Food-And-Nutrition—Eating-Healthy–Healthy Meal Planning

Essential required nutrients
Healthy Meal Planning
Healthy Meal Planning
Most of you reading this might think that planning a meal is simple, and wonder why the whole issue about planning. You might have planned what to cook for the day or sometime even planned the whole week’s meal for your family. But have you ever spent time or thought about how healthy is the food that we eat? Does it satisfy all the essential required nutrients to the body in a balanced amount? Does it help your family grow and stay healthy? If not, then start thinking right now. No rocket science, it’s simple! Change your normal meal plan to Healthy meal plan.

Serving size
As the popular saying goes “Too much of anything is good for nothing”, similarly eating too much of food also proves adverse. It is very important that you know the exact amount of food you need to have per every meal. Perfect amount of servings varies for every person as it depends on their age, sex, how physically active they are, and also their health condition. Serving size on the food product is a guide to help you know how much calories or nutrients are in a specific quantity of food. A healthy meal plan is your personal guide to help you plan daily meals. It helps you to include healthy nutritive and balanced food. A properly followed meal plan proves effective in people who wish to keep a track of their daily calorie intake.

The grain category includes food such as rice, crackers, bread, cereals, and pasta. Grain servings are measured in ounce equivalents. Now you must be wondering what an ounce equivalents is. Relax! It is nothing but a simple measurement that is equal to 1 slice of bread, ½ cup of cooked oats or rice or pasta and 1 cup of dry cereals.

Different Age Group

Serving Size

4-8 Years Kid

4-5 Ounce Equivalent / Day

9-18 Years (Girl)

5 Ounce Equivalent / Day

9-18 Years (Boy)

6 Ounce Equivalent / Day

Adult (Female)

6 Ounce Equivalent / Day

Adult (Male)

8ounce Equivalent / Day

Make sure that atleast half of these grain servings include whole grain foods such as wheat or multiple grain breads, crackers, readily available whole wheat pasta, and oatmeal.

Vegetables are must in your meal plan. The perfect servings of vegetable are measured in cups. Daily recommended servings of vegetable are:

Different Age Group Serving Size
4-8 Years Kid 1 ½ Cup / Day
9-13 Years (Girl) 2 Cups / Day
9-13 Years (Boy) 2 ½ Cups / Day
For Adults 2-3 Cups / Day
Make it a point to eat 1 cup of vegetables or drink vegetable juice, eat 2 raw carrots, 1 big sweet potato or 1 medium white potato or 2 cups of leafy vegetables every day.

Fruits are generally a healthy option, and are considered a complete pack of fiber and many essential nutrients. Fruits can be consumed as whole, canned, dried or you can also prefer fruit juice. Daily recommended intake of fruit is:

Different Age Group Serving Size
2-18 Years (Both Male & Female) 1 To 1 ½ Cup / Day Or 1 Whole Medium Sized Fruit
Adults (Both Male & Female) 2 Cups / Day
1 serving of fruit is equal to 1 small apple, 1 big banana, and 1 cup of fruit juice or ¼ to ½ cup of dry fruits. Rely only on 100% fruit juice as it has more nutrients, and less sugar.

Milk and milk products
Calcium rich foods are very essential for stronger bones. Milk product includes yogurt, milk, cheese and icecreams. Note that cream, butter, and cream cheese are not under the list of milk products as they do not provide enough calcium. The recommended amount of milk and milk products for different age group are:

Different Age Group Serving Size
2-8 Years Kid 2 Cups / Day
9-18 Years (Both Male & Female) 3 Cups Of Milk Or Milk Product / Day
Adults (Both Male & Female) 3 Cups Of Milk Or Milk Product / Day
Always prefer low fat or non-fat milk and yogurt and cheese prepared from skimmed milk as they have low fat. You can have other calcium equivalent foods like yogurt, cheese, orange juice also.

Meats & beans
This category of food includes chicken, beef, pork, turkey, and fish they also include other protein rich foods such as beans, lentils, peanuts, and egg. Servings of these foods are measured in ounce equivalents. One ounce equivalent is equal to ½ cup of cooked dry beans, 1 egg, 1-2 tablespoon of peanut butter, and about a handful of nuts. The daily recommended servings are:

Different Age Group Serving Size
2-8 Years Kid 2 To 4 Ounce / Day
9 -13 Years (Both Male & Female) 5 To 6 Ounce / Day
Adults (Both Male & Female) 5 To 6 Ounces / Day
It is good if you choose lean meat, fish, beans, and peas as often as possible, as they are low in fat. Remove visible fat from the meat, and avoid frying them.

Food exchanges
If you are on dieting or on some restricted diet plan, you must be bored by eating the same food day after day. Food exchange list provides you with options where you substitute one food for the other. The American Diabetes Association has published a food exchange list that groups food with approximately same amount of nutritive value and compares the serving size and nutritive value of one group of food with another, and substitutes it with other food choices containing the same nutritive value. The exchanged list of food equals approximately the same amount of calories, proteins, fat, and carbohydrate that is present in the substituted food. The food exchange list has 3 main categories

Carbohydrate group
Meat and meat substitutes group
Fat group
For instance consider,
½ cup of cooked carrots, broccoli, or cabbage
1 cup of raw vegetables or green salad
½ cup vegetable juice
All the above mentioned food contains 25 calories and 5 grams of carbohydrate. Now you can shuffle your choice of food between these, as all contains equal amount of nutrition in it. Similarly, meat food group includes very lean, lean, medium-fat, and high fat meat. Food like 1 ounce of fish fillet or shellfish, and 2 egg whites contains 35 calories, and 1 gram of fat per servings.

Carb counting
Carb counting tracks the amount of carbohydrate you consume everyday, and helps you control the calories you get from it. Counting carbs in a meal is easier than trying to figure out what type of carbohydrates you should take. It also helps to adjust the amount of carbohydrates as per you needs. Consult your physician about the right meal plan. It is important that you control fat and cholesterol level along with carb counting. Foods that are rich in carbohydrates are bread, cereals, rice, fruit, yogurt, milk, potatoes, corn, dry beans, fruit, juice, cakes, cookies, and candies.

Glycemic index (GI)
How fast a food can raise your blood glucose level is measured by Glycemic index. Different carbohydrate foods have different effects on your body. Few foods increase your blood glucose level immediately, and few do it gradually. The different effects of foods are prioritized according to their effect on blood glucose level. This difference is shown by a value called Glycemic index. A food with low GI Value tends to increase the blood sugar levels slowly. High GI value foods cause a drastic increase in blood sugar levels. Choosing low GI carbs is the long term secret of maintaining a healthy heart, normal blood glucose level, and weight control. Shift your diet to foods that are with low GI value, such as oats, barley, bran, whole grains, sour dough, stone ground flour, pasta, noodles, basmati rice, and lots of vegetable salads.

Fats are very important part of a healthy diet. Fats like saturated and transfat are harmful to health, but other fats like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat are healthy fats that lower the level of bad cholesterol. Eating excess fat diet may result in heart disease, excess weight, type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and certain types of cancer. Maintaining a low fat diet is essential for healthy living. It is recommended that in adults fat should contribute only 25-30% of the total calories that we consume every day, which equals 56 to 77 grams of fat.

Fats like olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, sesame oil, and sunflower oil are rich in monounsaturated fat; and polyunsaturated fat is found in vegetable oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, safflower oil, soy and cottonseed oil. Include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, skimmed milk, and cholesterol free protein in your diet as they are low in fat. Limit yourself to 6 ounce of meat per day. And importantly, make physical activity a part of your daily schedule to burn out calories.

Sugar substitutes
If you have a sweet tooth and always love eating sweets but you want to cut down the complications that these sweet things can bring, then it is better to go for a sugar substitute. Sugar substitutes are chemical or natural substances that tastes as good as sugar but with less or no calories at all. Using sugar substitute helps you to control calorie intake and it is helpful in controlling the blood glucose level. The US Food and Drug Administration has listed the ‘daily acceptable intake’ of these sugar substitutes. It has also approved that sugar substitutes are safe to use and they do not result in any disease as they are proved to be 100 times milder than the amount that is required to cause any health concern. It has also been shown that people using sugar substitute intake less calories and they do not over eat.

Quick tips for healthy meal planning
Plan up a simple, healthy, and manageable diet, and slowly shift yourself to healthy meal plan
Eat little but see that you have a balanced diet of all required nutrients
Fill your plate with colorful fruits and vegetables at every meal
Prefer whole grains, as oats and grains are rich in insoluble fiber and are digested slowly, and fall lower in the Glycemic index that helps in maintaining blood glucose level.
Include foods which contain monosaturated fat and polysaturated fat like peanut oil, olive oil, almonds, pecans, pumpkin, and sesame seeds, corn, soy beans, flaxseed oil etc
Include different source of protein diet in your meal plan chick pea, beans, cow’s milk, boiled egg, peanuts, cheese, brown rice, broccoli, potatoes, lentils etc.
Include calcium and vitamins in your diet. Food rich in calcium are fortified cereals, soy beverage, spinach, cowpeas, white beans, soy beans.
Limit the amount of sugar, salt, and processed food.
Healthy diet plan requires perfect planning and proper interpretation. The battle for healthy meal plan can be won only if you have a perfect healthy meal plan, well-stocked kitchen, healthy snacks and book of quick, easy, and healthy recipes.

Eat healthy and stay healthy



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