The Rule of Three: A Guide to Healthy Eating

by Megan Romano

Healthy eating habits and a healthy lifestyle do not happen through one choice or overnight. Rather, they are a culmination of choices made over time that add up to create an overall picture of health and wellness.

There are many different guides out there, however, the easiest one for me to remember is the Rule of Three. As a nutritionist, people always have questions about what or how I eat. So here it is: the Rule of Three followed by nine tips to help you stay on track.



The Rule of Three applies to meals, mealtime and meal selection. When it comes to eating, if you want to eat well, you need to have three scheduled meals a day. Skipping meals is detrimental to your health and is not good for your body in so many ways.


You also want to eat about every three hours. Therefore, a good goal is three meals a day plus up to three snacks. This gives your body regular scheduled times to eat making it such that you will never feel too hungry or the need to "stuff" yourself because you don't know when you will get the chance to eat again.

Meal Selection

Finally, you need to have a balanced meal with all the three macronutrients which are protein, carbohydrate and fat. In order to have the correct proportion of all these macronutrients, divide your plate into three.


A third of your plate should be protein, a third fruit or vegetable, and a third a grain or starch. Proteins include chicken, fish, beans, nuts, nut butters (such as peanut butter), eggs, pork, lamb, beef, tofu and dairy such as milk, cheese, or yogurt may also count. Fruits and vegetables can be fresh, frozen, canned, or dried (such as raisins) and can be cooked or raw. Grains include bread, pasta, rice, tortillas, and starchy vegetables such as potatoes, peas and corn.

When you follow the Rule of Three, you are also getting the right variety of nutrients to keep your body healthy, in proportions that will help you stay full, and that will give you the recommended amount of daily servings of fruits and vegetables.

Here are nine tips to help you follow these guidelines and keep you healthy!

1. Keep a fruit bowl at home

It doesn't have to be a bowl. I keep my fruit on the counter top above my sink. When I am packing up my bag for the day, I can grab a piece of fruit and go. It also serves as a visual reminder to eat more fruit. And when the bowl is empty - time to get more!

2. Get a water bottle

I use a mason jar because I always lose those expensive water bottles and to watch out for the environment, I avoid plastic water bottles. I bring mine to work with me and keep it at my desk. I try to drink at least three jars a day. Sometimes I only drink one, but like the fruit bowl, it serves as another good visual reminder to drink water!

3. Plan your meals in advance

The night before, plan your meals for the following day. Roughly sketch out what you will have for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the following day. I usually keep cheerios at work and will bring a yogurt and a fruit to have with it for breakfast. Lunch I usually will bring leftovers or I will make a sandwich and have that with some fruit. Knowing that my meals are planned out gives me piece of mind and saves time (and decisions) in my busy day.

4. Keep snacks at work

I always have nuts, chocolate, crackers, and hummus at work. I often buy or make my own trail mix (with mixed nuts and dried fruit) to keep at work as well. If I have to run to a meeting or just need a pick-me-up while I am writing a report, I don't need to go far for energy.

5. Cook for the week

Sunday is usually my day to cook for the week. Since it is winter, I have been making lots of roasts with root vegetables. I often go to the farmers market on a Sunday morning and then spend a couple of hours cooking. Cooking for the week allows you to always having something prepared to eat for dinner when you come home from a hectic day.

6. Eat out less often

Food away from home in general will be less healthy. Plus, most places do not serve food that is portioned out according to the Rule of Three. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE going out to eat. However, I try and keep my meals away from home to a maximum of three a week.

7. Set a time on your phone for 3 hours

When it goes offhave your scheduled snack or meal. Then set the timer again. If you are not hungry, and it has been three hours since your last meal, you can opt out of a snack. However, remember it is important not to skip meals. I can't tell you how many times I have gotten cranky and irritable only to remember that I haven't eaten in a while. Having a timer helps so that you can't forget to eat!

8. Keep a grocery list

Spend some time and think about what foods you like to have around the house. Include foods that you can have for breakfast, snacks and dinner. When you go grocery shopping, stick to your list! At the end of my week, I look at my grocery list and figure out what I already have in the house and what I need. I simply delete off my list the foods I already have and then my grocery list is ready to go!

9. Consider joining a CSA!

A CSA is a community supported agriculture. You pay in advance for a weekly delivery of vegetables. Mine gets dropped off right at my door. It is one less thing that I have to think about and makes sure that I get a variety of vegetables while at the same time supporting local farmers. And with all those vegetables in my refrigerator, it is hard not to cook and eat them!

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Megan Romano, MS, RD, LD is a registered dietitian and nutritionist based out of Austin, TX with a passion for body awareness and acceptance, the importance of mealtime, and sustainable food systems that honor the earth and the people that grow our food.