Meal planning is essential to healthy eating. Failing to plan can lead to last-minute (usually unhealthy) choices such as take out or frozen pizza. That’s why I’ve created the following to help you plan healthy, balanced meals. Simply pick an item from each list to create a meal that you can feel good about eating and serving to family and friends.
Choose one of: Next add one of: Don’t forget veggies!
salmon sweet potato spinach
trout quinoa kale
haddock brown rice broccoli
cod whole wheat pasta peppers
tilapia whole grain bread cauliflower
tofu potato beets
lentils corn asparagus
chicken barley green beans
turkey whole wheat tortilla snow peas
pork whole wheat pita mushrooms
beef bulgur carrots
For a 300-400 calorie meal, choose 3-4 oz of any protein (left column) and 3-4 oz of any starch (middle column). Then add 4-8 oz of vegetables (right column).
For recipes ideas, I like the following sites: cookinglight.com, eatingwell.com, sparkrecipes.com.
Here are some ideas for those with kids or who are in our Family Reset Program. Of course, adults can have these snacks, too!
1 oz soynuts and 0.5 oz unsweetened raisins
175g unflavoured Greek yogurt and fruit (can add tsp of honey for sweetness instead of fruit, depending on preference)
1-2 oz soy nut butter (e.g. Wowbutter) and whole-grain English muffin
½ cup cottage cheese and ½ cup pineapple
smoothie: ¾ cup unflavoured or sugar-free yogurt, fruit (e.g. banana, berries), ice or water
1 whole-grain pita and hummus
Ants on a log (celery sticks, peanut butter and raisins)
1 cup Kashi cereal (with or without milk)
1 hard boiled egg, salsa, 1 slice whole grain toast
Snap peas and hummus
Bean dip and whole-grain crackers
Apple and 1-2 oz soy nut butter
Fruit kabob (melon, watermelon, banana, cheese (Babybel works great!)
Home made protein bars (recipe).
Whole grain crackers and 1 oz cheddar cheese
¼ cup roasted sesame seeds and ½ cup berries
Note: You can replace soy nuts, Wowbutter with peanuts, almonds, peanut butter, etc… at locations where they are safe/allowed to be consumed (e.g. at home).
Yesterday, the Government of Ontario announced that they will introduce legislation requiring large chain restaurants to post calorie information on their menus. This is a good start, as most are unaware of how many calories their favourite restaurant meal contains. However, stating that a meal contains 800 calories is pretty much meaningless without knowing that the average male needs 2000-2500 calories per day and females require 1400-1800. It’s like saying that sweater you want costs $300.00 without knowing how much money you have to spend. If it results in one choosing something with fewer calories, that is wonderful. But the research is clear: calorie information alone doesn’t result in people changing what they order.
Displaying how long it would take to burn those calories via exercise appears to result in fewer calories consumed according to this study. As the authors state: it was “eye-opening” for study participants to learn that two hours of brisk walking is required to burn off a quarter-pounder. Returning to the sweater analogy, realizing that you would have to work for x number of hours in order to earn enough to pay for the sweater is far more meaningful than simply looking at the price tag.
As Dr. Sharma points out in his post on the same subject, a calorie literacy campaign may well be in order. I agree wholeheartedly as without meaningful context, the information will not be nearly as effective as the government and health officials hope.
After reading that McDonald’s will now offer salads, fruit & vegetables as meal side options instead of French fries some may be singing their praises, but I’m not one of them. The reason is simple: adding something that may appear healthy to an otherwise unhealthy meal does not make it magically better if the overall meal is still full of highly processed food that has little nutritional value. It’s like having a diet soda instead of a regular one with your greasy burger and salty fries. Sure, it’s fewer calories, but the meal as a whole is still bad for you.
McDonald’s also has a way of taking healthy items and turning them into junk e.g. offering caramel sauce as a dip for their apples or offering oatmeal with 8 tsp of added sugar. This doesn’t leave me very hopeful for future fruit and vegetable menu items.
If you examine McDonald’s Canada current side salad offerings, you’ll see that their Caesar (w/o dressing) has 120 calories and 350mg of sodium/serving. Add regular Caesar dressing and the calories increase to 380 and the sodium to 650mg. Light Caesar dressing will result in a calorie total of 250 and 630mg of sodium. For comparison, a small order of fries contains 220 calories and 170 mg of sodium.
They do offer a side garden salad with a mere 40 calories and 60mg of sodium. But that’s without any dressing. And who eats salad without dressing? Even if I choose their lowest calorie choice (balsamic vinaigrette) you’re looking at a total of 150 calories and 460mg of sodium. So having a Caesar or garden salad with your burger will still result in a high number of calories and sodium. In fact, you’re better off getting a small order of fries instead of the Caesar salad.
But don’t the vegetables in the salad count? Not anymore than the ones on their various burgers do. And who honestly thinks their burgers are healthy simply because they have a tiny amount of vegetables as toppings?
Here’s another recipe from fellow BMI dietitian, Rob. Fennel is definitely healthy as it's full of vitamin C, fibre and potassium.
2 bulbs of Fennel
3 Tbsp. of olive oil
1/2 c of Parmigiano cheese
1. Turn the oven to 400 F.
2. Chop of the top of the fennel, leaving only the bulb, and slice lengthwise. Place into a baking dish.
3. Pour the olive oil over the fennel and use your hands to coat well.
4. Add a little black pepper and then sprinkle the Parmigiano cheese evenly over the fennel.
5. Bake for ~30-40 minutes until golden brown.
Makes 4 servings.
Move over grapefruits and cabbage soup, there’s a new way to lose weight: eat mushrooms! More specifically, replace one meal a day with a mushroom-laden meal. It’s apparently working wonders for Kelly Osborne and Katy Perry. Yes, celebrities with their vast nutrition and health knowledge are showing us the way to true health and happiness. I wonder if they’d be interested in me giving them acting or vocal coaching. As an added bonus with the M-Plan, you’ll also be able to spot reduce fat (say goodbye to your belly fat). Who knew mushrooms were so magical? While mushrooms will give you some fibre and other nutrients - and you should eat them - neither they nor any other food will help you reduce fat from a specific area of your body. If you lose weight as a result of eating lots of mushrooms it’s because they are replacing higher calorie foods in your diet. Consider that 1 cup (70g) of sliced mushrooms contains only ~15 calories. So if you reduce one meal by a few hundred calories by having less meat and rice while loading up on mushrooms instead, unless you replace the calorie deficit created, you’ll lose weight over time. But in order for this to work, you need to a) like mushrooms and b) be able to stick to it forever and honestly, if you eat mushrooms every day there’s a good chance you’ll eventually get tired of them.
Take home points:
- no food will spot reduce fat
- eat mushrooms because you like them and because they are good for you
- lifestyle changes need to be sustainable