How to plan great meals


Advice is provided to help teenagers eat a healthy diet. The specific advice provided differs depending on the teen’s attitudes toward food. For example, teens who are not interested in changing their food habits are advised to take small steps to improve their diets.

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What’s your attitude toward healthy eating? Confused by media reports with conflicting information? Concerned but don’t want to give up favorite foods? Think healthful foods are boring? Or maybe you think you do eat a healthful diet. Whatever your nutrition attitude, you can make the Food Guide Pyramid work for you.

The “I’m With the Program” Group

You’re a member of this group if you try to eat as healthfully as possible. You study food labels and read nutrition articles. Here are some special tips for you:

* Plan meals from the base of the Pyramid up. Start with a grain–pasta or rice, for example–and add one or two vegetables. Next, choose a protein food such as meat, poultry, fish, beans, or eggs. Finish with a fruit or yogurt.

* Size up combination foods according to food groups. Your favorite pizza probably has ingredients from the bread group (crust), vegetable group (tomato sauce, onions, mushrooms), milk group (cheese), and maybe the meat group.

* When reading labels, check out the serving size. Different products in the same category can have very different portion sizes. For example, a serving of granola might be only 1/4 cup, while a serving of a puffed cereal may be as much as 2 cups.

* Look for more than just fat and calories on food labels. Choose “extra value” foods that contribute to your daily needs for calcium, iron, vitamins A and C, and fiber.


The “l Know I Should, But…” Group

If you feel healthful eating takes too much time and means giving up favorite foods, this is your group. You know nutrition is important, but you don’t do all you can when it comes to eating healthfully. Your special tips include:

* Use the Food Guide Pyramid as a time saver to plan balanced meals. Make sure that each meal contains foods from at least three of the food groups.

* Keep track of what you eat. Compare your daily diet to the Pyramid guidelines (see “How Do You Measure Up?” on page 26).

* Add variety to your favorite foods by changing just one food group ingredient. Try stir-fried chicken and vegetables with pasta. Use romaine or leaf lettuce in place of iceberg in a tossed salad. Substitute beans for ground beef to make a vegetarian chili.

* Favorite foods can be part of a Pyramid eating plan. A cheeseburger is a meat option. Cookies belong in the bread group, and ice cream fits in with milk, yogurt, and cheese. Just remember to balance higher-fat choices with lower-fat foods.

The “Don’t Bother Me” Group

Nutrition seems too complicated, and you’re not interested in changing the way you eat. Here are easy tips for your group:

* Take small steps to slowly improve the way you eat. Start by concentrating on just the bread group. Your goal should be to have six or more servings a day from this group. Then move on to the fruit group and work your way up the Pyramid.

* Keep healthy snack foods handy. A fruit, veggie, or yogurt snack can fill in the nutritional gaps in your meals.

* If you eat out often, think about how your meal fits into the Food Guide Pyramid.

It’s Not Boring!

Healthful eating doesn’t mean boring food! Put these simple tips to work for you, and your meals will be the healthiest and tastiest yet.

* Plan meals ahead of time using the Food Guide Pyramid. Go for variety in all the food groups. Be creative! Use a bagel, tortilla, or pita in place of bread. Explore the taste of new fruits and vegetables. Experiment with different types of cheeses.

* Select foods that complement each other in taste and texture. For example, a baked potato with spicy salsa, crispy stir-fried vegetables with rice, or crunchy apple slices with a peanut butter sandwich.

* Color can make a meal bright and interesting or plain and boring. Simple changes in a one-color meal can make a real difference in its visual appeal. A meal of macaroni and cheese, corn, applesauce, and bread goes from boring to interesting when it becomes macaroni and cheese, peas, fresh apple, and whole-wheat roll.

* Ethnic dishes add variety and new taste sensations to meals. Look for ethnic recipes in cookbooks and magazines. Try seasoning combinations such as basil and garlic, oregano and lemon, or ginger and garlic to liven up plain chicken, pasta, or fish.

* Make healthful menu planning easier by stocking up on nutrient-rich foods.

Remember: Go for variety and balance–and you won’t have to give up your favorites to have great meals that are great for you.


RELATED ARTICLE: How Do You Measure Up?

Use this easy method to keep track of your food choices. Mark an X in the appropriate box for each serving of food from the Food Guide Pyramid. If, by dinner time, you are still lacking two vegetables, a meat, two grains, and a milk, you’ll know what to eat to complete the day.

If you checked all the boxes, you would get about 2200 calories, the average requirement for teen girls. Teenage boys and very active girls need one or two additional servings in each group to meet their calorie needs.

Grains: Serving size = a slice of bread, 1/2 bun or bagel, 1 ounce cereal, 1/2 cup pasta or rice

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Vegetables: Serving size = 1/2 cup cooked or diced vegetables, 1 cup leafy greens, or 1/2 cup juice

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Fruit: Serving size = 1 medium piece of fruit, 3/4 cup juice, or 1/2 cup canned fruit

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Meat and Meat Alternates: Serving size = 2 to 3 ounces lean meat. One ounce lean meat substitutes = 2 tablespoons peanut butter, 1 egg, 1/2 cup beans or tofu

Milk, Yogurt, Cheese: Serving size = 1 cup milk or yogurt, 1 1/2 ounces cheese

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RELATED ARTICLE: For more information

The Food Guide Pyramid International Food Information Council

Foundation P.O. Box 65708 Washington, DC 20035 Web Site–

Brochure: “The Food Guide

Pyramid…Your Personal Guide to

Healthful Eating,” single copy free with

self-addressed, stamped business-size


Center for Nutrition

Policy and Promotion Suite 200 North Lobby 1120 20th Street, NW Washington, DC 20036

Booklets: “Dietary Guidelines and Your

Diet,” “Preparing Foods and Planning

Menus Using the Dietary Guidelines,”

“Shopping for Food and Making Meals in

Minutes Using the Dietary Guidelines,”

single copy of each free.

>>> View more: The urban-rural food movement

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