cannot produce enough insulin to handle the overflow of sugar therefore both carbs and sugar are turned into FAT. It is a vicious cycle and more often a physical problem than a “psychological” one. Dr. Eric Westman has an excellent Utube video about the recent research of the hunger driven Obese and the solutions that are working.

          • Yelizaveta Liza Golub

            Carole, with all do respect the problem is maintained for psychological reasons. Follow me here…it may start as a medical issue (hypothyroidism, PCOS, crappy genetics, insulin resistance, etc) however, every single over weight man and woman I have met (and many people with normal BMI’s) have a couple of things in common…they have gone on strict and severe diets that eliminate whole food groups from their eating plan and are constantly plagued with ruminations about the fact that they are fat, worthless, and undeserving of what I consider the be basic human minimums (love and respect). They get in the starve binge cycle and their thoughts are constantly plagued with urges and cravings for food. They feel intense anxiety until they eat and when they do, the guilt follows and so does the next diet and self deprivation and deprication. It is maintained through social scrutiny from strangers and the people closest to them, but worse of all they choose to believe it as reality. Most thing can be treated, but when you are constantly failing, you stop trying and that can roll over into every other area of their life.

          • Carole

            Sorry but I do not buy it. This may be true for some. Finding the physiological reason for obesity is key. Once that is established, steps can be taken to help with weight loss success.

          • Carole

            Sorry but I do not buy it. This may be true for some. Finding the physiological reason for obesity is key. Once that is established, steps can be taken to help with weight loss success.

          • Marilee Jikey

            I agree. An eating attitude is like just about everything else in life, its psychological. We all have our physical limitations but eating is much more than cooking or ordering, using your knife & fork, chewing and swallowing. Some people are motivated by shaming and some are not. Some people made to feel worthless somehow develop an “Oh yeah, I’m going to prove you wrong” mentality and others fall victim to it. The mind is a complicated thing that no one really understands. xo

          • davedave12

            Good point, but you should not say “fatty” use the more neutral term “morbidly obese person”

      • Navreet

        Posts like yours are not welcome in this community. If eating well and being active could be achieved by saying things like “don’t be a pig” we wouldn’t be here.

        • davedave12

          You replied to a year old comment — computer was too far from the couch?

        • davedave12

          Weight gain in early and middle adulthood will increase health risks later in life, according to a study released Tuesday by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. People who gained a moderate amount of weight (5 to 22 pounds) before the age of 55 increased their risk of premature death, chronic diseases and decreased the likelihood of achieving healthy aging, the study found. And the higher the weight gain, the greater risk of chronic diseases.

          “Our study is the first of its kind to systematically examine the association of weight gain from early to middle adulthood with major health risks later in life,” senior author Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology and chair of the Department of Nutrition, said in a statement. The study analyzed data from nearly 93,000 participants.

          Women gained an average of 22 pounds over this time, while men gained 19 pounds. “The findings indicate that even a modest amount of weight gain may have important health consequences.” Worse, early and middle adulthood is the time of life most people actually gain weight, as their metabolism slows, recurring knee and back injuries become more common, studies show; many people are also less active in their 30s and 40s when they work longer hours and have more responsibilities than, say, their carefree early 20s.

        • Pdiddy Dduh

          Stop enabling. This is what you are doing.

      • TheElfHerself

        For some people they might need to start out their weightloss journey by measuring and inputting everything they eat. It helps you to realize exactly what you are eating and what the culprits are.

      • Pdiddy Dduh

        I agree. People are too obsessed with measuring everything. Its not that hard to eyeball and not pile up your plate like crazy. If you cook you get a better sense of what the food value is. Problem is that most people are lazy and want the easy way out. I like you think measuring food and all the stupid fad diets dont help. You need common sense not a damn food experiment. BTW im 158lbs, 11-12%BF and I eat everything and drink wine and beer every day. In moderation. I also exercise 4-5 times strenuously every week.

  • Carrie Glenn

    Good info and I agree with Jayjay. Authors that take pride in their work and hire a proofreader appear more credible. I do proofreading for several bloggers and the service is worth it.

  • Teetop

    Would love suggestions for vegetable heavy restaurant meals! Maybe another blog?

    • GlassShard

      Salads.

    • davedave12

      Asian restaurants

    • Kay

      Stir fry or fajitas. You can eat without the rice / tortilla. Or eat only half of the rice. Also Applebees has many “bowl meals” served over rice, which are meat and veggies, just limit your rice intake. My friend commonly asks for no rice and a double helping of veggies, most restaurants are hoppy to accommendate.

  • jm2

    interesting! My mother was always surprised that I always went for the vegetables first – still do. In top restaurants you’ll notice that the entree is always put in front of you at the 5-o’clock position on the plate. Maybe the vegetables need to be there instead!

  • Chris

    I would say this is not a smart article at all. There’s no mention of daily caloric intake or macronutrient distribution. Although I do think most people need to amp up their veggie consumption, this article is crap…sorry.

    • Eliot

      It’s not crap at all. The point is, if you put veggies first you will likely add more and, therefore, less of the other, more calorie packed foods. Maybe the article doesn’t mention calories, but it is obvious the suggestion is a good way to lessen your calorie intake. It is, therefore, not crap. Perhaps you should be less judgemental and more informative.

      • I agree with you. Look at celery! It’s the one food you can eat and lose calories eating! Veggies have almost everything we need to survive, and very few calories. I find that eating an organic steamer bag of broccoli flavored with a bit of coconut oil and paired with a serving of meat is more filling than a side of rice or noodles.

    • davedave12

      crap = spending every day of your life measuring food by the gram and counting calories

    • yeah this advice is only good if you’re running open loop (like on vacation or whatever) and can’t track portions and exact nutrition.

    • Diane923

      Then you’ll be surprised that even the American Diabetes Association puts this forth as a simple way to monitor what you eat and keep you from going into hyper or hypoglycemic episodes!

    • Megan Taggart

      I think that the article is simply stating how to plate items proportionally, under the assumption that you are already eating the proper foods etc. It is simple and makes sense.

  • Catherine Brown

    This is good information but off-putting that the photo shows white rice and the article describes brown rice (which should always be the choice over white when planning healthy meals).

    • James Clark

      Such a generalization is not true. White rice has benefits as well.

  • I found the 21 Day Fix program. Autumn Calibrese tells people exactly what the right proportions of food are. She’s onto something because I lost 20 pounds in 2 months by eating more food. 4 cups of veggies per day, 2 cups of fruit, 4 servings of meat, and more. Her program also provides measuring cups so you have visual guides. Also, she suggests no carbs past early afternoon.

    • davedave12

      SPAM is not good food

      • I’m not trying to spam. I have no stake in the company, and I’m not a coach. That said, the program works and this discussion is completely relevant to the article above.

        Simply to avoid further conflict I edited my post to eliminate the program name.

        • Angela McCabe

          I also used Autumn’s plan too and when I stuck to it I was satisfied and had good energy. Lost 12 lbs the first round. Good way to build the habits outlined in this article. And the recipes for the seasoning blends in the book are really good and low sodium.

        • Mel

          Can you tell me what the food layout is….I am interested in trying it…thx

          • There is a LOT to it. What I used is called 21 Day Fix. They are part of a larger company that does P90X & Insanity. I think all of their programs come with meal plans. With 21DF she encourages you to quit sugar for 21 days. I took it to a modified Paleo level. My doctor said I should quit gluten, & feeling that processed foods are full of chemicals I quit many. I still used cheese, & occasionally pasta. They say you can have one slice of pizza, which would qualify as 2 carb and a blue container (cheese and almonds). Carbs should only be about a cup a day. Really, this article is correct when it says that you should eat more veggies. For my weight, I should have 4 cups of veggies, 4 red cups (3/4c servings) of meat, 2 carbs (1/2c each). I always forget the details on blue & orange but orange is seeds and dressings. The program gives you healthy salad dressings, too. You can probably find the book online or via Amazon. There’s way more to it than I can fit in a post.

            Also, if you feel like some reading check out Wheat Belly. It sounded stupid to me at first, but that book is absolutely right. Before my dad passed he used to tell everyone about that book. He knew people who lost 100 lbs just by following it.

  • Shaun Sweeney

    Half our plate should be veggies. The more we eat the better we are.

  • Atslave1

    no mention on the percentage of healthy fats?

  • Randy Clark

    …I read a book called “Fit for Life” about thirty years ago. Their suggestion was to try and keep your food to fruit and veg before noon eating as much as you feel (obviously not with dips and cheese and creams), from noon on you can add meats just don’t mix starches like bread, rice, potato with meat (steak and potato, sandwiches…) drink plenty of water and don’t eat after 9 pm. Obviously you’d have to arrange the time schedule if you work a shift that isn’t day shift. They recommended a simple yoga for exercise and walking. At the time I read it I was 270 lbs at 6’6″ tall. I got down to 220 lbs and have stayed there ever since (Yes, I’m still 6’6″ tall). I enjoy all sorts of foods and don’t feel constrained at all. It might not work for everyone, as some might have actual medical issues or biological anomalies that keep them from achieving a balanced weight for their frame. But it might be worth a look for some.

  • Kristen Jay

    Ridiculous. Its not about how the food is arranged on your plate.Theres no such thing as “first” on a plate. Its about controling how much you are putting in your mouth-whatever that may happen to be.
    For me , I have found that stopping my long time habit of stuffing myself on junk food has helped me maintain my weight after reaching a goal of 60 lbs lost earlier this year. I don’t eat large portions of anything

    • epickett

      This DOES seem to be a method of controlling how much you are putting in your mouth. Most people tend to fill their plate when they serve themselves. So if you start out with protein, you are more likely to use the majority of the real estate with that, and not much left for vegetables. If you *start* with the vegetables, those would take up the bulk of the real estate, with less space for the higher-calorie choices… So I see it as a valid way to lower your total calorie count for the meal, while still getting all the nutrients you need.

  • Mel

    Great idea. I never thought of this. I always start loading my plate with meat or my carbs first and then with what room I have left I fill with veggies…..Easy switch…

  • Aileen

    This is all wrong. This is just promoting Caroline restriction, eating disorders, bad health, etc. first of all carbs do not make you fat nor sugar. Your brain runs on glucose. Eating a plant base diet ‘vegan diet’ is the healthiest diet. Do your research there’s plenty of doctors that state it. Think about it what make you fat?…. It’s call fat for a reason. So meat is filled with saturated fat and oily when cooking it. Why not cut the meat and fuel up with carbs and every food source from plants (fruits, veggies, legumes, grains) all have protein so you don’t need to worry about being protein deficient. Check out freelee the banana girl on YouTube and don’t forget to carb up!!

    • Joel Carter

      Everything you eat – fats, protein and carbohydrates – can be converted to fat in the body if you don’t follow the one simple rule of nutrition: Eat less, move more. Fat has gotten a bad rap over the years, and it can be problematic if consumed in excess. The fact is that your body needs fat for normal operation. It uses fat as energy when your carbohydrate supply has been depleted and helps your body absorb needed nutrients.

    • La Bandita

      Some cultures and people thrive on high fat diet. Use it for yourself, but it’s not a universal rule.

  • Nancy

    Just found I have low blood pressure,not talking in enough salt and drinking water, having dizzy and fainting when I stand up. Now I got to change my way of eating.

  • TheElfHerself

    When you’re at home use a smaller plate. I have heavy ceramic plates I inherited and they come in either a large dinner plate, or a smaller dessert plate that I still think is too large. I use the smaller plate except for things that need to be spread out or might get messy.

  • Shawn K

    Wow To those making comments calling people “pig” and “fat” are so not what this site was made for. As I was taught from a young age by My Parents & Grandparents “If you don’t have anything nice to say DON’T say anything at all. If you’ve never had a weight problem then please be careful on the words you use to attack people comments. I agree that everyone has the right to make their “comments”, but “come on” do you really have to be rude???? I have a friend who was called “Fat” in high school and HE*(YES HE) he quite eating and ending up getting so thin and so sick that he was out of school for a couple months at a time. He starved himself due to some ones rude comment and it ruined his life. Are those “HARSH WORDS” really worth ruining some ones life for your quick moment of “pleasure”… I don’t think so. So, please think about what your saying before you actual post it. Thank you

  • Alexander Deltrus Leimbeck

    Kind of silly to assume that people will always eat the rice and protein first. Articles like this always make for a good eye-roll…

  • Carole

    Vegetables are carbs.

  • Jennifer

    Eat mostly healthy fats, then proteins, then a little carbs in the form of veggies and fruits. Don’t be fooled by the government’s suggestions saying that you need to eat more grains. That is where they make their money. Check out the keto diet.

  • Mister E

    Thank you Maxine Yeung!

  • Liz Pacini

    The problem is that many veggies are also high in carbs. If you’re placing starchy veggies on top of carbs, it is not going to help you lose weight. Know which veggies are higher in carbs.

  • otbs1

    I don’t know about this one. I’m a firm believer in “whatever works for you”. If most of you saw what I eat, you’d probably question how I’m losing weight, but in the four months since I began this journey, I’ve lost 25 lbs., and two inches around my waist. I focus on two things. I keep my calories under 1800 per day, and I walk at least 10,000 steps. And “yes”, I have a Fitbit, and “no”, this is not a commercial for it. This works for me. Next week I’ll be increasing my workouts to include strength training, and swimming. I don’t worry about veggies, or protein anything, or how I make my plate. I’m about to eat breakfast which includes a “Honey Nut Cheerios Milk n Cereal Bar”, a Granny Smith apple, and 16 ounces of water. I’m not suggesting this for anyone else, but it’s working for me. BUT, I love these articles, and read them like their my Bible, and actually follow many of the suggestions/recommendations.