Menu Planning Tips and Tricks

5-Day Meal Planning Worksheet

Sticking to your budget while eating healthy is possible! Planning is the first step. Menu planning helps you save time, save money, and make healthier choices.

You can personalize your menu by choosing nutrient-dense foods you enjoy. Nutrient-dense foods are high in vitamins and minerals without much saturated fat, added sugars, and sodium.

Start with these tips below:

  • Check what you have on hand. Check your pantry, freezer, and refrigerator for foods that will soon expire or need to be used up. Make a note of how to use those ingredients in your planner. This can save you money at the grocery store and decrease food waste.
  • Don’t throw that away! Plan for leftovers. For example, if you make a spinach salad on Monday, use the leftover spinach to make a smoothie for breakfast. Another idea is if you make grilled chicken for dinner, use the leftovers in chicken salad.
  • Use MyPlate. Healthy meals can be simple and tasty. Plan a meal that has something from at least three MyPlate food groups. This is an easy way to make sure your meals are healthy and nutrient-dense.
  • Think ahead to your family’s schedules. Do you need quick and easy meals? Are you hosting company? Do you need to harvest your garden? Using a five-day meal planning worksheet can help you plan a menu based on your weekly needs.

Source: MyPlate, myplate.gov

Take a Tastebud Adventure

Bowl of rice and vegetables

March is National Nutrition Month. This year the focus is “Celebrate a World of Flavors.” While food patterns are influenced by family traditions and ethnic or cultural groups, it is also wonderful to try and explore new foods. Here are four reasons to try new foods.

  1. Gain Appreciation for Other Cultures. Trying foods from other areas of the country or world can give you a greater appreciation and understanding of a different culture. Try nearby restaurants that serve cuisine you’ve never tried before. Go to a specialty grocery store (such as an Asian market or bodega) to buy something to try at home. Cook a new recipe. Explore the USDA Culture and Food website, https://bitly/3AR0Bek.
  2. Expand Your Options. By being adventurous and trying new foods, you’ll increase your meal options. This will help stop meal prep boredom of cooking the same meals or going to the same restaurants.
  3. Improve Nutrition. Eating and enjoying a wider variety of food also means that you’ll get more nutritional variety. This means finding new sources of essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients in which your current food patterns may be lower.
  4. Find Common Ground. A common social activity across nearly all cultures is eating. Mealtime is an opportunity for people to gather lowering feelings of loneliness and enhancing happiness.

Personalize Your Plate

Plate, fork, and knife on table

March is National Nutrition Month. This year’s theme is “Personalize Your Plate.” There is no one-size-fts-all when it comes to nutrition. Everyone is unique! Each of us has different tastes, traditions, and budgets.

Personalize your plate to make sure every bite counts by choosing “nutrient-dense” foods. Nutrient-dense foods are those that are high in nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, but not very high in calories. The 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests the following:

  1. Start with personal preferences. When choosing nutrient-dense foods, be sure to think about the healthy foods you and your family truly enjoy. If you and your family enjoy the food you eat, you will be more likely to retain your healthy eating habits over time.
  2. Celebrate your food traditions! For example, if your family traditionally enjoys eating spaghetti and meatballs, make the same dish using less sodium and saturated fat. Use low-sodium sauce. Use leaner beef or ground turkey for the meatballs. Choose whole grain pasta. With a few small changes, you can still enjoy any traditional dish.
  3. Consider your budget. Healthy eating can be budget friendly and delicious. The ISU Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website, spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu, is a great source for easy, low-cost recipes.

Sources: Eat Right, bit.ly/3tHoP6T, Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025, bit.ly/3jw8NIv

Back to School? Back to Work? Pack Lunch to Go!

packed lunch with sandwich and fruit

Lunch provides the midday boost that you and your child need for afternoon brainpower. Packing lunch with your child is also a great way to stay connected. What if your child is a choosy eater? This can be a sign your child is searching for more independence. Your child might benefit from packing their own lunch, while you have the opportunity to serve as a model for good nutrition behaviors. Use the five main food groups for you and your child to pack your lunch.

  • Fruit—Apple, banana, peach, grapes, pear, strawberries
  • Vegetable—Raw celery, edamame, cucumber, peppers, carrots, cherry tomatoes
  • Protein—Chicken/turkey breast, tuna, peanut butter, handful of unsalted nuts, hummus, hard-boiled eggs
  • Grain—Whole grain bread, bagel, muffin, steamed brown rice, quinoa
  • Dairy—Cheese stick/cubes, low-fat yogurt, low-fat milk

Encourage your child to pick or add foods together from each category to make a well-balanced lunch!

Source:
“What’s for Lunch? It’s in the Bag,” (store.extension.iastate.edu/product/13900)

Why You Might Need More Potassium

Vegetables

If you read Nutrition Facts labels, you may have noticed they now list the potassium content of foods. So why is potassium a mineral we need to pay attention to?

For starters, potassium controls your heartbeat, builds muscle, and helps your body make proteins. Potassium can protect you from heart disease, stroke, muscle wasting, osteoporosis, and kidney stones. If you get enough of it, you can lower your blood pressure and cut your risk of dying from all causes by 20%!

Potassium is in many common foods, such as bananas, citrus fruits, potatoes, broccoli, milk, yogurt, beans, and leafy greens. However, fewer than 2% of adults meet their daily recommended potassium requirement. Adults should aim for 4,700 mg of potassium a day.

For example, this is one potassium-rich meal that would fulfill 40% of that requirement:

1/2 cup Swiss chard480 mg
1 baked potato610 mg
3 ounces turkey breast249 mg
1 cup low-fat milk366 mg
1 cup fruit cocktail225 mg
Total1,930 mg

Please do not rush out to buy potassium pills. High-dose potassium supplements can disrupt heart rhythm. They are also dangerous for those who have undetected kidney disease. Enjoy your potassium by eating a variety of fruits and vegetables!

To find out more about potassium-rich foods, visit MedlinePlus (medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002413.htm)

Source:
Today’s Dietitian (www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/121112p50.shtml)

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