By Chef Instructor Bill Briwa, The Culinary Institute of America
and Connie Guttersen, Ph.D., The Culinary Institute of America
With all the trendy diets out there, it’s hard to know which ones work. The Sonoma Smart Plate, which is similar to the USDA’s MyPlate, is one of the easiest strategies for sensible eating. It’s an easy and delicious way to maintain a healthy plate and palate.
Making Healthy Eating Enjoyable
The Sonoma Smart Plate is a guide that helps you keep tabs on the right portions of foods but also on the smartest combinations of foods to help you look and feel your best. The Sonoma Smart Plate is the first step to making healthy eating an enjoyable lifestyle.
To create a healthy plate, the size of the plate is critical. It is recommended that you use a plate with a nine-inch diameter as a guideline for keeping the right portions.
This is a transcript from the video series The Everyday Gourmet: Making Healthy Food Taste Great. Watch it now, on The Great Courses Plus.
Think of it this way: If you have a larger plate, there’s just more room to put more food on it, resulting in too many calories and a larger quantity of food than you would want to eat—even if the meal is healthy. Fill your nine-inch plate with 50 percent colorful fruits and vegetables; 30 percent lean proteins, such as lean beef, poultry, or fish; and 20 percent whole grains.
With the Sonoma Smart Plate, color is also an important guideline. The more color you have on your plate, the more healthful properties you are going to receive from your foods.
Another component is mindfulness or being aware of what you are eating, how you are eating, and how much you are eating. Studies have shown that mindfulness is very important to health, and learning when to stop eating—when you feel full or satisfied—is critical. When you are eating, pay attention to when you feel 80 percent satisfied or full and learn to stop eating at that point.
The Sonoma Smart Plate emphasizes combinations of foods to help make eating healthy become second nature. It’s not about micromanaging how much food you eat or how many calories or grams of fat you consume; instead, it’s about being more mindful about the combinations and amounts of foods that you include on your plate.
Learn more about transforming routine dishes into more appealing and nutritious meals
The Sonoma Smart Plate also helps you shift your focus to what has been shown to be the healthiest diet—a more plant-based diet—by recommending that 50 to 75 percent of your plate should be made up of grains and colorful fruits and vegetables. The shift to a more plant-based diet is what will give you more protective qualities to help you reduce the risk factors for diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and even certain types of cancer.
Learn more about Mediterranean cooking
As an example of the perfect Sonoma Smart Plate, this dish should be portioned out as follows: Reserve one-third of the plate for grilled shrimp; one-half of the plate for mixed greens, chopped oranges and cucumbers, sliced red onions, and citrus vinaigrette; and about one-fifth of the plate for quinoa.
Making a Healthy Grilled Shrimp Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette
proportions to taste
Ingredients: Shrimp and Greens
- shrimp, fresh or frozen
- garlic cloves, minced
- lemon peel, finely chopped
- mixed greens
- red onion, thinly sliced
- cucumber, quartered lengthwise and chopped
- orange, cut into bite-size pieces
- orange juice
- grapefruit juice
- lemon juice
- red wine vinegar
- orange zest
- soy sauce
- agave syrup
- chili flakes
- extra-virgin olive oil
- ground black pepper
- Rinse and drain some quinoa. Heat a pot with olive oil; add quinoa. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, just until aromatic. Add water; bring to simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low, cover tightly, and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, let sit for 4 minutes, and fluff with a fork. Cool for the salad and add it proportionately to each plate (about one-fifth of the plate).
- Thaw shrimp, if frozen. Peel and devein shrimp. Rinse shrimp; pat dry with paper towels. Mix with garlic and lemon peel; cover and chill for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the salad on individual plates or in a bowl.
- Make the vinaigrette by combining all ingredients in a blender or whisking energetically: orange juice, grapefruit juice, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, orange zest, soy sauce, agave syrup, chili flakes, extra-virgin olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.
- Thread shrimp onto 8-inch skewers (if wood, soak skewers in water first), leaving a quarter-inch space between each. Grill for 6 to 8 minutes—or until shrimp are opaque.
- Portion out the shrimp, salad, and quinoa so that one-third of each plate is shrimp, one-half is salad (including mixed greens, chopped oranges and cucumbers, sliced red onions, and citrus vinaigrette), and about one- fifth is quinoa. Drizzle with dressing and serve.
Common Questions About the Sonoma Diet
With the Sonoma Diet, color is used as a guideline to help keep the meal healthy with the idea that the more colorful a food is, often it is also the healthier choice. More color means more variety and more nutrient-rich vegetables.
The Sonoma Diet Smart Plate consists of using various ratios as a guideline for quantity depending on the macro-nutrient content of the food, so a good ratio might be 1/3 of the plate for protein, 1/2 of the plate for vegetables or salad, and 1/5 of the plate for a healthy grain.
In the Sonoma Diet, the Smart Plate is based on the idea of using a variety of colors to keep your nutrient intake high and varied while using increased mindfulness to pay attention to what and how you eat, which helps you to stop when feeling full.