How to Build a Colorful Plate

One of the biggest principals I apply when thinking of healthy eating and wellness is eating a variety of colors of foods. Think: the more colors, the more nutrients your food will have.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are packed full of micro nutrients that will keep your body feeling happy and healthy (read more here). A colorful plate is also more aesthetically pleasing, which will help you feel more satisfied. There are a couple of principals I apply when building a colorful plate.

First, including a variety of textures and flavors is key. You need a mixture of soft and crunchy textures and a combination of flavors. For example, something sour/tart (i.e. a dressing with lime or pickled vegetables), something savory, something salty, etc.

In addition, building your colorful plate means balancing the different components of the meal: protein, carbohydrate/starch, and vegetable.

My final principal with building a colorful plate is having many of your components already prepped so you can throw together your meals more easily. For example, meal prep a bunch of pulled chicken, rice or roasted sweet potatoes, and various vegetable toppings (I LOVE making pickled vegetables such as red onions or red cabbage, which instantly brightens up a colorful plate and gives it so much extra flavor).

Start with a carbohydrate as your base

Your base can be as simple as white rice or baked sweet potato or you can jazz it up with a quinoa salad or a mix of wild rice, brown rice, legumes, etc. A mix of roasted root vegetables is also a colorful and nutritious option (think: beets, red potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, etc.). You can, of course, skip the carbohydrate if you’re on a low-carb diet of any kind.

Add a flavorful and nutritious protein

Depending on your dietary preferences, choose a nutritious protein source such as salmon, chicken, or a plant-based option. I have a honey sriracha baked salmon recipe that is one of my favorites. I also keep simple prepped pulled chicken on hand, which can be easily be adjusted for different meals and flavors. Simply place chicken breasts in water and boil until you can easily pull the chicken apart with two forks. Add salt or bouillon to the water if you’d like. Then you can add any sauces you’d like. I also often make plant-based bowls with garbanzos or black beans, lentils, or a homemade or plant-based patty as my protein option. You can also add hummus or a plant-based spread as your protein. Just make sure it’s balanced with a crunchy component.

Add the colors!

I like to make sure I add at least three different colors to my plates, with green being an essential. For my green portion of the plate, I add things like grilled asparagus with lemon and garlic, steamed broccoli, or a raw spinach salad. From there, it’s up to you. Make a tomato basil salad, add some simple roasted beets or carrots, add sliced or grated carrots and cucumber, sautéed peppers and onions, etc. I like to mix it up with cooked and raw vegetables, but it’s truly up to you. The sky’s the limit.

Top with a dressing or sauce

This will really depend on the flavor profile you’re going for. For a mediterranean inspired plate, I like to make a tzatziki sauce and top everything with a light drizzling of good extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice. For an Asian inspired dish, I add things like peanut sauce, sriracha, lime juice. If you chose to go with more simple ingredients for the rest of your dish, this is your opportunity to add flavor and a theme for your dish. For me, it’s key to choose some sort of inspiration/cuisine type that I’m going for to make sure the flavors of the dish are cohesive. You wouldn’t want to combine flavors that are too radically different such as honey mustard dressing with a greek-inspired sauce.

The bottom line: make it colorful (and pretty, too!), make it balanced, make it your own. Applying these simple principles, I think you’ll find that you enjoy building a colorful plate just as much as I do!

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