Step 1 to a Healthy Meal: Make a Plan

Even the best plans fail now and then. Many people throw in the towel when a plan falls apart. They may decide that greasy burgers are the only choice for dinner or that the vending machine is the best lunch option. But my skilled clients have Plan B already in the works. Plan B comes into play when you drive to work with your bagged lunch on the roof of your car. Or when your child is sick, or you get stuck in traffic or your boss moves up a deadline.

Even though it doesn’t always seem like it, there’s usually a way to get a nutritious meal or snack.

Step 2 to a Healthy Meal: Plan B

Stock your kitchen with ready-to-eat staples.

If you forgot to pack a lunch or a snack, you don’t need to suffer through hunger pangs or eat something unhealthful. Instead keep a few things on hand at work or in your purse, laptop bag or car.

  • Pouches of ready-to-eat tuna or salmon
  • Cans of vegetable or tomato juice
  • Low fat yogurt or cottage cheese for your office refrigerator
  • Lower-calorie, portion-controlled frozen or shelf-stable meals
  • Nuts in ¼-cup portions
  • Peanut butter in individual packets or a jar and whole grain crackers

Create your own takeout menu.

Avoid temptation at any restaurant by shrinking your menu options to only those choices that meet your health goals. Using the fast food or other restaurant online menu, write down the two to five best options. Do this for every place you typically visit. Keep your lists on index cards, a small notebook or in your smartphone. Skip the full menu and use only your personalized menu. Easy peasy way to stay on track.

So you see, a good plan will get you far, but it’s a back-up plan that takes you the distance.

Cheers to happy, healthy eating!

Jill Weisenberger

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todays-dietitian-symposium200We just returned from the Today’s Dietitian Spring 2015 Symposium in Las Vegas, and it was amazing! This was the first time we had attended these events and we were overwhelmed with the quality of the speakers and the willingness of everyone to share their knowledge. It was a great experience and we came back with lots of ideas that we will be bringing to all of you who follow our blog.

We attended presentations on everything from “Diabetes and Weight Loss” to “Food and Beverage Pairings.” We even saw a presentation by the Registered Dietitian from the TV program, The Biggest Loser. She talked about what actually goes into preparing the guests and then coaching and monitoring their progress.

The bottom line for us is that Registered Dietitians will be playing an increasingly important role going forward. As the nation struggles with obesity and all its related issues, we need to get back to basics. One presenter used the old saying, “You can’t out train a poor diet.” That saying may be old, but it is true today more than ever.

We need to stop looking for miracle workouts and quick fixes and get back to eating healthfully.

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Fixing a meal that satisfies everyone in the family can be a challenge. This is especially true when you have one or more picky eaters in the house. But, it can be done. You can spend less time in the kitchen and still prepare a meal that everyone will like. Each of the meal ideas below has one thing in common – it presents a selection of ingredients and then let’s each person choose the ones they want. Each one takes the “burden” of deciding out of the cook’s hands and puts it into each family member’s hands.

Rather than try to satisfy everyone, the key is getting each person to make their own meal. You can set up the meal so that each person has a selection of ingredients and they get to choose the ones they want. Children especially love this approach. It gives them a level of control over their environment, letting them decide what they will (and what they won’t) eat. It also is a great opportunity to start conversations with your children about the importance of different types of foods, different food tastes, and making healthy choices.

It’s great for picky eaters too. Rather than trying to create something that they may like (sometimes with picky eaters it’s difficult or impossible to know what they will or won’t eat at any given meal), you let them choose. If they get to select what they want, it gives them more control. Remember, it’s just as important to expose them to options as it is to get them to eat it.

Eating meals together is such an important part of family life. Who really wants to spend time in the kitchen cooking a meal that some family members don’t like? We tell our clients that relationships should be the “main course” at meals, and the food should only be a “side dish.” By letting each person make their own meal, you are moving food to the side and putting relationships front and center. The conversations can start in the kitchen during meal prep and continue at the table.

So, here are 5 ideas for quick, tasty meals that each family member can fix their own way:

#1: Omelets in a Bag. Who doesn’t love those “custom” omelets they fix at restaurant buffets? At the same time, who dislikes standing in line while they make one omelet at a time? Using this approach, you can make everyone’s custom omelet at the same time!

Write each person’s name (using permanent marker) on a small, ziplock freezer bag. Mix some eggs in a bowl (2 for each person), and prepare various omelet ingredients – diced ham, peppers, mushrooms, spinach, onions, etc. Let each person put whatever ingredients they want into their own bag. When they’re ready, put a ladle full of scrambled eggs in with their ingredients, seal the bag and drop it into a pot of boiling water to cook. When the eggs are fully cooked, open each person’s bag and pour their omelet onto a plate.

#2: Personal Pizzas. Prepare various pizza toppings – cooked sausage, browned ground beef, ham, pepperoni, onions, peppers, olives, spinach, fresh basil, etc. Make your own pasta sauce or use brands like Prego or Ragu, and shred some cheese. Give each person a personal-sized, ready-made pizza crust (for small children, you can even use half an English muffin or half a sandwich thin), and let them pile on the toppings they like. Sprinkle each pizza with cheese and place them under the broiler until the cheese melts.

#3: Make Your Own Taco Bar. Everybody likes tacos and they’re easy to make. Prepare all the fixings, including browned ground beef, shredded chicken or pork, along with shredded lettuce, tomatoes, olives, peppers, avocado, and cheese. Give each person a warmed tortilla and let them make their own soft taco. You can also use packaged hard shells if you’re family prefers.

#4: Supreme Salads. This one is similar to the taco bar, but you start with a bowl of lettuce and then each person piles on the fixings they like. To make this one even more inviting, try having a selection of different lettuce types too. You can use anything from arugula to romaine to iceberg lettuce. You may find that each person has a preferred lettuce as well as preferred toppings!

#5: Healthy Burgers. There are lots of restaurants that have a large part of their menus devoted to variations of burger. Why not do the same thing at home? Just cook the burgers like you normally wood, either in the oven or on the barbeque, and then provide lots of different toppings for each person to select from. One of our favorites is a burger topped with Swiss cheese, avocado, tomato and lettuce. Use your imagination and see what your family can create!

The focus here is exposing your family to healthy options and to make mealtime fun! When they see you and others eating foods they haven’t tried themselves, they are much more likely to try them too. Over time, this can have a huge positive impact on their willingness to try new things. Make it a fun experience – even an “adventure.”

We hope these quick and tasty meal ideas will get you thinking about other ways to involve the whole family in mealtime. We would love to hear your ideas too. If you have a customizable meal that’s your family favorite, let us know. Maybe we’ll feature it in a future newsletter or in our blog.

Remember, healthy choices you make each day can transform your family for generations! What choices will you make today?

Do You Wish Your Kid’s Ate Better? Check out our FREE eBook at Many of the strategies in this book can be used by both children and adults.
You may also want to read: Satisfy Your Fast Food Craving and Still Eat HealthyAre Plant-Based Diets Really Healthier?Childhood Obesity: Today’s Health Challenge

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my-child-is-a-picky-eater200If you have cooked for children than you’ve probably been there – your children don’t want to eat what you’ve fixed for them. Kids can be very opinionated about what they eat, and their likes/dislikes can change almost daily.

Partly, they may be reacting to foods that are new and/or different. Sometimes it is the color or smell of a certain food that they don’t like, and not the taste. About a month ago, our 2 year old grandson suddenly decided that he wanted only orange foods (if it was served on an orange plate, all the better). Sometimes there seems to be no rhyme or reason to their choices. Our 5 year old granddaughter has now decided that she doesn’t want any of the different foods on her plate touching each other. If they do, then she won’t eat them. And no amount of logic will convince her!

These power struggles (and that’s really what they are) can unintentionally teach children that food has an unnatural importance in their life. Instead of a meal simply being about consuming healthy, nutritious food, it can be an opportunity to assert authority and resist parental directives. If taken to extremes, this can create an unhealthy relationship with food that may follow the child into adulthood.

The good news is that, in most cases, picky eating habits can easily be overcome. In some cases children just outgrow them. In other cases, as the adult you may have to take other actions.

Here are 5 tips for getting picky eaters to overcome their habits and eat healthy:

#1: Adjust your own mindset. It is essential that you let go of the idea that you can force or demand that your child eat any particular food. This doesn’t mean that you should give up – far from it. It just means that you should acknowledge that logic and demands simply don’t work with children. Instead, work to create an environment where eating a variety of healthy foods, and trying new foods, is normal and rewarded. One recent study found that children may have to be exposed to a new food 7-10 times before they were willing to try it. When a child sees others enjoying a particular food, they are much more likely to try it themselves.

#2: Clean out your pantry. Get rid of junk food, soda, potato chips, candy bars, etc. If you don’t have these foods in the house, then kids won’t be able to eat them instead of healthy foods. Stock your refrigerator with fruits and vegetables as alternatives and offer these when your kids say they are hungry. Most children, if they’re really hungry, will eat almost anything you offer them. So offer them healthy snacks.

#3: Prepare one meal. You, as the adult, should decide what the family meal will include and then prepare it. Don’t prepare a different meal for each person. Of course, it helps if the foods you prepare provide an opportunity for “customizing.” A taco bar or a salad with tomatoes, avocado, and other “add-ins” on the side will give your kids the chance to pick and choose what they eat.

#4: Don’t resist your child’s refusal to eat. This can be a tough one for some parents, but it’s essential. If you child doesn’t want to eat the meal you’ve prepared, then don’t fight with them. Simply tell them, “This is the meal I’ve (we’ve) prepared and you don’t have to eat it if you don’t want to. You can shoose to leave the table hungry, or eat the food we have prepared and leave the table full.” Then (here’s where it gets hard), ignore any additional complaining. Talk to others at the table, but not to the child who continues to complain. Once they begin to talk without complaining or they begin eating, engage them and talk to them freely.

#5: Try different cooking methods. Many children go through periods where they really don’t like certain tastes, smells and/or textures. It may not be the actual food that they don’t like, but the way it’s prepared. For example, broccoli can be somewhat bitter when it’s steamed, but broiling it or baking it in a casserole can make it taste much sweeter. Raw carrots are crunchy while cooked carrots can be softer and easier to chew. The taste of many foods can be changed by adding different seasonings too. The key is to not give up. When a child says they don’t like something, think of other ways to prepare it.

As long as healthy eating is a part of your family’s normal activity, and you serve meals with a variety of healthy foods, your children will likely develop healthy eating habits. It may take time, and there may be periods where you wonder what “normal eating” means. But, using the tips in this article can help your children develop a healthy relationship with food that will last a lifetime.

To learn more about how to get your kids to eat healthy, check out our FREE ebook, Do You Wish Your Kid’s Ate Better?

Remember, healthy choices each day can transform your family for generations! What choices will you make today?
You may also want to read: Healthy Fast Food at HomeGluten Free is Not Necessarily HealthyEating Healthy: Keep it Simple

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is-food-industry-selling-us200I read an interesting article the other day that contrasted the record food production in 2012 with the record starvation and malnutrition worldwide in that same year. How could we be producing more food than ever, yet more people are going hungry?

The author attributed the seemingly contradicting information to what he called the “commoditization” of food. In other words, food is more and more being treated as a “commodity” that can be bought and sold for a profit, like any other commodity. Because of the focus on profit, food tends to be moved to areas where it can be sold at the highest prices and not the areas that have the most need (often poorer areas of the world). It also tends to be stockpiled by some while others go hungry.

I think this same thinking has a lot to do with the poor eating habits we see today. As a commodity, the focus is more on increasing buyer interest. In other word, it stops being about the nutritional value and which foods are good for you, and becomes more about which foods will make you “feel better” or which ones you will ”crave.” We see ads for comfort foods, fast foods, candy, and soda all the time. These are all focused on the happiness you’ll feel when you eat them, not about the “real” happiness you’ll feel when you eat healthy foods.

As a Food Psychology Coach, my wife works with clients to help them develop a healthy relationship with food. Part of that is helping people realign their thinking, focusing more on the nutritional value of foods and less on the marketing messages we all see and hear. This realignment of thinking is the first step in creating a healthy future that’s free of dieting. You can still enjoy what you eat, and in fact, that’s important. But, it’s also important to select foods that improve your health at the same time.

Remember, healthy choices each day can transform your family for generations! What choices will you make today?

Do You Wish Your Kid’s Ate Better? Check out our FREE eBook at Many of the strategies in this book can be used by both children and adults.
You may also want to read: Small Changes, Big ResultsBalance is the Key to Healthy EatingNo Time to Cook? Make a Salad for Dinner

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