Menu Planning for the Family
In recent months, more and more families have started to dip their toes into the joys and woes of home-cooking! Thinking of doing the same? Read through this article to find out what things to consider when it comes to menu planning for the family.
Serving delicious home-cooked meals isn’t just a way to get compliments - more importantly - it’s the perfect opportunity to incorporate good nutrition in each meal. And in shared family meals, cooking skills matter!
Planning meals is healthy for you:
With home-prepped meals, you have control over the nutrition and safety of the food before it’s served at your table! Do this by checking the ingredients, nutrient quality, calorie content, the way it’s stored and prepared, the flavors, freshness and visual appeal, and the portion sizes. For these reasons, home-cooked meals can be deliciously healthy, allows for more variety with fewer calories, and can be served in sensible portion sizes.
Home cooking also makes it easier to meet the challenges of special food needs, perhaps to manage diabetes, high blood pressure, a food allergy, or other health conditions. The ability to control the calories in each meal can be a good strategy for weight loss or maintenance as well!
Healthy menu planning must be based on the Pinggang Pinoy Icon of FNRI – DOST.
Planning meals is more economical:
Home-cooked meals especially made with raw or minimally processed ingredients can cost significantly less than most meals eaten out or purchased fully prepared.
Planning meals is more time-saving:
Preparing a home-cooked meal can be faster than going to and from a restaurant, ordering and waiting for food. Although in the new normal, many people (usually those with small families) order food online due to availability and variety.
Most important of all, cooking at home with the family helps instill healthy eating habits, offers opportunities to build your relationships, and brings the family closer together during this time.
In menu planning, consider also the following:
- Food budget of the family. This is dependent upon the number of family members.
- Food you have on-hand (in the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer).
- Seasonality. Seasonal produce is abundant and economical, with more varieties to pick from.
- Nutrition and health needs. Plan for sensibly sized portions. Consider the ingredients and cooking methods.
- Food preferences, lifestyle, and age, as well as cultural and religious needs and restrictions of those you are cooking for.
- Meal appeal. Think about the colors, textures, flavors, and shapes of food on the plate. For children who prefer eating colorful food and vegetables, these can be cut in various shapes for visual appeal.
The correct meal pattern for breakfast should consist of the following:
- Vitamin C-rich fruits such as papaya, citrus fruits, guavas, berries, pomelos, pineapple, or freshly squeezed fresh fruits.
- Protein-rich foods such as meat, fish, chicken, and eggs. There is no harm in eating whole eggs because the protein quality of eggs is of high biologic value. Therefore, we can eat even two or three eggs daily provided our cholesterol is not high. It is also the cheapest and readily available protein according to FNRI.
- Carbohydrates such as rice, bread, or pasta
- Optional: Butter or Jam for bread, but this depends on the person’s preference.
- Beverages such as milk, coffee, tea, chocolate drink (depending on your preference). For children ages 3+, a glass of milk should be given in the morning and again before going to bed.
For lunch and dinner:
- Optional: Soup
- Protein-foods such as meat, fish and seafood, chicken (depending on the preference of the family members.
- Carbohydrates such as rice, bread, or pasta
- Dessert such as fruits or sweets
For snacks, especially for children, sandwiches, pasta, our native kakanin, or pancakes may be given. Avoid instant noodles because it is rich in sodium, as well as fries and chips.
So, dear parents, what are we waiting for? Try the above tips and follow the meal pattern from breakfast, to dinner, and snacks, to ensure we have a healthy and balanced diet during the new normal.
About The Writer
NIEVES C. SERRA, Nutritionist-Dietitian
Ms. Nieves Serra, a registered Dietitian, took up AB major in Nutrition and minor in Home Culture in St. Scholastica’s College (SSC) Manila in 1960. After her graduation in 1964, she took up the ten months Dietetic Internship program at FEU Hospital. She was the only one in her batch at SSC who took the Board Exam, passed it and practiced in the country. She took up M.S. Foods and Nutrition and MBA without thesis from Philippine Women’s University, Manila.
Her career has been devoted to hospital work in the Dietary department of private and government hospitals for a span of 46 years, and 41 years teaching nursing, HRM and nutrition students. She was also a cafeteria concessionaire for 6 years in various industrial companies, a lecturer/speaker in seminars and conventions and a member of various associations such as PASOO, and PHILSPEN.
In 1992, she was awarded the Outstanding Nutritionist-Dietitian of the year by Professional Regulatory Commission (PRC), and was a past president of Nutritionist-Dietitians’ Association of the Philippines or NDAP (1988), NDAP Life member (2007 to 2011), and held various positions from 1966 to the present. She is married to her profession, a devout Catholic, and follows the Benedictine motto of her school, St. Scholastica’s College, “Ora et Labora, which means work and pray being a loyal Scholastican and a loyal NDAP member.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are his/her own, and does not state or reflect those of Wyeth Nutrition and its principals.