“Fall” Into Meal Planning
August is a month full of change. After a hot summer full of vacations, camps, time at the pool and cook outs, we start to slowly transition into the Fall — a new school year begins and sporting, band practices and church activities resume. It’s the perfect time to revamp our old eating habits and try a few new, quick ideas to have healthy meals all day long.
Breakfast is said to be the most important meal of the day, yet tends to be the hardest for us to make time for. Breakfast is exactly what is says – it’s a “break” from a night-long “fast”. Approximately 8 to 12 percent of all school-aged kids skip breakfast. By the time kids enter adolescence, as many as 20-30% of them have completely given up the morning meal. Adults are no better at consuming breakfast, though it is shown to improve work productivity, promote a healthy weight and prevent binge eating and unhealthy cravings over the course of the day. Here are a few tips to help incorporate this meal in to your morning routine:
- Breakfast can be simple and inexpensive – instant oatmeal, yogurt, whole fruits, cottage cheese, whole grain cereal with milk, English muffin with peanut butter, low sugar granola bars and hard-boiled eggs.
- If you want something warm at breakfast, plan ahead and prepare in large batches to reheat in the microwave later – there are many recipes for whole-grain muffins, muffin tin veggie omelets, crock pot or baked oatmeal, pancakes and waffles that can be cooked one day and reheated for the rest of the week.
- Allow yourself 10-15 minutes every morning to devote to breakfast.
- Eat breakfast at home as much as possible. Eating breakfast from restaurants usually costs more and contains added fats, salt and sugars. If you do have to grab breakfast on the go, pick items such as oatmeal, fruit and yogurt, or egg only biscuits.
It’s definitely beneficial to pack a healthy lunch from home, for both adults and children. Taking your lunch to work or school not only saves money (eating out can cost $5-15 per day), but is usually healthier and more portion-controlled than foods at restaurants. Packing lunch for your kids can help ensure your child gets food he enjoys and will eat at lunch time. One key to a healthy lunch is that it is well-balanced – including a source of lean protein (meat, fish, egg, beans, nuts/seeds), colorful vegetables, whole grains, fruit and sugar-free beverage. Lunch can vary from a simple sandwich or salad to leftovers from the night before. Some healthy tips for lunch are:
- It helps to prepare lunch the night before to avoid the added stress in the mornings
- Sandwich made with whole grain bread, lean meat, cheese, different types of lettuces and fresh tomato
- Large salad (made with darker greens) with other fresh vegetables, nuts, cheese, berries and a low-fat or vinaigrette based dressing
- Choose sides like fruit, raw vegetables with dip, baked chips, whole grain crackers, yogurt and nuts/seeds.
- Vegetable-based soup with whole grain crackers or bread
- Multi-grain wrap made with vegetables, nuts or lean meat, cheese, hummus or low-fat dressing or vinaigrette
- Left-overs from the night before
- Limit microwave meals and other convenience items as they tend to be high in salt and added fats, and lower in nutritional value
Dinner is traditionally our largest meal of the day. This meal is not only important nutritionally, but also can bring the family together to discuss the day and create a strong family bond. Because dinner is such a large meal, eat slowly and wait 20 minutes after eating to avoid becoming too full. Drink water with meals to increase hydration and satiety with no added calories. Try to allow 30 minutes for dinner time, and avoid eating in front of the TV or computer.
Dinner, like lunch, should also be balanced with foods from most of the food groups – lean protein, dairy, colorful vegetables, fruit and whole grains. A few tips to ensure a healthy, at-home dinner include:
- The key to a successful at-home dinner is to PLAN AHEAD. Plan to grocery shop 1-2 times each week, plan ahead of what your dinners will be each night and buy accordingly.
- There are many kitchen tools and products that make it quick and easy to have a full dinner on the table – crock pot meals that can be set that morning, stream-fresh bags of vegetables, whole grains (like rice, quinoa and whole grain pastas take anywhere from 5-20 minutes to cook), canned beans and vegetables that require little heating time and already-prepared salad bags.
- Try a new “30-Minute Meal” recipe online (see www.allrecipes.com) or from cook books.
- If you have time to cook a full dinner, make enough to have left-overs for another meal or two later in the week.
- With entrée items, plan to cook enough to incorporate into another meal later in the week. For example, if you are baking chicken to go with dinner one night, make extra chicken to add to salads, make a soup or tacos for another night’s dinner.
Eating out should be limited to 1-2 times per week at most. If eating out, avoid buffets and family style restaurants, as these tend to encourage over-eating. Choose a sit-down restaurant that offers a variety of vegetable options and lean proteins. Avoid fast-food restaurants and eating in the car.
Eating is a necessity of life, and should be made a priority. Thinking ahead is the key to ensuring you have the time to plan, prepare and eat healthful meals with your family and friends, all day long.
Louisa Sherrill, MS, RD, LDN
Clinical Dietitian for Johnston Health – Smithfield