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Making a Menu - The Secret to a Healthy Diet

Making a Menu - The Secret to a Healthy Diet

To make real changes in your health, sometimes you have to do things you've never thought about. One of the simplest lessons I teach my clients is what they should do before walking into a grocery store.

When I tell people to eat healthier foods, most simply make changes to their grocery list. What they don't realize is, the critical part of any shopping trip isn't the list, but rather the menu you make before the list. That's because when the typical person makes a list, they fill it with the same foods they've always bought, just more of the good things and less of the bad.

Let me be very blunt.

If you continue buying, ordering and preparing the same food you've always had, you'll continue getting the same results. You must look at your schedule, one week at a time and design a healthy menu you can stick to. You've got to plan out what you're going to make for each of your meals and snacks. If you don't have the time to cook your own food, you need to include prepared meals and healthy restaurant options on your menu.

Here are some tips on how to design a healthy menu that'll work for you.

Involve all family members in menu planning. Give each person the chance to talk about their food likes and dislikes, favorite recipes, and what they'd like to see on the family menu. Give everybody a task such as helping out with shopping for food, unpacking groceries, setting the table, or cooking.

Then decide on the main attraction. Choose a main course for each meal over the coming week. Think about food your family enjoys, your budget, the time you have to prepare the food, and nutrition.

Mix it up. Try to introduce one new main course each week, so that your family gets to experience new tastes. Rotating through different meals also makes it more likely that your family members will get all the nutrients they need.

Use leftovers. Look for chances to use extra food from one meal for another meal later in the week.

Don't make any dramatic reductions in calories. It seems like a good idea at first. Eating too much causes weight gain, so if you cut back on your calories you should lose weight fast. Unfortunately, your body doesn't know you're going on a diet.

If there's a large drop in calories, your body goes into starvation mode and hangs onto all the fat it can. You start burning muscle for energy and your metabolism slows down to conserve body mass. After a few weeks, the weight loss stops and your body adjusts to the lower food intake. Even worse, you've now lost some metabolism-boosting muscle and hung onto that unhealthy fat.

A better plan is to only drop calories down 10-20% from your current level. It'll create a caloric deficit without triggering a plunge in your metabolism. Once a week enjoy a "cheat meal" where you eat a little more. The increase short-circuits your body's adaptation response so your metabolic rate doesn't start moving down.

Remember to keep your menu realistic. If you've never cooked before, don't expect you'll whip up a gourmet meal every night for dinner. Plan simple or frozen meals for when you're in a hurry and more elaborate or cook ahead meals when you've got time. Don't forget to include snacks for quick pick-me-ups.

Look for recipes you can cook in advance and freeze. It saves a tremendous amount of time and allows you to re-heat something healthy in minutes. To spend even less time in the kitchen, choose recipes that can be cooked together in one pot. Casseroles, stir-fry dishes or crockpot meals can all save cooking and clean up time.

At the top of your menu, write down how many calories you're allowed to have each day. Fill out a separate sheet for each day of the week and start making those menus.

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CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.