08 November, 2015

Healthy Eating and Menu Planning

The holidays are here. (If you didn't kick-off with Halloween parties) Thanksgiving is often the start of a four to five (4 - 5) week period (or 10+ weeks with Twelfth Night and Mardi Gras!) where many folks tend to indulge in foods and drink they do not normally consume at other times, or in the same same quantities.

With advance planning, strategic choices, and yes, some discipline, I think it's possible to balance holiday fun, enjoying a few splurges, and staying on track with healthy eating goals. As part of its 10 Tips Nutrition Education Series, ChooseMyPlate.gov (operated by the USDA) has a great resource, "Make Healthier Holiday Choices: 10 Tips for a Healthier Holiday" (PDF file), with suggestions for achieving that balance.

You'll need free Adobe® Acrobat Reader® DC software to display and download PDF files. Download it directly from the Adobe® web site here.

Healthy Eating
Eating healthfully is essential to each of us for a Safe and Healthy Life.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tell us, "According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, a healthy eating plan:
A healthy lifestyle includes regular exercise and maintaining a healthy body weight.

Do you have special dietary requirements?
If you have diet-sensitive conditions like diabeteshypertensionhigh cholesterolceliac disease, even pregnancy, you already know that meal planning goes a long way toward healthy weight management, getting the proper nutrients, and/or controlling or managing underlying conditions. You talk to your doctors regularly and perhaps even read newsletters and authoritative online information. Outside of your household, your relatives and friends probably do not have the same familiarity with your dietary needs. And vice-versa.

Good etiquette is about respecting people and caring for them. When informed in advance, it's my experience most hosts will accommodate as much as possible in planning. Yes, I have encountered one headstrong host (a relative) who ignored diet restrictions conveyed in advance. Since that host does not follow its own medical diets, I was alert and managed to avoid a problem.

Even experienced hosts cannot be expected to divine every ingredient or dish to avoid while cooking for guests. I am a firm believer if you have a dietary restriction then, you should let your host know well in advance and kindly offer suggestions and volunteer to bring food to the event. I believe that is helpful and minimizes uncertainty and stress on both host and invited guest.

If the host seems lost or overwhelmed, offer to help, even beyond bringing a dish. For example, if you're a gluten-free guest, you might volunteer to shop with the host as it gathers certain supplies, or offer to loan specific ingredients from your kitchen. Those are just a few of the ideas from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA); download its "Entertaining Gluten-Free Guests" PDF file here.

The food one cannot eat safely due to medical conditions is different than my intense personal preference to avoid mustard (I despise it). In my opinion, communicate the former; eat, and keep the latter to yourself. That's good etiquette reciprocated.

Second opinion? Here's what others think:

Healthy Finances
Advance menu planning is financially healthy because we are able to organize shopping lists and trips to stores. We can check for seasonal sales and coupons. Organizing and planning helps to save money and time, and reduce expensive spontaneous choices and waste. The American Heart Association has tips for developing effective routines here.

Menu Planning
Most people don't have the time or expertise to thoroughly educate themselves on the special diet of every invited guest; the host may not even be aware of a guest's diet restrictions.

None of the contributors at My Friends Are Good Cooks are dietitians (or nutritionists). However, we are interested in facilitating information exchanges among our members and their families relative to healthy eating and menu planning. Whether it's recipe roundups, menus, or something else you suggest, we consider this post to be the first in a new series at My Friends Are Good Cooks.

I invite you to send recipes (yours or requested), blog posts or any suggested tools or outlines to us via email to myfriendscook [at] gmail [dot] com.

With advance planning, strategic choices, and personal commitment, we can all balance holiday fun, a few festive splurges, and staying on track with healthy eating goals.

Disclaimer:  As always, consult your physician before beginning any fitness or nutrition program. The information provided on this site is not meant to treat, cure, prevent or diagnose any illness or disease. The information provided is for general and educational purposes only and includes the opinions and views of the author and should not be substituted for medical advice given by your physician.

What are your suggestions for healthy eating and menu planning?

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