This is part of a series about changing one family’s diet toward healthier choices. I am not a dietician, just a mom who wants to find out what works best for our family. I hope this can inspire you to find what works for you. Click here to read Part 1 or Part 2.
Food Group Rebalancing
Our dinners used to be comprised of meat, bread, starchy vegetable, and maybe a salad. The more I read labels and learned about nutrition the more I wanted to just throw everything out the window and start all over. But my preference for a clean slate could be jarring on my family. So I decided that I would find a new balance by increasing fruits and vegetables first.
I prepared more raw and cooked vegetables and added them to our already overflowing plates. This way the healthy foods became familiar, but nobody went hungry and there were very few tears.
I experimented with ground turkey instead of beef and tofu instead of just about everything. This didn’t go over well. So I backed off and took a different approach. I used vegetable additions and ingredient substitutions to transform the already beloved components of the meal. I added vegetables to the meat or over the top of the meat in a sauté-type sauce. At the same time I used Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, small portions of very strong cheese in place of loads of mild cheese, and other substitutions that added flavor, but took away an ingredient that was less than ideal nutritionally.
I then reduced the portions of meat and starchy veggies at meals and added more raw and nutritionally prepared vegetables (and occasionally fruits).
This was hardly noticed because I always made sure that the volume of food offered didn’t diminish. In fact, we had fuller plates now than before. Nobody wants to have to eat unfamiliar foods, new flavors and suspicious looking greenery and still be hungry at the end of the torture session called a meal.
Next, I stopped offering bread at every meal. This brought on some fireworks since my husband grew up with sliced bread or fresh biscuits with most meals. Also my children had taken to making “sandwiches” with the bread by stuffing whatever the new veggies were in the middle to make it more palatable to their little lips. When I did offer bread I felt more comfortable serving homemade whole wheat bread or cornbread from scratch. At least then I could control the quality of the ingredients.
I stopped serving bottled salad dressings and boxed croutons opting instead for homemade dressings and healthy crackers served on the side.
Sample Meal Overhaul
So in the evolution of a real meal it would have look something like this:
Original Menu: Meat loaf, sliced bread, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes, salad with bottle dressing
- Add Veggies to Meat – Prepare meat loaf with bell peppers, onions and mushrooms baked in.
- Substitute Ingredients – Use plain yogurt and chicken stock for butter and cream in mashed potatoes.
- Add Veggies on the Side – Add cucumbers to the salad and raw carrots as a side.
- Reduce Meat and Starch – Serve ½ as much meat loaf, corn, and mashed potatoes.
- Add More Veggies – Add tomatoes to salad and raw broccoli as a side.
- Change to Whole Grain – Serve whole wheat rolls in place of sliced bread. Serve whole grain crackers instead of croutons.
- Switch from Bottled Dressing – Make homemade vinaigrette.
Here’s what the transformed menu might look like: Small portion of veggie-loaded meat loaf; whole wheat rolls; 1/2 corn on the cob; less mashed potatoes with substitutes; salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, and homemade vinaigrette dressing with whole grain crackers; and raw carrots and broccoli on the side.
We chose to transition to more uncooked foods and a fuller plate. We now eat much more volume of food than we ever did before, but it’s mainly fruits and vegetables. We do eat grains, dairy and proteins, but only as sides.
This type of food composition takes a considerable amount of time to complete all the washing, peeling, and chopping. However, the time cooking or baking is drastically diminished. It all works out in the end.
If you’d like to try a recipe (pictured above), this is a great Vegetable Meatloaf from Bobby Flay which features ground turkey, fresh herbs and lots of flavorful veggies.
Beth is a wife to Mike and mother to their five children who range in age from toddler to teen. She spends her days doing school and her nights doing laundry. Saving money in the meantime helps. Beth is learning how to live organically now in the hopes of one day being a successful homesteader.
Photo courtesy of Con Poulos via Food Network.