I have been busy the past two weeks with grocery store tours for customers who resolve to eat healthy in 2013. One common topic of conversation during the tour is meal planning. I find that customers struggle to plan healthy meals for their families and, oftentimes, find themselves in a rut when it comes to meal ideas. Usually the conversation turns to me, "So, you're a working mom. What do you cook for dinner?"
To be honest, dinner can be a little chaotic at our house, with two working parents and a two-year-old. But, with lots of planning and a hint of creativity, I can successfully feed my family a healthy meal … quickly!
When I answered that customer's question with "tacos," she was shocked. I couldn't help but laugh at her reaction. Yes — believe it or not, dietitians eat tacos.
I went on to explain to her what "taco night" looks like at our house. As a dietitian, I am constantly modifying recipes and trading up for healthier ingredients in meals. I also do my best to follow the MyPlate guidelines: one-fourth protein, one-fourth grains, half the plate filled with fruits and veggies and a serving of dairy on the side.
Here's how that plays out with tacos:
—Protein. We start with the leanest ground-meat option, 99-percent-lean ground turkey breast (NuVal 64). We add extra nutrients to the meat mixture with diced bell pepper (NuVal 96), chopped yellow onion (NuVal 93) and a can of black beans (NuVal 55), drained and rinsed to reduce the sodium content. We usually season the meat mixture with one packet of reduced-sodium taco seasoning, but one of my dietitian colleagues gave me a recipe for a homemade taco seasoning yesterday, so I can't wait to try mixing up my own. I have attached her tried-and-true recipe for you to use, too.
— Grains. Instead of using a white flour tortilla (NuVal 2), we build taco salads and add crunch with Food Should Taste Good multigrain tortilla chips (NuVal 43).
— Fruits and Veggies. It's easy to incorporate lots of color and nutrients with fresh produce at this meal. We cover the plate with green leaf lettuce (NuVal 100) as a base for the salad. Instead of opening a jar of salsa, I chop up my own. My recipe is simple: fresh tomatoes, yellow onion, cilantro and lime juice. With all that fresh flavor, there's no need to add salt. Then I scoop out an avocado for some healthy fat and vitamin E.
— Dairy. Instead of sour cream (NuVal 24), we trade up for fat-free plain Greek yogurt (NuVal 93). Don't be afraid to try this at home; you lose all the fat but none of the creaminess. We also top the salad with shredded cheddar cheese, one of our son's favorite foods.
Don't let dinner stress you out. Plan ahead to save time. Incorporate your family's favorite foods, like tacos. Trade up for healthier ingredients in your recipe. Follow the MyPlate guidelines for a balanced meal.
Most of all, enjoy that meal together as a family.
Kaitlin Anderson is a registered dietitian at Hy-Vee North in Rochester. This information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.
1/4 cup chili powder 1 teaspoon garlic powder 1 teaspoon onion powder 1 teaspoon dried oregano 2 teaspoon paprika 2 tablespoon ground cumin 1 tablespoon sea salt 4 teaspoon black pepper In a small bowl, mix together chili powder, garlic powder, onion
powder, oregano, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper. Store in an
airtight container. To use: Mix approximately 2.5 tablespoons seasoning into 1 pound
of ground meat. Recipe courtesy of Hy-Vee Dietitian April Graff
1/4 cup chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon sea salt
4 teaspoon black pepper
In a small bowl, mix together chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper. Store in an airtight container.
To use: Mix approximately 2.5 tablespoons seasoning into 1 pound of ground meat.
Recipe courtesy of Hy-Vee Dietitian April Graff