Healthy Meals

Family Mealtime

Mealtime in the home should accomplish two main goals:

  1. Provide nutritious meals
  2. Provide a forum for family communication.

Both of these goals should be accomplished in a manner that is positive, loving and relaxed.

The best way to be sure your family is getting nutritious meals is by including variety into the meals you prepare. A well-balanced meal includes all of the food pyramid food groups. Select foods low in added sugars, low in saturated, hydrogenated and trans fat, and high in fiber. Finally, be sure that your portions all fit onto a 10 inch dinner plate. Use a divided picnic plate to guide your portion sizes. The protein and starch or grain should each be a quarter of the plate. The fruits and vegetables should be the other half of the plate. Serve your dairy in a glass or bowl to the side.

Family mealtime allows parents to role model healthy food choices and eating patterns, proper manners, and light family conversation. It also allows children to develop a healthy relationship with food and their parents. The following guidelines are suggestions for making mealtime with your family more enjoyable. Use your own good judgment in interpreting their use.

    Finding a time when all family members can sit down and eat a meal together can be very difficult. Start off by actually scheduling one or two family meals every week. It may need to be breakfast instead of dinner to begin with. Consider designating a specific day to simplify scheduling. Place the date and time on the kitchen calendar, in appointment books or on sticky notes in your child’s backpack. An added benefit–regular meal timing tends to decrease snacking and unnecessary caloric intake.
    Meal preparation will usually be better organized, less stressful, and healthier if you plan your menu ahead of time. Keep recipes for your favorite menu items in a clear sheet protector organized by meal type. Place in a binder for easy access.
    Avoid distractions such as reading or watching TV during mealtimes. Your focus should be on pleasant family interactions. Don’t eat standing up. Stand-up eaters tend to eat too fast and too much because they don’t pay attend to what they are eating.
    Mealtime is not the time to discuss family problems or discipline issues. Try to avoid power struggles. These issues should be handled at a more appropriate time. Food is digested more easily in a relaxed atmosphere.
    Try these tips to slow down: chew food thoroughly, put your fork down between bites, eat your meal in courses like a restaurant. Try to pay attention to your hunger and fullness during the meal. It takes a minimum of 20-30 minutes for your appetite to register after eating. If you eat too quickly, you can easily eat too much and take in too many calories.
    Check out new recipe books with mouthwatering pictures or look back into your recipe files for some old family favorites. Use color, texture, and varying sizes and shapes for variety and added meal appeal. Colorful garnishes from fruits and vegetables using fun kitchen gadgets add nutritional value and dress up any plate.
    Assign one task to each family member so that everyone can learn to participate in meal planning. Shopping for groceries, folding napkins, setting the table, selecting music and centerpiece, carving the meat, plating the salad or pouring the beverages are only a few examples.
    The body needs food as nourishment to properly function, grow, and maintain health. Using food as a source of control can cause power struggles and decrease the eating enjoyment and thus nutritional health.

What is a Healthy Diet?

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well”
Virginia Woolf

Nutritious Food

A healthy diet is one that includes a variety of foods that provide the proper amount of nutrients to meet the nutritional requirements for your particular age, state of health, and food preferences or tolerances. It should include foods that taste good, are colorful and appealing to the senses and reduce your chances for chronic disease. It should contain foods that are affordable, readily available and can be stored and prepared without difficulty.

Your state of health can affect your nutritional needs. Because of growing knowledge about the relationship between diet and disease, such as heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer, your requirements for certain nutrients may be more or less than the same age person with different health concerns.

There are three (3) sets of tools that form the base of current scientific knowledge about nutritional health in America.

Tool #1 – Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs)
Nutritious Food

The Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) are a series of scientific reports released by the Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board. The report expands on the 1989 Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) to establish not only the recommended nutrient intake to help prevent nutritional deficiencies but also to reduce the risks of chronic disease. Also included for the first time are recommendations for upper limits of nutrients to avoid harm from taking too much. Over the next few years, the DRIs will eventually replace the RDAs in an effort to emphasize decreasing the risks for chronic disease, not just the prevention of deficiencies.

The DRIs are meant to help guide food and nutrition professionals, researchers and policy makers as they convey and implement messages about healthful eating and diets to groups of healthy consumers. These guidelines recognize that people are not all alike, and that one size does not fill all when it comes to planning and achieving a healthy diet. Linda Farr and other Registered Dietitians are professionally trained to translate these guidelines into personalized meal plans to meet your individual needs.

If you want specific information on the Macronutrient (Carbohydrate, Protein, Fat and Fiber) guidelines click here.

Tool #2 – Dietary Guidelines for Americans
Nutritious Food

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans are intended to help Americans make wise choices about food and physical activity so that they can live healthier lives. These guidelines are used to set the agenda for all nutrition education and research. Recommendations are based on the general population and some specific populations such as pregnant women, children and the elderly. It is not intended to provide specific individual nutrition advice.

Key Recommendations for the General Population include:

      1. Consume a variety of nutrient-dense foods and beverages within your calorie needs.
      2. Maintain body weight in a healthy range.
      3. Engage in regular physical activity and reduce sedentary activities.
        1. To reduce chronic disease: 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (above usual activity) on most days of the week
        2. To prevent weight gain: 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous-intensity activity most days of the week while not exceeding calorie needs
        3. To sustain weight loss: 60-90 minutes of moderate-intensity activity most days of the week while not exceeding calorie needs
      4. Increase these food groups: Fruits (choose at least 2 cups per day), Vegetables (choose at least 2 ½ cups per day), Whole Grain Products (half of all choices per day should be whole grain), Fat-Free or Low Fat Dairy (choose at least 3 cups per day).
      5. Limit fats to 20-35{e9b12ec15e9982de8367963543c9b37951d70c172157fccd4357ab08990e7d63} of your calories and less than 300 mg /day of cholesterol. Limit saturated and trans fatty acids.
      6. Choose fiber-rich carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, whole grains).
      7. Consume less than 2300 mg sodium (about 1 teaspoon of salt) per day.
      8. If you drink alcohol, do so sensibly and in moderation. Moderation is defined as one drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men.
      9. To avoid microbial foodborne illnesses, wash hands between touching raw and cooked foods, cook foods to safe temperatures, store foods at proper temperatures, and avoid unpasteurized juices, milk and dairy, raw eggs, undercooked meat and poultry, and raw sprouts.

Tool #3 – My Pyramid-Food Guidance System
The USDA My Pyramid-Food Guidance System is a visual representation of the Dietary Guidelines and is intended to be an educational tool that helps consumers follow its key food and activity recommendations. The website has been built to be interactive so each adult and child can find the kinds and amount of foods he or she should eat each day. Check it out! It is fun and informative.

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