1. Make half the plate your main course

2. Fill the other half with non-starchy veggies

3. NEVER exceed a ¼ cup of dressing, sauce or cheese

Choose your main course first. Look for high-fiber starches or lean proteins, such as:

A baked potato, black beans and corn, roasted chickpeas, whole grain pasta or brown rice, lentils soup, eggs, grilled fish or chicken, low-fat cottage cheese or Greek yogurt.

Keep it simple. Click here for more information Aim for minimally processed foods that are naturally low in added sugar and sodium. Limit meat to no more than once a day. Mix it up your main dish with peas, beans and legumes. Get a cholesterol-free combo of fiber and protein.

Next, designate half your plate to non-starchy veggies. Bursting with water, fiber and micronutrients, vegetables are an absolute MUST at every meal. Try them raw, roasted or grilled.

Non-starchy suggestions: peppers, onions, mushrooms, salad greens, carrots, celery, snow peas, green beans, asparagus, lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, arugula and zucchini.

Just as you should vary your main dish options, add variety to the other half of your plate by including both cooked and uncooked veggies over the course of the day. Raw veggies are more filling for less calories. Chemically fragile vitamins, like Vitamin C, are better preserved in raw veggies. However, cooking improves your absorption of Vitamin A and lycopene. Variety is the spice of life, especially when it comes to veggies.

Now that your plate is full, are you ready to seal the deal for a skinny, nutritious meal?

See Rule #3.

Dressing, sauces and cheese are no doubt the heart & soul of a good meal. HOWEVER, failing to measure these seemingly innocent add-ins will dramatically affect your body weight.

To prove my point, marinate on this little known fact: ¼ cup of olive oil equals 477 calories. That’s only 4 tablespoons people! A sprinkle here, a drizzle there, and you have successfully transfigured your salad into a fried chicken.

Cheese isn’t quite as devastating– usually providing about 110 calories per ¼ cup. Always check labels on dressings, sauces, condiments and marinades. Look for low-calorie options. Ask for these tricky toppings on the side when eating out. Practice measuring at home to develop keen eyeballing skills. Stick to one high calorie addition per meal. Its harder to keep track when using multiple dressings and cheeses.

Remember, there are plenty of calorie-free ways to flavor your food! Be smart; get creative. Use lemon or lime juice, salsa, raw onions, hot peppers, pickles, roasted garlic, fresh herbs, spices and exotic varieties of vinegar.

You read the rules, but what does this mean for your day-to-day?

A lunch example might be: 3 ounces of grilled chicken on a tall pile of Ceasar salad greens (with 3 Tbsp of dressing + 1 Tbsp of shaved parmesan). For dinner, perhaps 1 cup of whole grain pasta + 1 cup of roasted garlic mushrooms. Top it off with ¼ cup of gorgonzola cheese and a dash of fresh rosemary.

Always make room for non-starchy vegetables on your plate. Be mindful of drenching your food in added fat…it doesn’t take much to snowball into dangerous territory! Practice makes perfect. Nail down portions to build a strong foundation for carefree weight management