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Planning Healthful Meals

The purpose of this lesson is to help plan healthful meals.

Planning Healthful Meals

The purpose of this lesson is to help plan healthful meals.

Need for Regular Meals

In order to benefit from regular meals, the foods we eat at these meals should provide the nutritional substances needed for health and growth. When a family eats together, the parents can help provide each person with a variety and proper amounts of healthful foods. In addition to the nutritional aspect, eating together can provide family members with an opportunity to be together, pray as a family, and visit with each other about their experiences. Also, parents may use this time to teach their children traditional principles in an informal way. When family members plan a meal and eat together, they tend to use their money more wisely. Basic foods eaten for meals are usually less expensive and more nutritious than snack foods eaten between meals. Adequate family meals minimize the need for expensive and often unhealthy snacks.

Regular, planned mealtimes have other benefits. Family members know when the meals will be eaten and arrange to be home at that time each day. The body functions better with regular meals than with irregular meals or snacks. We can work more consistently and help prevent some stomach illnesses by eating meals at about the same time every day. Children benefit from having regular meals. They become tired and fussy when they are hungry, and feeding them meals at regular times helps their dispositions.

Need for Food from Each Major Group

The nutritional chart below Recommends daily servings from the basic food groups.

Whenever possible, include in every meal food from each major food group. This provides the variety of foods needed to be healthy and to grow. In some countries rice is the basic food for everyone, and many eat only rice at every meal. Because of this custom, children in these countries are often weak or ill or do not grow properly because they do not receive the necessary vitamins and minerals.

In one such country, some people were taught the importance of eating a proper variety of foods. They learned that eating only rice, even in large amounts, is not adequate for good health. They had the saying “Rice is a lonely food” to help them remember to eat food from each basic food group at each meal. Children in these families who now eat a variety of foods are healthier than before.

When you are planning meals, follow the basic rule of making sure you include foods from each group every day. We need to eat a variety of foods from all the food groups to get all the nutrients we need to be healthy.

Need for an Adequate Amount of Each Food

After you have developed the habit of including foods from each group in your meals, think about how much of each food each person needs. A small amount of each food may not be sufficient. Each person needs a certain number of servings from each food group every day.

We need to be careful not to make the mistake made by a group of 10 ladies who cooked a rice dish together one day. These ladies used several cups of rice, two spoons of tomato sauce, and a small amount of meat. When the dish was done, they thought, "This dish contains food from the grain group, the vegetable group, and the meat group. This is a healthful dish and makes a meal all by itself." Unfortunately, they did not have enough tomato sauce or meat in the dish for every woman to get the needed servings. When they learned about the need for having enough of each food for each person, they were more careful about the dishes they prepared for their families.

In order to have enough of each food, it may be necessary to buy less expensive foods from each group in order to make wise use of your money.

Ideas for Preparing Healthful Meals

Planning Meals

Before shopping for food, plan each meal. Make sure there will be servings from a variety of food groups for every person. It is usually helpful to have a written plan and to write down the foods for each meal.

Make a Shopping List

Next, prepare a written list of the foods and the amount of each food needed from the market. A shopping list not only helps us remember all of the items we need, but it also helps us avoid spending money on luxury foods we really do not need. For example, if we have a list, we will probably avoid buying soda pop and candy, which are expensive and unhealthful, while contributing to diabetes one of the largest killers in Indian country.

With careful planning and shopping, we may be able to shop less frequently, and can use our time and effort for other important activities, as did a widower with 12 children. This father knew that he did not have much time to spend at the market, so he planned his meals carefully and knew exactly what to buy each time he shopped. He stored the foods carefully to be sure they would still be fresh for his family to eat.

Buy Plentiful, Inexpensive Foods

Buy foods when they are plentiful, because the price then is usually the lowest. If possible, buy extra amounts of some foods when they are in season, plentiful, and inexpensive. Dry them or store them in other ways to eat later. It is important that we plan ahead in this way for another season when certain foods may not be plentiful.

Raise Gardens and Animals

Many families grow fruit and vegetable gardens. Even if a family does not have much space, they can usually grow a few plants in a window box or on a patio. If their garden is very small, a family will usually eat vegetables and fruits as they ripen. If a family has a fairly large garden, they usually eat some of the foods fresh and preserve the rest to be eaten later. Drying is a popular method for preserving food.

In many reservations people also raise animals and poultry to help provide the food they need. They may raise ducks, chickens, goats, cows, pigs, rabbits, or fish. Animals provide us with foods from the meat and dairy groups.

Planting, caring for, and harvesting a garden, as well as keeping animals, require planning. For example, deciding where to keep animals, what they will eat, and who will feed them is a kind of planning that helps us have healthful meals for our families.

Budget Carefully

Another type of planning that can help us have more healthful meals is planning how we will spend our money on things other than food. As we think carefully about how we will spend the money we have, we may decide that it would be wiser to buy foods to keep us healthy than to spend the money on expensive luxuries. We might also discover that it is better to use our money for a variety of foods from the major food groups than for unhealthful snacks and junk foods.


We receive many benefits in family relationships and health when we eat regular planned meals together each day. Our meals are most healthful when they contain a variety of foods from the major food groups. Each person should eat enough servings from each group every day. In order to provide meals that can help us be healthy and that can help our children grow properly, we must prepare for and plan the foods we buy or grow.


This week plan nutritious meals for your family. Be sure each meal contains a variety of foods from the major groups. Plan ways for your family to continue to receive a proper variety and an adequate amount of foods they need for good health. Do this by planning ahead, by planting a garden where possible, and by drying or otherwise preserving and storing foods that are plentiful. Review the ways you are spending your money and, where possible, improve these ways of spending so that you have more money for proper food.

To read more including Serving Counts and Guide to Good Eating, Click below. File is in MS Word Document format.

(click here to download file)

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