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Recipe for Health: Planning ahead eases meal preparation

BY BECKY VARNER Published: March 27, 2013

Every March the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, formerly the American Dietetic Association, sponsors National Nutrition Month. This is a nutrition education and information campaign and the theme this year is “Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day.”

The emphasis is to help people make informed food choices and develop sound eating and physical activity habits.

There are many advantages to eating healthier and being physically active. It helps people at every age and stage in life to feel their best, work productively and reduce the risk of developing some diseases. The goal is to promote overall health, achieve and maintain a healthy weight and reduce the chance of certain diseases.

Healthful eating patterns must be personalized to fit individual lifestyles. They must allow flexibility to make choices that meet specific nutrient needs and stay within calorie limits.

Many people today live hectic lifestyles and simply don't take the time to think or plan healthful food choices. They may leave early in the morning, come home at the end of the day, are tired and don't want to think about healthful eating and so they just grab the fastest thing to eat with no regard to good health. Or they may stop on the way home and pick up some high-fat, high-calorie and high-sodium fast food to take home for dinner because they don't remember what is in the kitchen to fix.

The big payoff

The point is that a little planning ahead can have a big payoff when it comes to eating healthier.

One idea is to stock the kitchen with healthful ingredients that are quick to put together to make a nutritious meal. For example, cook several pounds of very lean (93 percent lean and 7 percent fat) ground beef or ground turkey breast. Add about a cup of water per pound and simmer in a large pot until done. This prevents the very lean beef or turkey from sticking and most of the water will evaporate while cooking. Allow to cool. Divide into 12 ounce cooked portions (16 ounces raw yields about 12 ounces cooked) to freeze.

Package in freezer containers or zippered plastic bags designed for freezing. Label each package with the name and amount of the food and the date. Be sure and organize your freezer. Store similar foods together and place the ones that have been in the freezer the longest in the front to be used first. These will be a real time saver when preparing a recipe that calls for a pound of ground beef or turkey. They are great to use in spaghetti sauce, tacos, chili, a casserole or soup.

Keep canned and frozen fruits and vegetables and other ingredients your recipes call for so you will have everything needed for quick preparation. Compare the nutrition label information for different brands of the same product to select those that are lowest in sodium, calories and fat. Sometimes there will be a significant difference.

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