Sometimes finding healthy foods to feed a family for dinner can be difficult. Long work days, soccer practices, and other activities make us want to rush to find the most convenient (and not always healthy) food options. Even when we have time to cook dinner it is sometimes hard to make sure that all of the food groups are represented. It doesn’t have to be this way. Here are some tips that the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) gives to help you healthy up those meals.
- Follow MyPlate – MyPlate is a wonderful tool used to ensure that your family is meeting their nutritional needs for the day. Start by making half your plate fruits and vegetables and the other half protein and grains. Your fruits and vegetables should come in a variety of colors to make certain the different vitamins and minerals are represented. As far as grains, the USDA recommends making half your grains whole grains. Protein should also be lean and nutritious like lean beef and pork, or chicken, turkey, beans, or tofu. Try to make sure that fish are on your plate at least twice a week. Have a glass of low-fat or fat-free milk to include your dairy.
- Avoid Extra Fat – Look for ways to cut out the extra fat. Baking instead of frying chicken will reduce the fat content. Skip the gravy or sauces. For example, a rich cheese sauce is delicious with broccoli, but it adds unwanted fat. Try different herbs and spices instead for a different, but tasty alternative. Instead of having a slice of cake for dessert, reach for a bowl of fruit. It’s delicious and nutritious!
- Monitor Eating Methods – Many of us eat too fast. The problem with this is that it doesn’t give our stomachs enough time to tell our brain that we’re full before we’ve stuffed ourselves. Savor your meal. If you eat at a slow or modified pace your body will be better able to tell yourself that you are full. Another tip is to use a smaller plate. The bigger the plate, the more likely we are to fill it up. Try using a nine-inch plate and follow MyPlate as a guide.
- Know What You Eat – By cooking at home, you know exactly what is going into your food. You can adjust recipes to be healthier by adding less salt or using olive oil instead of solid fats. Cooking at home also gives you the opportunity to try new foods. Make a plan to try one new food each month. Your family may find their new favorite meal! If you do decide to eat out, try to obtain the nutritional information ahead of time so you know what you’re eating.
Make your meals opportunities for better health. Incorporate the tips above to make sure that you are meeting the nutritional guidelines for both yourself and your family. For more tips, please visit www.choosemyplate.gov for information about all the food groups as well as information about your nutritional health.
Build a Healthy Meal – http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/downloads/TenTips/DGTipsheet7BuildAHealthyMeal.pdf
Written by: Dana Brown, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Morrow County, Ohio State University Extension, Heart of Ohio EERA
Reviewed by: Cindy Shuster, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Perry County, Ohio State University Extension, Buckeye Hills EERA
Reviewed by: Barb Hildebrand, Office Associate, Ohio State University Extension, Morrow County, Heart of Ohio EERA
Reviewed by: Jenny Lindimore, Office Associate, Ohio State University Extension, Morgan County, Buckeye Hills EERA