Investigating the how and why of good cooking.

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Easy Weekly Menu Planning

Getting a healthy meal on the table every night does not need to be a struggle. The key is to have a healthy meal plan that is flexible enough to accommodate the stresses of working families. The USDA recommends that Americans increase the consumption of vegetables, fruits and whole grains, while eating less fat and sugar. Traditional Southern meals often contain far more fat and sugar than they should, but healthier options are available. Aim to eat healthy versions of your favorites on an everyday basis and save the high fat and high sugar versions for special occasions.

The Healthy Eating Pyramid, from the Harvard S...
The Healthy Eating Pyramid, from the Harvard School of Public Health (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Eat Seafood Twice a Week

Not only is fish a healthy menu option, but it is quick to prepare. Save the fried fish for special occasions and opt for grilled salmon or salmon patties, Cajun blackened fish , seafood gumbo, shrimp and grits or shrimp etouffee. Serve with brown rice or wild rice, okra or green beans and tomatoes. Finish with a serving of fresh fruit.

 Beef or Pork Once a Week

Throw a small pot roast in the crock pot in the morning for an easy week night meal. Add a little beef broth and an assortment of vegetables. It will be ready to serve when you arrive home after a long day. Thicken the juices to make gravy or serve it au jus. Use 1-inch pieces of beef to make a hearty crock pot stew in the winter.

Serve grilled or broiled pork chops with mashed sweet potatoes and a green salad. Stewed apples or ginger spiced pineapple are a nice sweet finish for this meal.

Poultry Once a Week

When you think of Southern chicken you probably think of fried chicken, but there are a lot of healthy options available. If you prefer your chicken fried, try a healthier oven-fried chicken recipe. Serve with homemade biscuits, corn-on-the-cob and a salad or green vegetable.

Prepare weeknight barbecue chicken: broil chicken breasts or chicken tenders in the oven or cook them on the grill pan, topping them with barbecue sauce during the last few minutes of cooking.

Stew chicken pieces with whole wheat noodles to make a healthy version of chicken and dumplings or cook them with rice for the Southern chicken and rice favorite. Offer green beans and tomatoes on the side.

Meatless Meals

Current nutritional recommendations include eating meatless meals two or three times a week. Traditional Southern foods offer many options for healthy meatless meals. Try a low-fat version of macaroni and cheese or center your meal around Southern peas and beans. Offer a variety of fresh vegetables and fruits and a square of cornbread with these meals. Sweet potatoes, baked potatoes or corn make good starches for these meals.

For More Information:

Harvard School of Public Health: What Should You Eat?

U.S. Department of Agriculture: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 



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