A menu makeover for a busy family! Recently I had the opportunity to make over a family’s meal plan. A majority of middle aged parents have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and are overweight. You do not need to make a huge overhaul to your diet if you find yourself in this boat, little changes to the types of foods you are choosing are all you need! I will list the previous meals this family was eating and the changes I recommended they make.
Breakfast for this family was primarily convenience foods and fast foods which was definitely contributing to higher cholesterol and weight gain. Donuts, energy drinks, fast food breakfast, cereal bars made with marshmallows and sugary cereal, and toaster pastries are all foods that were eaten by the parents and children on a daily basis.
Healthier options for this busy family below!
Plain cheerios with milk and a banana
Whole wheat english muffin with natural peanut butter, almond butter, or sunflower butter, and a piece of fruit
Smoothies made with 1 Banana, 1 cup frozen fruit (walmart is cheapest for that) 1 handful of any kind of greens like romaine lettuce or spinach, ½ cup milk and ½ cup water with enough ice to make it thick. A little sweetener like stevia would be fine to add sweetness and make it tastier for the kids to drink.
Oatmeal made with water and raisins. Follow the package directions and make a large enough serving so the whole family has a quick and hot breakfast! Find a sweetener you like. Monkfruit is good and it’s mild enough the kids wouldn’t mind it either. Use it in your oatmeal and smoothies.
Brown rice pudding: Instant Brown rice, double the amount of liquid it calls for using half milk and half water. Add raisins and a small amount of brown sugar. Cook on low until the rice has absorbed all the liquid. This can be made the night before and eaten cold in the morning or warmed up if you have time.
Lunches again were convenience foods with little nutrition for growing children and loaded with sodium. Ramen noodles, peanut butter and jelly on white bread, lunchables, macaroni and cheese, pasta and butter, and hotdogs.
No more ramen! Buy noodles on sale and make your own “ramen noodles”. Use small noodles like thin spaghetti and chicken bouillon like Better than Bouillon. This way you control the sodium. Cook the noodles first to package directions and drain them. Add the noodles to chicken broth and warm up until the broth is hot. And just for giggles, ramen noodles are covered in wax, it takes 3 days for your body to digest wax which would make anyone cranky!
Peanut butter and jelly is fine for lunch with a few changes. Use natural peanut butter and put it on whole wheat bread. Buy jelly with no corn syrup in it, currently I can find grape and strawberry. Most kids like those flavors! Add a fruit like apples or grapes and you have a well rounded meal. A bonus: Nuts are good for lowering your cholesterol.
Lunchables are expensive and full of yucky stuff. Make your own using whole wheat or whole grain crackers. Buy nitrate free lunch meat from the deli counter. Use real cheddar cheese sliced into little rectangles. Instead of the candy and sugar laden juice from the lunchables add in a 100% fruit juice box and grapes or apples.
Pasta is okay but leave out the butter. Use olive oil instead and a little salt. Use whole grain pasta instead of white. See if you can sneak it into the kids diet as well.
Hot dogs. If you must have hotdogs, buy the uncured hotdogs. I do not advocate for hotdogs except every once in a while like every few months. Chips are okay but not great, baked ones or pretzels are a better choice as long as there isn’t a lot of sodium. A better option would be lean meats like turkey sandwiches on whole wheat bread. Staying away from cured meats is best. Instead of hot dogs you could do english muffins with a little bit of butter or olive oil brushed on and some cheese on top, broiled until the cheese is melted. This is cheesy toast and serve with apples or baby carrots.
The meals for dinner previously were frozen pizza, chicken legs, spaghetti with canned sauce, lean cuisine frozen meals, hamburger helper and chicken nuggets. Again heavily relying on convenient, heavily processed foods. Buying whole foods is cheaper not only for your grocery budget but your doctor visits will decrease as you eat healthier foods as well!
Lemon Pepper Chicken Breast, sweet potatoes, corn on the cobb
Lemon pepper chicken breast can be made with lemon pepper seasoning or by marinading chicken in lemon juice and olive oil and bake.
Spaghetti with no meat sauce. I shred carrots into crushed tomatoes, add garlic and basil and that is my sauce. The carrots add sweetness and the kids are getting veggies without knowing. Use whole grain noodles.
Chicken with Rice, Keep your leftover chicken and chicken bones from your lemon pepper chicken, boil these bones in water for broth and add brown rice to make chicken and rice. You can use instant brown rice if you like. Walmart brand is fine.
Rice and veggies with Healthy Request Mushroom Soup. Find the one with the lowest sodium. I typically don’t recommend canned soups but this was something the family was not willing to give up. They could also use the recipe I have on the blog for stroganoff subbing vegetables for the meat called for.
English Muffin Pizzas, use your leftover sauce from spaghetti or crushed tomatoes, shred your own mozzarella, let the kids help make their own. This is a way to have pizza night and make it fun for the kids. Using whole wheat english muffins makes it healthier too.
Pork loin, sauteed broccoli, and brown rice.
This is definitely not everything the family can eat but it was indeed a starting point for them. When I made the meal plan I based it off of items that were on sale in their area at the time. This saved the family money and showed them that with a small budget they could feed their family healthy meals instead of relying on processed convenience foods. If you are short on time then use your days off to cook up meals ahead of time, place in the refrigerator and just heat up meals as you need them for dinner. You could also do freezer meals but if you are going to use the items in the same week there is no need to freeze them! I hope this helps some families see that they can still have the foods they love and eat healthier at the same time.