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Meal Planning Made Simple for Families

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In my practice I frequently educate families on good meal planning. Let me tell you about my recent work with a local family of four that was referred by their physician. I want to let you know that I do see a lot of families like these from the surrounding towns like Walnut Creek, San Ramon, Lafayette, Orinda and Oakland.

Both kids are involved in sports and since no one is consistently home, everyone helps themselves to convenient frozen items. Only when mom is not traveling for business are veggies made. As a result, everyone is overweight and mom and dad have high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

I asked Dad if the kids were eating artichokes and asparagus and he said no because the kids did not like them. The kids said they would be willing to try them since they forgot how they tasted. I frequently see parents never buy healthy items because their kids rejected them years earlier, not taking into account how everything changes in our kids’ lives.

I immediately saw that no one had any idea how to read a food label for proper nutrition. I explained to them that the food label is in grams which to this day I do not understand where we have to constantly translate grams into more easily recognized quantities. For example, we have to learn that one ounce of protein is equal to 7 grams where we take the grams of protein and divide by 7 to find the ounces. I also showed them four grams of sugar equals one teaspoon of sugar. They were shocked to learn that even healthy Greek yogurt can have 30 grams of sugar or almost 8 teaspoons of sugar. We also discussed the need to eat 25 grams of fiber per day and that we should keep our intake of fat down to 20%.

After our meeting we all jumped in the car and went to Trader Joe’s where I showed them a new way of planning and shopping for fresh, healthy foods. Here are some decisions we came up with.

BREAKFAST

For breakfast they were eating Honey Nut Cheerios or bagels with cream cheese. I explained to them that this was like eating “paste and glue” that goes right to the hips. There is absolutely no protein and fiber in these choices. We talked about buying oatmeal packets, Kashi Go Lean Cereal, 100% whole wheat bread with peanut butter or with a few tablespoons of cottage cheese with
sliced strawberries or even a low sugar Greek Yogurt.

MID AM/PM SNACKS

I told them about the importance of having a source of protein during the day to keep blood sugar stable and in the afternoon, to prevent excess hunger resulting in evening overeating. We all agreed to snacks of hard-boiled eggs, beef jerky, 1oz. of nuts with a sprinkle of raisins, a stick of string cheese, peanut butter on celery or apple or a piece of fruit. When returning from school they agreed to substitute bean soups, cottage cheese and veggies, hummus with veggies, beans with salsa and a sprinkle of cheese or even oatmeal for chips and crackers..

LUNCH AND DINNER

I told the family their major problem was their refrigerator contained no foods that provide protein and fiber. I was thrilled to show the family fresh Just Chicken, Seasoned Chicken Strips, Teriyaki Chicken, as well as 97% Hebrew National Hot Dogs that are only 45 calories each.

I went on to show examples of precooked items such as brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat couscous, a variety of beans that would be great with salsa and shredded lite cheese on a whole wheat tortilla. In addition we focused on the veggies they were doing without and so I showed them fresh broccoli florettes and string beans that kids like where they can be steamed in the bag and available in minutes. All you need is a great sauce such as curry, satay sauce or even a fresh salsa.

I always tell my clients if you are out of staples there is always a tasty omelet option made with 1 egg yolk and multiple egg whites which is best with mushrooms, peppers and tomatoes with a sprinkle of lite cheese on top for taste. This can be enjoyed with 100% whole wheat English muffins. Then there is always baked potato night where everyone can add a topping of their choice of chili and cheese or sour cream and chives or even broccoli and cheese along with an interesting arugula salad.

DESSERTS

Interestingly, mom was strict with not allowing the family to purchase desserts because everyone is overweight. I explained to her that if they cut down on the starch at night and eat more veggies they could easily enjoy a dessert such as fudgicles, creamsicles, two oreo cookies or a cup of non fat frozen yogurt.

I am glad to inform you that nutritional counseling was covered by the family’s Aetna PPO insurance for 2 months. Please feel free to call me at (925) 855-0150 and tell me about your nutritional concerns. Refer to my website www.LindaRD.com for past articles, recipes and nutrition tips. I can be available by phone, e-mail or Skype, if you are located in outlying counties such as Alameda, Sacramento, San Jose, Contra Costa, Marin, Santa Clara.