May - Jun 2013

A Simple Formula: Planning a Healthy Meal

By Antonia Pinckney, RD CDE RN


I often have clients say they want me to just give them a set of menus, so they don’t have to make any decisions! While a printed set of menus can give you some ideas to get started, you have to ask yourself: what if you or your family find some of the foods unappealing? Would every menu item meet your preferences for taste, budget, cooking ability, and what’s available where you shop? And how long could you stick to this limited selection? Rather than follow predetermined menus, try this simple formula that allows you to select the necessary components to ‘build’ a healthy bariatric meal.


The first consideration for every meal and snack is the all-important lean protein. Protein provides the materials necessary for healthy muscle tissue, and maintaining a strong immune system. It also can keep you feeling full longer. There are many choices - poultry, lean meats, fish, seafood, eggs and low fat dairy products. Bariatric patients should have protein at each meal based on their individual protein requirements. And if your eating strategy includes planned snacks, these snacks may be an excellent opportunity for a small amount of protein throughout the day.


Next, pick either a vegetable or fruit, using 1/2 - 3/4 cup as a serving size.  These provide important nutrients and antioxidants. Be sure to cook vegetables without fat or with minimal fat.


Finally, choose about 1/2 cup of a whole grain. The fiber from whole grains helps food stay in the stomach pouch, allowing you to feel full longer. Some examples include brown rice, and whole wheat pasta. Cereal or bread products with at least 3 grams of fiber per serving are best (whole grain crackers, bran flakes).


Put three columns on a page. In the first one list the lean proteins that work for you. In the second, the vegetable and fruits you like. Place your favorite whole grains in the third. An example for breakfast would be non-fat Greek yogurt, mixed with diced peaches, and bran flakes. Lunch or dinner could be 2 slices of low fat Swiss cheese, 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, and 4 whole grain crackers. You simply pick one item from each column and voila! You have a meal.