Looking for Regional Information?

Plan to Eat and Eat Your Plan

By Charles Hopkins Published 04/21/2006 | Food & Drink
Poor nutrition has been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and many other diseases. We can reduce our risk by choosing well-balanced meals. Balance, moderation and variety are the keys to eating well to maintain a sound mind and body.

Fast foods and eating out in restaurants have become so prevalent in our society that eating healthy meals are somewhat difficult. Understandably, it is easier to take the kids to a fast food restaurant or drive through after an exhausting day at work. No doubt there are more convenient choices but they are killing us and our families. Like with any change, it is challenging to adopt a new way in the early stages, but not impossible.

First begin with a plan. You have heard many times that if you fail to plan, then, you plan to fail. It is the same with eating. Plan your meals at the beginning of the week. Breakfast is as simple as whole grain cereal, whole-wheat toast, fruit, low-fat yogurt, 100% juice, and skim milk. Pack your lunch the night before so you will not make excuses or be tempted to run to the hotdog vendor. Pack leftovers from dinner, a veggie or tuna sandwich with low-fat mayo, fruit or soup. Purchase ready-made salads without dressing mixed in for a quick and easy dinner. Store readily available vegetables with low fat dip for easy snacking. Children love to dunk food into dips, this is a great way to get them to eat a healthy snack.

Prepare meals that can be stored in the freezer such as casseroles, pasta dishes, etc. Before you go to work, take a dish out of the freezer to thaw out. When you come home from work, all you need to do is throw the thawed dish in the oven for about 35-45 minutes and dinner is served without much effort.

Eating healthy on a regular basis does take planning and discipline. At first, it may seem rigorous because you are learning how to prepare meals. Grocery shopping may also feel like a chore. But, within a couple of weeks, it will become a habit and second nature. You will feel more in control knowing exactly what ingredients are being used. Therefore, you do not have to worry about hidden fats or too much salt, that are likely present in most restaurant foods.

Be a good role model for your family. You will be serving them by providing both healthy meals and educating them about leading a healthy lifestyle. This is huge because you are setting the example for your kids and passing it on to their kids, and down the line. So, if there was any evidence before of family history health problems, feel well that you decided to take charge and end the madness or at least decrease the risk for your family's future generations.

The goal here is to enjoy nutritious and tasty foods. Remember, moderation is key so do not be too obsessed or restrictive as you may sabotage your success resulting in binge eating. Many of you can probably relate to forcing yourself not to eat a certain type of food such as a cookie, only to find a whole box devoured later. Have the cookie to prevent overeating down the road.

Plan your meals to incorporate servings of protein, whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. RDA suggest for daily intake of carbohydrates: 55-70%, fats: 20-30%, proteins: 15-20% and the World Health Organization suggests 40-50 grams of fiber daily. A varied diet is essential to good health. Concentrate on foods that are high in vitamins, essential fatty acids, antioxidants, unrefined carbohydrates, high fiber, low in sugar, low in fat, low in sodium, and limit alcohol consumption. Eating well and limiting your use of salt, sugar, caffeine, fats, can reduce stress and disease. American Cancer Society has stated that as much as 60% of cancer is related to diet.

You must start by making a decision to live a healthy, less stressful life by developing good eating habits. Come up with a plan and include your family by asking for feedback. Find out what healthy foods they want to try. Get them involved. It is easier to change when you are supported. Eating well will help you manage stress, reduce risk of disease and illness, control weight, and provide energy.