I get a lot of questions from clients about how to plan meals. While meal planning is seen as tedious, it’s best to start with a few simple tenets. Consider these points first before you start your plan:
- Do you like to cook or need more convenient type foods?
- What do you like to eat? Do you prefer vegetarian or animal-based meals?
- How often do you eat out? To meal plan, consider how many meals you are not eating at home.
- What can you afford? Do you shop at discount or high end grocery stores?
- Do you have any health conditions to keep in mind? Are you trying to prevent diabetes, weight gain or trying to lower cholesterol and blood pressure? Or, are you seeking to gain weight or improve your energy levels?
- Do you have food allergies or intolerances that modify your eating habits?
Balanced meals are just that- balanced. They include all (or most) food groups in order to give your body all the nutrients it needs. Studies show that the more diverse your diet is, the more robust your microbiome (gut bacteria), which helps protect your immune system. Can you manage without dairy products? Of course- but you’ll still want a decent calcium source from either a dairy substitute or calcium/vitamin D supplement.
Should you eat low carb or high carb? This depends on your goals. A lower carb diet may help with weight loss and blood sugar reduction, but may also be difficult to follow long term, especially during the holidays. How about reducing the amount of treats you eat and making a switch from white rice to brown rice? Or adding an extra serving of vegetables and having a smaller serving of grains at each meal? These little tweaks may help you with your health goals rather than having to give up an entire food group.
Do you make a list when you shop? If not, you should. Include foods that you will actually eat. Sure, avocados are in vogue right now, but if you don’t like them or will let them sit on your counter and rot, then don’t buy them. Why not use guacamole for your “avocado” toast? It’s convenient and you may be more likely to use it. Are you bringing food that you purchased with you for snacks or meals at work? If not, why not? Food is for eating!
Breakfast is optional. If you’re not hungry in the morning, I give you permission to skip it. BUT- only if you’re NOT overeating at lunch, dinner and at night. Sometimes people aren’t hungry in the morning simply because they eat too much before they go to bed. Take a real look at what times of day you are eating and why. My advice is that if you’re not hungry, don’t eat. Spread your food out throughout the day for more balanced energy. Include high fiber foods (fruits, veggies, beans, whole grains, nuts or seeds) and high protein foods (beans, meat/fish, tofu or dairy products- cottage cheese, string cheese, Greek yogurt). These keep you feeling fuller, longer and may help you snack less.
Keep some staples on hand for when you’re in a time crunch. These are a few of my favorite meals: black beans & whole wheat tortillas with salsa & shredded cheese, scrambled eggs and toast with a side of fruit, stir fried chicken and vegetables with brown rice. Other than thawing the chicken, these meals can be made fairly quickly without a lot of prep time needed.
Finally, don’t beat yourself up for not having every last morsel in your diet planned. That takes all the fun out of eating. Your meals don’t have to be 100% perfect and neither do you. Remember to include fruits and vegetables every day and a few whole grains per day. Reduce empty calories from chips, candy, cookies, soda and alcohol. Drink more water and get 7-8 hours sleep every night. Your health will improve without drastic measures. Give yourself time.
If you’re not a dietitian, you’ll wonder what the heck FNCE means. It stands for Food, Nutrition, Conference & Expo and is one of the largest (if not largest) food and nutrition conferences in the US. It is sponsored by AND (the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics) and celebrates dietitians and other food and health professionals globally. There are updates on nutrition-related topics on weight management, diabetes, heart health, functional foods, culinary arts and more. It’s a 4-day event full of networking, new food products and cutting edge education.
This year it was held in downtown Philly, right near the famous Reading terminal market. Philly is full of history and great food. It could not have been a more perfect city to host this big foodie fest. The convention center in Philadelphia was massive but perfect to hold over 10.000 dietitians in attendance.
One thing “missing” this year (according to my friends and colleagues) was a food pun tee or swag booth. Almost every year, there is at least ONE company selling some form of food pun swag, be it tee shirts, mugs, totes or badge reels. This year, that was not present. Many food companies have adopted food puns, which brings me great joy.
I never miss an opportunity to wear and share my own line of food pun items. I will most certainly have a booth at the conference next year in Indianapolis. Serving Ohio as president this year took me to lots of meetings at FNCE, so the shirts did not make it, except on my own back. Stalker (shown here) got plenty of laughs.
In honor of FNCE, I’m offering a 19% discount on all food pun items until Friday at midnight. Grab a gift for a foodie friend. They are great for chefs, dietitians or anyone who loves to eat and has a sense of humor. Use FNCE19 at check out.
I had the opportunity earlier to talk with Dan Wells of Fox 19 about cancer prevention. It’s awfully hard to cover all the foods you should eat to prevent cancer (and why) in 3 minutes. So, below is a list of anti-oxidants in commonly eaten foods and why you should eat (or drink) them: Link to earlier segment: https://www.fox19.com/video/2019/09/19/healthy-foods-cancer-prevention/
- Green tea- contains catechins that have been found to reduce the risk of breast and other cancers.
- Coffee- contains polyphenols, compounds found to reduce the risk of liver and other gastrointestinal cancers. Take it black or with skim or 1% milk. Limit use of sugar and cream.
- Canned tomatoes, salsa or sauce- processed tomatoes have more bioavabilable (absorbable) lycopene- a phytochemical found to reduce prostate, ovarian and uterine cancer.
- Broccoli, kale, spinach, Brussels sprouts- contain indoles and sulfuraphane- two nutrients found to fight cancer. Leafy vegetable intake may reduce risk for lung cancer (so does smoking cessation)!
- Berries- blue and blackberries contain anthocyanin- a phyochemical that reduces risk for Alzheimers disease and cancer.
- Whole grains- go for farro, quinoa, barley, rolled oats, bulgur and other whole grains. These contain more selenium and vitamin E, which are known anti-oxidants. Get these nutrients from foods, not pills. Selenium supplements have been found to raise risk for diabetes.
- Be moderate with alcohol- alcohol is a known toxin in our diets. Moderate drinking means 1 drink/day for women, 2/day for men. To reduce breast cancer risk, cut the amount down further to 3 drinks/week.
- Yogurt and low-fat dairy products- yogurt contains pro-biotics to keep gut bacteria thriving. Dairy products are good sources of calcium, which helps reduce risk for colon cancer. Avoid excessive calcium intake from supplements or too much full-fat dairy. There is a link between high dairy intake (4 or more servings/day) and prostate cancer risk.
- Get moving- weight control and regular physical activity may help prevent cancer and cancer recurrence. You don’t have to be a gym rat, but regular walking, biking or other activity makes a difference.
I may not be wild about super muggy weather that makes my hair big and frizzy, but I love the season of summer. I love that my girls are not on a super strict schedule and we can be outside more often. I also love that I can wear a different tee shirt every day.
Summer also inspires my creative sense. There is so much beautiful produce to enjoy, and not just for eating. From cherries to zucchini, food is my muse! I love coming up with different food pun tee ideas. They are printed locally by DIY printing in Walnut Hills. https://www.diyprintingshop.com/index.html Once printed, I spend at least one weekend a month at farmer’s markets and they are also placed in few small gift shops around the city including Jackson Whitacre, https://jacksonwhitacre.com/pages/contact-us Lamppost Cheese, http://lamppostcheese.com/ Kennedy Heights arts gift shop https://kennedyarts.org/ and the Civic Garden Center https://www.civicgardencenter.org/.
I am also proud to support Cooking for the Family in OTR, a program that helps those suffering food insecurity, learn to cook. https://www.sfsministries.org/our-ministries/cooking-for-the-family/ 10% of sales to go this program every quarter. Just $10 sponsors someone to take a 5-week cooking series. How cool is that?
Bada bing is my latest tee! Like the others, it is a soft, unisex gray tee that goes with pretty much anything. If you’re a cherry fan, you must treat yourself to one. https://soundbitesnutrition.com/product/bada-bing-short-sleeve-unisex-t-shirt/
Check out the other designs inspired by summer’s produce. You’re bound to find something you love to eat, and wear. https://soundbitesnutrition.com/shop
Look at any popular magazine these days and you’ll find at least one diet that bashes grains. Whether it’s Paleo, the Military diet or the “whole 30”, someone, somewhere is out there trying to get you to eat a bun-less sandwich. But what they may not realize is that anti-carb diets are a thing of the past. Grains are back, and for good reason.
You can’t argue with science, especially when done right. A recent study done at Tufts and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that subjects consuming whole grains over refined grains burned more calories and absorbed less. In addition, glucose tolerance was improved in whole grain consumers. 1 Other studies have shown lower rates of obesity and cancer in individuals eating a diet containing whole grains. 2
Susan Roberts, a professor of nutrition at Tufts and author of http://www.instinctdiet.com believes Americans eat too many refined carbohydrates like white bread, pasta, pastries, and desserts, which contribute to overweight and obesity. Other scientists agree. Lauri Wright, an assistant professor in community and family health at the University of South Florida notes that whole grains are higher in antioxidants, which contribute to long term good health.
Rather than comparing weight changes in subjects, the Tufts study evaluated resting metabolic rate and energy (calorie) content in stool at the end of a 6-week study. Participants were on average, 50+ years of age with a BMI of 25.6, which is slightly above normal, but not overweight. Participants in both groups consumed about 2550 calories per day, but one group had 830 calories in whole grains while the other had 830 calories coming from refined grains. The study found that whole grain eaters burned 40 calories more than their refined grain counterparts and lost ~50 calories in stool, resulting in a 92-calorie deficit. If this deficit is carried over for a year, a 5.5 lb weight loss could be achieved. 1 A previous 2011 Harvard study of over 12,000 subjects in a whole grain study supported these results. 2
Most Americans miss the mark on fiber intake, consuming a mere 15 grams per day. The subjects in the Tufts study that ate whole grains ate about 39 grams of fiber daily versus 21 grams in the refined carbohydrate group. 1 Researchers believe the feeling of fullness in whole grain consumers affects the brains’ ability to regulate metabolism. Because your brain does not perceive that you are conserving energy, metabolism is not reduced. This is good news for carb lovers.
Making the switch to whole grains can be as easy. Swap brown rice or quinoa for white rice, or whole wheat pasta and bread for white bread or pasta. Try bran or wheat-based cereals in place of corn or rice. Whole grains are the new black.
Karl, J Philip, Meydani, Mohsen, Barnett, Junaidah, Vanegas, Sally, Goldin, Barry, Kane, Anne, Rasmussen, Helen, Saltzmn, Edward, Vangay, Pajau, Knights, Dan, Chen, C-Y Oliver, Das, Sai Krupa, Jonnalagadda, Meydani, Simin and Roberts, Susan. Substituting whole grains for refined grains in a 6-wk randomized trial favorably affects energy-balance metrics in healthy men and postmenopausal women. American J of Clinical Nutrition, February 8, 2017, doi: 10.3945/ajcn.116.139683
Mozaffarian, D, MD, Dr PH, Hao, Tao MPH, Rimm, Eric B, Willett, Walter MD, Dr PH, Hu, Frank MD, PhD. Changes in Diet and Lifestyle and long term weight gain in men and women. N Engl J Med 2011; 364:2392-2404. June 23, 2011