A grown-up set of divided plates. | Amazon

I’m not picky, I just don’t want my food to touch

I am not an especially picky eater. In fact, I’d say I’m pretty much down for anything so long as there are no beets or olives involved. But I can be particular about the way in which my food is served, especially if it involves dishes that are at all saucy or sloshy.

I know I’m not alone. A lot of people are grossed out by the foods on their plate touching. And for years, I would ladle portions of braised greens or buttered corn into separate bowls to keep their juices off my mashed potatoes, a system that is both impractical at my tiny dining table and annoying when it’s time to do dishes. But now, when I’m worried about my brothy beans touching my roast chicken, I simply turn to my stash of divided plates.

Most of us think divided plates are for children, but that’s a pretty limited view. After all, bento boxes are popular around the world for people of all ages who eat lunch. Still, I felt a little silly adding this four-pack of reusable divided plates, made from recycled materials and sold in chic muted pastels, to my cart. When they arrived, though, I was totally sold. Not only were they a cute addition to my random collection of dishware, they were eminently practical. No longer do I have to wash three different bowls for myself, just because I don’t want my entree and side dishes to touch.

A good divided plate will have a bigger area for the main dish, plus at least two smaller segments where you can tuck in your side dishes. There are even some tray-shaped plates that have additional smaller sections perfect for condiments and garnishes. You might feel a little dorky at first, using what is essentially a cafeteria tray in your own home, but there’s no denying the practical appeal or the tidiness of this approach. They’re also great for those occasions when you’re eating a bunch of random snacks as a meal, or when you’re just throwing a bunch of leftovers from the fridge on a plate and into the microwave to heat up simultaneously.

And fortunately, there are a slew of divided plates out there that will fit your kitchen’s aesthetic, whether you’re into sleek minimalism or kitschy cat decor. Unfortunately, many of the adult-sized divided plates on the market are sold as “portion control plates,” even if they don’t explicitly have portion sizes written out on the actual plates. Those are gross relics of diet culture, and have no place in your kitchen. But the description on the website is easy enough to ignore, and nothing should make you feel weird about putting any amount of whatever you want on your own dinner plate.

In the month or so since buying my divided plates, I honestly can’t imagine how I lived without them. I find myself reaching for them even when I’m only eating one thing, just so there’s a perfect place waiting for me when I inevitably decide that I want a little something extra on the side.

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