BUILDING A BETTER MENU

By Vicki Griffin, MS-Human Nutrition, MPA

Building a better menu will build a  better brain, a better body, and a better you! Plant-based nutrition  gives you more of what you need to help your mental engine purr instead  of ping. Get more fiber and complex carbohydrates: Choose whole grain  breads and cereals, beans, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. They  give you more of the good things you need to get through each day.

Plant foods give you more:
Nutrition: more vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals.
Quantity: more food to eat with fewer calories.
Fiber and Satiety: a fuller and more satisfied feeling.
Color: beauty and phytochemicals.
Flavor: tantalizing tastes from fresh, succulent fruits and crunchy veggies.
Variety: abundance of variety in the produce department.
Balance: a balance of nutrients that are naturally low in calories.
Energy: complex carbohydrates for optimal energy.
Productivity: a brain that works more efficiently.
Beauty: clear skin, bright eyes, and a slowdown of the aging process.
Confidence: to know you are doing the right thing.

Choose healthful fats: Eat  nuts, seeds, olives, olive oil, and avocados for the best fats. Omega-3  fats are especially beneficial. They are found in flax seed, walnuts,  and soy. Use non-hydrogenated spreads instead of butter or  trans-fat-filled margarines.
Drink water: Water is  the best thirst quencher and brain energizer compared to other drinks.  Choose water instead of high-sugar, caffeinated beverages or alcohol.

Build a Better Breakfast
A good breakfast is one of the most important strategies for a  successful day. It will power up your brain, body, and mood and give you  energy to meet the challenges of the day.
A high-fiber breakfast will keep you satisfied so you will be less  likely to crave unhealthful snacks and stimulating drinks. You will have  more nutrition and less unwanted weight gain. You will have calmer  nerves, better blood sugar control, and better ability to cope with  stress when you power up your day with a good breakfast.

Easy breakfasts
You can enjoy a healthful breakfast in three easy steps:
1. Get your grains: You can enjoy a bowl of high-fiber cereal. Make sure each serving is at  least three or more grams of fiber. Or heat up some oatmeal or other  whole grain cereal. Enjoy cereals with B12-fortified soy or rice milk.  Treat yourself to some whole grain toast or a bagel with a natural  peanut butter or non-hydrogenated spread. Make sure each slice of bread  has two or more grams of fiber.
2. Grab that fruit: Add  two or three choices of fresh fruit. Enjoy a variety of fruits. Treat  yourself to fresh kiwi, pineapple, cantaloupe, plums, berries, apricots,  peaches, and pears as well as the more familiar favorites such as  apples and bananas.
3. Go for the nuts: Enjoy  brain-boosting fats in the form of walnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, and  almonds. You may eat them raw or lightly roast them at 200 degrees for  about 30 minutes to bring out their tantalizing taste. Enjoy ground flax  seed on your cereal. Grind flax seed in a blender or coffee grinder.  Store nuts and seeds in the freezer.

Build a Better Lunch
Taking time for a healthful lunch keeps your mental engine purring, your  blood sugar balanced, and your energy levels high. It helps keep your  mood elevated, and it reduces tension and fatigue.
Taking time for lunch punctuates your day with pleasure and can connect  you with friends, coworkers, and family. It also gives your body the  nutrient and energy boost it needs to keep you balanced and your spirits  buoyed the rest of the day.
A good midday meal will help you deal with stress better and keep you  from craving those unhealthful drinks and foods that make you bounce off  the walls and increase tension and fatigue.

Easy lunches
You can enjoy a healthful lunch in three easy steps:
1. Enjoy your raw foods: Begin your midday meal with a nice helping of fresh mixed-greens salad, raw veggie sticks, or fresh fruit.
2. Energize with fiber-rich fare: Tickle  your taste buds with bean or vegetable soups, whole grain breads, brown  rice and tofu dishes, wholesome pastas, vegetarian patties on whole  grain buns, baked or steamed potatoes with creative toppings such as  tofu sour cream or olive oil and dill.
3. Be veggie smart: Color up your cuisine by including plenty of freshly steamed greens.  Enjoy a variety of greens such as collards, kale, and spinach.  Experiment with lightly steamed broccoli, cauliflower, squash, purple  cabbage, and the scores of other delicious veggies that provide  essential stress-lowering nutrients.

Build a Better Supper
If you have enjoyed a fiber-rich breakfast and lunch, you can eat an  early supper and keep it light. This will help you sleep better and  avoid indigestion.

Easy suppers
You can enjoy a healthful supper in three easy steps:
1. Keep it simple: Supper  can be simple but elegant. It can be nutritious, easy, and attractive.  If supper is the only time your family eats together, use the  suggestions for lunch for your evening meal. Otherwise, these simple  supper ideas will give you plenty of what you need.
2. Keep it colorful: Enjoy a light mixed-greens salad with split pea or vegetable soup.  Spread some hummus (a garbanzo spread*) on whole grain crackers. Warm up  some leftovers. Enjoy a fruit plate with soy yogurt and popcorn. Enjoy a  few baked nuts with some fresh fruit or a bowl of granola and soy milk.  Make yourself a sandwich with some steamed or raw veggies on the side.  Have a fruit smoothie and popcorn. Whip up a burrito with refried beans,  salad greens, and salsa.
3. Keep it light: If you  are sedentary in your job and eat an appropriate amount of nutrient-rich  food for breakfast and lunch, you will feel better with a light supper,  or you may decide you do not need supper at all. In that case, enjoy a  tasty herb tea or a little V-8 juice to fill that “spot” as you relax  and enjoy the evening.

* To make your own hummus. Blend one can  drained garbanzos, 1 T lemon juice, 2 cloves garlic, 1 tsp salt, and 1 T  sesame tahini until smooth. Add a little water to blend, if needed. May  add chopped parsley.


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