Here are some guidelines you can use for creating a custom healthy menu. Information is provided for several meals.
Healthy Meal Model
→ Choose water (tap, sparkling, infused), unsweetened coffee and tea.
→ Choose non-starchy vegetables and whole fruits, in a variety of colors. They provide fiber, a variety of nutrients and make the meal more appealing.
→ Choose plant-based proteins (tofu, beans, lentils, seeds/nuts and nut butters), lean meats (skinless poultry, seafood), eggs, and plain yogurt.
→ Choose unprocessed grains (brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa, steel cut oats) when selecting side dishes and baked goods, pasta and tortillas. Whole grains are more filling and nutritious than refined grains, and can help with weight control and boost energy levels.
→ Enjoy – Olive and canola oils, nuts and seeds, nut butters, hummus, avocado, tuna, and salmon are sources of heart-healthy, unsaturated fats.
→ Limit – Saturated fats found in red meat, deli meats, high-fat dairy products (butter, cheese).
→ Avoid – Trans fats, found in some processed foods, fried foods, and baked goods made with partially hydrogenated oils.
- Breakfast Tips
Baked goods – provide whole-grain options in “mini” versions or cut larger portions in half. Avoid pastries.
Fruit – whole or sliced fruits are a better option than juice.
Protein – serve eggs or yogurt instead of processed meats like bacon and sausage.
- Sandwiches and wraps – provide whole-grain breads and tortillas, healthy proteins (roasted turkey, grilled chicken); and nutritious condiments (hummus, avocado, tomatoes, cucumber, leafy greens and other vegetables).
Salads – top greens and sliced veggies with protein (tuna, grilled chicken, hard-boiled eggs, beans). Provide healthy toppings (avocados, nuts) in place of less healthy options (cheese, bacon bits, croutons, crispy wonton strips). Choose vinaigrette dressings and serve them on the side.
Desserts – serve whole or sliced fruit. If serving baked goods, use small portions.
Selections for Caterers and Restaurants Selections from Grocery Stores
Vegetable platter with hummus or guacamole
Raw vegetables (baby carrots, snap peas, cherry tomatoes) with hummus or guacamole
Vegetables (roasted, steamed, grilled, stir-fried) Vegetable platter Green salad with vinaigrette dressing on the side Fruit (platter, salad, whole) Pasta or side salad incorporating brown rice, quinoa, beans, whole-grain couscous Unsalted nuts and seeds Fruit (platter, salad, whole) Trail mix containing primarily nuts and unsweetened dried fruit Unsalted nuts and seeds
Note – any of these can be sides in a boxed lunch.
Plain yogurt with accompaniments (fruit and nuts)
More Ideas for Meeting Snack Swaps:
Choose: Instead of: Whole fruit items, dark chocolate Pastries high in sugar, chocolate Edamame, vegetable spring rolls Regular popcorn or Eggs rolls Whole grain bread (2.5 grams dietary fiber) Traditional assorted bread products Nuts or non-fat yogurt Processed meats like bacon and sausage Whole-grain crackers/ unsalted pretzels Chips or donuts Hummus, non-fat yogurt dipping sauces Sour cream-based dips
- Water – served in pitchers or a dispenser. Consider water infused with cucumber, citrus or strawberries. Encourage participants to bring their own beverage containers and point out the nearest water station.
Unsweetened beverages – provide regular and decaffeinated coffee, and tea. Low-fat milk (cow, soy, almond) is the preferred creamers.
Other beverages – carbonated water with a splash of 100% fruit juice is an option. Limit fruit and vegetable juices to 4-8 oz. portions.