Last week Rachel shared five red flags to look out for when considering diet advice. In the blog, she
mentioned learning new skills that can improve your health, like meal planning, instead of focusing
solely on weight. Meal planning is a popular practice; especially at the beginning of the year when
people are trying to eat better, save money and be more organized. It can help you check off all three!
Today I’m going to share with you five tips for meal planning with health in mind.
Include foods from each of the food groups. This allows you to get a variety of nutrients provided by each of the food groups needed for good health. Our 5-Day Meal Planning Worksheet has a checklist at the bottom to help you determine if you included something from each food group.
Balance the food groups throughout the day. Aim to have 1-2 food groups at snacks and 3-4 food groups at meals. For example, at breakfast you might have a scrambled egg, slice of whole-wheat toast, an orange, and glass of milk. Then at snack you have celery sticks with peanut butter.
Include two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables. This is a general guide for each person per day. An example would be a banana for breakfast, an apple and broccoli for lunch, and vegetable soup for dinner. To determine the specific amount you need and for information on what counts as a serving, visit www.choosemyplate.gov.
Include whole grains. Whole grains have more fiber, which is important for health. It is recommended to make half your grains whole grains. Therefore, if your family prefers white pasta, balance that out by including other whole grains in your menu plan like brown rice or whole wheat bread.
Include both plant and animal proteins. Animal proteins are a good source of iron while plant proteins are higher in fiber. If you have chicken at lunch, consider having lentil tacos for supper. Or mix both beans and meat with pasta instead of just meat. If you’re new to meal planning, use our sample meal planning calendar to help get started. We also have a new sample vegetarian meal planning calendar.
Next week Justine will share a recipe for Cheesy Chicken Casserole that you just might want to include on your meal plan!
Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.
The last couple of weeks I have been studying the Mediterranean diet in Crete. This diet, which is named for the traditional cooking style of countries bordering the Mediterranean sea, is associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease, and higher life expectancy. The locals brag that almost everyone in Crete has a relative that is over 100 years old (it seems like the older I get, the more important life expectancy is to me!).
Below are some observations from my days in Crete:
I want to incorporate more vegetables in different ways into my diet. Especially recipes with the beets, zucchini, and eggplant we have growing in our garden.
Breakfast in Crete was usually plain yogurt that you could spoon a little honey or jam (which they called spoon sweets) over, whole wheat bread, cheese, and hard boiled eggs. My yogurt and fruit breakfast is pretty similar.
Seafood has heart –healthy omega 3 fatty acids. We had snails several times in Crete plus sardines and other seafood. I do not think fresh snails will be on my weekly menu, but some kind of seafood will be. This summer will be a great time to experiment with grilled fish.
We had many vegetarian meals built around beans, whole grains, and vegetables with some great spices. I am growing some oregano, basil, and mint on my deck that should add great flavor to my new recipes.
The focus of the Mediterranean diet is not on limiting total fat, but rather to discourage saturated fat and hydrogenated fat. I brought two bottles of olive oil home. I probably will never use as much olive oil in recipes as the Greek cooks did, but I will use it more liberally than I have. I will probably be more willing to drizzle oil over fresh tomatoes and cucumbers to make a simple salad. I am also looking for great tasting olives.
Bread is eaten plain or dipped in olive oil, not eaten with butter or margarine which have saturated fats or trans fats. Most of the bread is whole grain. I will try my bread with olive oil.
Dessert in Crete is usually fruit or yogurt drizzled with honey.
Exercise is just part of living in Crete. There are fewer cars, the roads are narrow and the terrain hilly. Walking and bicycles seemed to be the norm for travel in the villages, with travel by bus or metro in the city, which means treks to and from the bus stops. I need to work on incorporating more exercise into my daily routine…like a walk at lunch, parking at the far end of the parking lot, etc.
A couple of weeks ago, I posted about meatless meals on our Facebook page. Choosing to go meatless for a meal or for an entire day is one way to save a little money on your grocery bill. This can be easy at breakfast and lunch, but tends to be a little more difficult at supper time. Even with a husband and a son who like to have meat with their meals, our family enjoys a meatless supper together once or twice each week.
Unfortunately, my post focused only on eggs and nuts as a good source of protein when choosing to go meatless. My family and I love beans as a meatless meal. There are some great bean recipes on the Spend Smart Eat Smart website; each recipe has helpful tips on preparing beans. One of our favorites is Cowboy Caviar. My son likes to eat it plain, but my husband and I spoon it into whole wheat tortillas and top it with some shredded cheese. It also makes a good topping for lettuce salad or a dip for vegetables or tortilla chips.
Besides saving some money on food, meatless meals do have another benefit. They help add variety into a weekly menu. Eating a variety of foods from all the food groups (fruits, vegetables, dairy, protein, and grains) helps us make sure that we are getting all the nutrients we need primarily from food.
We also use soy to add protein to meals when we choose to go meatless, but that is a topic for another post…
1 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained
1 1/2 cups frozen corn, cooked
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes with green chilies
3 green onions, sliced
Juice of 1 lime
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
Stir together kidney beans, black beans, corn, tomatoes, chilies, and onions in a large bowl.
Add lime juice, oil, salt, and pepper; toss gently to combine.