Our Meal Plan and How We Choose Food [Part II]

This was a great meal plan week. I really liked everything we made, which doesn’t always happen when there are newbies on the slate.
Sunday: Chili Cookoff at our church. I have never been surrounded by so many amazing and talented chefs in my life. I had three bowls!! So, so good.
Monday: Spaghetti Squash with Cauliflower from here. Well, I loosely followed that recipe. I didn’t use the pine nuts, anchovies, or currants. I started the dish with a mirepoix instead. To make sure dinner was “on-time” I also cooked my spaghetti squash earlier in the day. Sometimes the bigger gourds take longer than I anticipate and this way it had more time to hang out with my other flavors.
Tuesday: Cabbage Quinoa Salad that I told you about here.
Wednesday: Indian Roasted Eggplant Soup from Moosewood. I thought the recommended seasonings were really great. My favorite part of this meal was the mountain bread I made to go with it. It’s a brothy soup so it’s perfect for dipping your bread in. [p.s. Roasting veggies at 500 F totally set off my smoke detector.]
Thursday: Butternut Squash Chili from here. Chili twice in one week?! Well I had to. Sunday I tasted some chili with chipotle chili seasoning and I had to have more. I had to. It was haunting. Yum.
Friday: Friday afternoon came and even though doing a simple veggie stirfry and switching out farro for the rice sounded good I just needed some pizza. Couldn’t help it. So we switched it up and used the green peppers that were going to go in our stirfry for a pepper and onion pizza. Nobody complained!
Saturday: Lentil Salad with Roasted Broccoli and Squash based on this recipe. Question: Have you ever had a Smitten Kitchen recipe you did not care for? Answer: No.

I shared a little bit a few weeks ago about how we choose our food. I shared the details about how we’ve physically changed since taking on a healthier diet and how our thoughts about food changed.

Today I wanted to share a little bit about how I try to nutritionally set up our meal plan each week to be beneficial and balanced. Like last time it starts with a visit to the Harvard School of Public Health website [seriously, I love this site].

So the base of the pyramid [and the foundation] is daily exercise and weight control. I’ll be honest… around here, exercise often looks like chasing after kids, cleaning [and cleaning and cleaning], and running around the park. And household chores are totally calorie burners [this article will tell you how many you’re burning]. I do have a standing date on Tuesday with another mom friend to play tennis and we love to take family walks around our neighborhood.

Equally as important as getting active is choosing the right foods to nourish your body. Here’s what the plates usually look like at our house.

breakfast plate
50% whole grains
25% fruit
25% healthy proteins

lunch plate
75% veggies
25% fruit

dinner plate
25% whole grains
25% healthy protein
50% veggies

Breakfasts for the kids usually looks like puffed cereals like this with a banana or apple with sunbutter or peanut butter. I either have the same or make some oatmeal. On weekends we like to make a family breakfast and often eat something from the breakfast round-up I posted in the oatmeal post or something I’ve found on pinterest.

For lunch I almost always eat a salad of organic spinach, carrots, tomatoes, and sunflower seeds with a tiny bit of vinaigrette. The kids aren’t game for the salad just yet. Landon usually eats a combination of corn and green peas, a plain rice cake, and some fruit. If he’s still hungry after that he either gets steamed broccoli or sweet potato. Lucy will go for a corn tortilla topped with steamed broccoli and vegan cheese. She often asks for a banana, apple, grapes, melon [she’ll eat just about any fruit]. She is tougher to give healthy lunches to but I’m trying to make more of an effort to make her lunches aesthetically pleasing. I think she’d love some of the lunches from Muffin Tin Mom

For dinner I have a list of grains and legumes that we keep stocked in our pantry at all times. For the grains this includes: brown rice, aborio rice, whole wheat & brown rice pasta, kamut, quinoa, buckwheat & rye [oatmeal add-ins], and thick-rolled & old-fashioned oats. For the legumes this includes: black beans, garbanzo beans, black-eyed peas, lentils [red, green, french], great northern, red kidney, and edamame. I also keep a list on the side of the fridge of new grains or legumes to try or add to the rotation next time I’m by the bulk bins. If you’re making the switch to whole grains or dried legumes you may want to consider a pressure cooker. I have this one called the Futura by Hawkins. Maybe you’re better prepared than I am, but I feel like a lot of meals would be delayed without the pressure cooker’s ability to cook brown rice and beans in less than 20 minutes. Woah. Okay then. Back on track.

I feel like you can take a look at the Meal Plans page to get an idea of how our dinners go. So not perfect but totally trying.

Balancing your plate between vegetables, fruits, healthy proteins, and whole grains is kind of a daunting task. You’re trying to pick the right foods, but where do you even start? That’s where ANDI comes in. Designed by Dr. Furman for Eat Right America, I first saw ANDI signs on a trip to Whole Foods. They actually put ANDI scores on a lot of their foods around the store. So what are ANDI scores? The Aggregate Nutrient Density Index is basically an ordering of the nutrient density of foods on a scale of 1 to 1000. What’s going to give you the best mix of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. What’s going to help your body stay well, do it’s part to protect us from cancer, and give our bodies a natural detox [see here]. Here’s a list of the top 10 green veggies, non-green veggies, fruit, beans, nuts & seeds from Whole Foods. I’ll get you started with the top 5 from each category.

Green Veggies:
1. Mustard/Turnip/Collard Greens
2. Kale
3. Watercress
4. Bok Choy/Baby Bok Choy
5. Spinach

Non-Green Veggies:
1. Radish
2. Bean Sprouts
3. Red Pepper
4. Radicchio
5. Turnip

1. Strawberries
2. Blackberries
3. Plum
4. Raspberries
5. Blueberries

1. Lentils
2. Red Kidney Beans
3. Great Northern Beans
4. Adzuki Beans
5. Black Beans

Nuts & Seeds:
1. Sunflower Seeds
2. Sesame Seeds
3. Flax Seeds
4. Pumpkin Seeds
5. Pistachios

It’s so interesting to compare the scores of what foods are more nutrient-dense than others. Here’s the link for that again.

You could even print this little card and keep it with you if you need a cheat sheet at the grocery store.

And while you’re at it check out the whole Fooducate blog. I am a fan.

Whew, I need a cookie! ;) I want to mention that I’m not food expert. I mean I still feel like a cooking newb. I still get surprised when things I make taste good. I’m just a mom, trying to work this out, hoping to take some friends along on the journey with me. So hopefully the links will guide you to the experts with totally scientific-y things to share.

I always love to hear how this plays out in other people’s kitchens. Anyone else have any tips or tricks for balancing out the veggies, fruit, proteins, and whole grains?

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One thought on “Our Meal Plan and How We Choose Food [Part II]

  1. Chuck Baker says:

    When I know that Beth is sitting at home looking up ANDI scores and perusing the Harvard School of Public Health website, it makes me feel less ironic and more truthful about calling her my “domestic engineer”

    P.S. Our after-market radish snack pounded a 554 ANDI score.

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