Degree: Planning key to weight loss goals

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 4, 2011

By Toi Degree
For The Salisbury Post
Last week we identified strategies for maintaining proper portion control and how larger portions often mean consuming more calories than needed. This week we will discovery the benefits of preparing meals at home as we learn how to use plan, shop, fix and eat as a strategy to manage weight.
The number one reason people say they can’t eat healthy is lack of time. Planning meals ahead is a major stress-reducer. How would you like to know the answer to, “Hey, what’s for dinner?” before you hit the door each day? When you have the things you need on hand, fixing a simple meal can be almost as quick as going to the drive-through.
Create a list of meals that you and your family enjoy and don’t forget to update the list when you try a new recipe that everyone likes. Keep the master list in a place where you will see it.
Keep a shopping list on the counter or refrigerator and write down items you are running out of as you notice they are getting low. Add each item to the list the minute you realize you are using the last of it.
Keep your pantry stocked with staples.
Sometime during the week, set aside 30 minutes to plan for the next week.
Keep it simple. Select recipes with five or fewer ingredients. Prepare one-pot entrees, such as stir-fry or baked chicken with vegetables. Stir-fry meat (chicken or lean beef), then add some vegetables to create a meal in one skillet. Bake or roast a chicken surrounded by vegetables, such as carrots and sweet potatoes.
Use simple cooking techniques such as grilling, slow cooking, and steaming.
The next step in planning is to make a shopping list based on your menu for the week. Shop regularly, once a week or once a month. Don’t just shop for one meal or one day at a time. When shopping considering shopping for the following:
In-season fruits and vegetables are less expensive and taste better.
Visit local farmers markets or farm stands for lower prices and better quality.
Remember, fruits and vegetables help you eat fewer calories. They are low in calories and very filling.
When you get to the grocery store remember the following:
• Stick to your list. You are less likely to buy things you don’t need and less likely to forget ingredients you do need for your week’s menus.
• Don’t shop hungry. Eat a snack before shopping, or go shopping after eating a meal. You will be less likely to buy things that you don’t normally buy, but if you shop while you are hungry you’re more apt to throw anything in the basket.
• Buy minimally processed food. Fruits and vegetables that are fresh, frozen, dried, or canned without added sugar or fat are good choices. Whole-grain breads and cereals with minimal added sugar and fat are also good choices. Look for lean cuts of meat.
• Be a label-reader. This is the best way to learn about what you are eating.
Fix it fast
For quick vegetables and fruit, open a can or bag of frozen fruits or vegetables. Buy frozen vegetables without sauce or butter. Buy low-sodium canned and frozen fruits without added sugar. Choose quick, low-calorie meat options.Try ready-to-use herbs and spices.
Eat mindfully
Make eating together a family priority. Mealtime is a great opportunity for families to spend time together. Adults are important role models for kids and can influence foods they taste and learn to eat.
Turn off the television, radio and cell phones so everyone can focus on the conversation without distraction.
Share events of the day. Ask each person at the table to talk about a fun activity or something good that happened that day. It is a wonderful time to catch up on special school events or achievements of the kids in your family. You can also plan upcoming family activities (maybe going for a walk after dinner).
It is easy to make healthy choices when meals are prepared at home and families sit at the table together to share that meal. It is a good time to talk about and model healthy eating, portion sizes and trying new foods.
Be mindful, and take your time through dinner. Eating slowly helps everyone eat less. Enjoy each bite. Teach children that meals should be slow, enjoyable times for sharing.
Next week our topic will be about how to make healthy choices when eating out. Don’t forget to select a strategy (from this weeks topic) to work on for the week. Let me know how you are doing (email me at
Toi N. Degree is a family & consumer education agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension.