Planning Healthy Meals

You can use Canada’s Food Guide to plan meals for yourself, your family or friends. Here, from BC Children’s Hospital, are some ideas:

Planning meals helps you:

• Eat well by varying your food choices throughout the day and week

• Save time by planning and shopping ahead and reducing trips to the grocery store; and

• Get meals on the table faster with less stress

Meal planning doesn’t have to take a lot of time! Do it once or twice a week when you write out your shopping list. The more you plan the easier it gets. A little planning goes a long way in helping you have healthy eating habits.

Fast and Easy Meal Ideas

Getting healthy meals on the table in a hurry takes less time than you might think. It’s all about being prepared.

Plan your meals and do your shopping ahead of time:

• Stock up on basics such as vegetables and fruit, whole grain bread, whole grain pasta and brown rice, milk, yogurt, cheese, lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds.

• Use frozen or canned products to help speed up preparation time. For example, canned or bottled tomato based pasta sauces, frozen or canned vegetables, frozen or canned fruit, bagged salad greens, canned tuna or salmon, canned beans or lentils.

• Prepare foods in advance. Cook double the rice and freeze leftovers for another meal. Cook twice the chicken or ground beef you need and keep extras to make chicken salad, enchiladas, chili or spaghetti sauce the next day.

• Cook up a big batch of soups, stews, casseroles, pasta dishes, cooked ground beef and pizza dough to keep in the freezer.

Planning Tips

Involve children in planning and preparing meals. They’ll appreciate the meal more and learn important life skills. You may even end up with a capable cook by your side.

Getting started:

1. Menu plan. Jot down your meal ideas on paper,a calendar or menu planner.

2. Grocery list. Write down the foods you need for the next few days or week.

3. Go shopping. Buy the foods you need on your grocery list.

4. Start cooking. Post your meal plan on the fridge so whoever gets home first can start the meal.

Meal Planning Checklist:

3 Eat at least one dark green and one orange vegetable each day.

3 Choose vegetables and fruit with little or no added fat, sugar or salt.

3 Have vegetables and fruit more often than juice.

3 Make at least half of your grain products whole grain each day.

3 Choose grain products that are lower in fat, sugar or salt.

3 Drink skim, 1 percent or 2 percent milk each day. Drink fortified soy beverages if you do not drink milk.

3 Select lower fat milk alternatives.

3 Have meat alternatives such as beans, lentils and tofu often.

3 Choose at least two Food Guide Servings of fish each week.

3 Select lean meat and alternatives prepared with little or no added fat or salt.

3 Include a small amount of unsaturated fat each day. Satisfy your thirst with water.

3 Limit foods and beverages high in calories, fat, sugar or salt.

How to Make a Plan

It may seem difficult to plan, shop and prepare meals and snacks that satisfy everyone’s needs in your family. You can use the tips in Canada’s Food Guide to help you make healthy choices.

What types of foods?

The types of food your family needs are basically the same for everyone and should be based on the tips found in Canada’s Food Guide.

With the large variety of foods in the four food groups it is easy to plan meals everyone will enjoy.

How much food?

The amount of food you serve varies for different family members. For example, preschooler’s need fewer Food Guide Servings from some food groups than older children and teens. What’s important is knowing that everyone has consumed their recommended number of Food Guide Servings from each of the four food groups by the end of the day.

It’s okay to have more or less than one Food Guide Serving.

You may serve yourself the same amount as one Food Guide Serving while other family members may want more or less than one Food Guide Serving.

For example: A two-year-old boy may only eat half a Food Guide Serving of meat at dinner while a 30-year-old male may serve himself two Food Guide Servings of meat at dinner.

A preschooler may drink only 125 mL (1/2 cup) of milk, which equals half a Food Guide Serving while a teenage boy may drink 500 mL (2 cups) of milk, which equals two Food Guide Servings.

You can spread your Food Guide Servings throughout the day.

For example: You could have 25 g (about 1 oz.) of meat in a salad at lunch and 50 g (about 2 oz.) of meat or poultry at supper. That adds up to 75 g (21/2 oz.)/125 mL , (1/2 cup) of meat which equals to one Food Guide Serving of meat and alternatives. You could have one egg plus 15 mL (1 Tbsp) of peanut butter which adds up to one Food Guide Serving of meat and alternatives.

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