When preparing meals for others, it can save time (and your sanity) when everyone can enjoy similar meals. The good news it, the whole family can use The Meal Builder and get the health benefits of balanced meals – and you can focus on meeting your nutrition goals.
Can the nutrition program fit within a budget?
Yes! The options in The Meal Builder and the recipes are regular everyday foods. There’s no fancy supplements and you will be able to find all the items you need at your grocery store, fruit shop, butcher or fish monger.
The best way to save, and eat well is to plan your meals. This helps to reduce food wastage and the cost associated with throwing food out. You can take advantage of weekly specials when you know what you will be cooking. And, it often means you are less likely to purchase costly takeaways if you have a meal or the ingredients on hand. Make sure to repurpose leftovers and make use of the freezer to store leftovers or bulk food purchases
Keep these tips in mind to save on your weekly grocery shop:
- Frozen vegetables and fruit are great to include. They are cheaper and often mean less food wastage.
- Buying fruit and vegetables that are in season will result in significant savings, and they are at their peak quality/taste.
- Tinned or frozen fish is a budget friendly way to increase seafood intake.
- Legumes like lentils and chickpeas are inexpensive and extremely nutritious options to base your meals around.
- Eggs are a cheap, quality protein source to add to meals.
- Purchase snack options like yoghurt and nuts in bulk and portion out as needed. The cost savings are greater than purchasing single serves.
Can men use The Meal Builder?
Yes! Men can benefit greatly from following a high fibre, Mediterranean style eating pattern. Risk factors for common men’s health concerns like bowel cancer and cardiovascular disease decline significantly when consuming more plant fibres and a reduced amount of red meat and processed meat products.
While the portion sizes shown in The Meal Builder have been tailored for women, men can still benefit from building their meals in the suggested format. If a male is wanting to achieve fat loss, then increasing the portion sizes to 1.5 times what is shown is recommended. For example, a meal may contain 180g fish, 3/4 cup rice, 2 cups cooked vegetables with 1.5 tablespoons of olive oil. If they would like to maintain their weight than doubling the portion sizes would be a good starting point.
Can children eat the foods in The Meal Builder?
Yes! The foods suggested are nutritious, core foods that will assist their growth and development. Keep these tips in mind
- Children require higher carbohydrate intakes to fuel their growth and energy needs. Ensure their meals have a carbohydrate source. The portion size is likely to be higher than The Meal Builder suggestion based on their age and activity level.
- Protein rich foods help keep energy and concentration levels stable while providing the building blocks for growing bodies. Include protein rich foods at mealtimes especially at breakfast to help them focus for the day ahead.
- Vegetables and fruit provide a wide variety of key vitamins and minerals. Aim to offer a rainbow of different colours each day and keep exposing them to different options. You may have to experiment with how you prepare and present them for them to be accepted.
- Healthy fats are vital for a child's brain development and nutrient absorption. They will also keep them feeling fuller for longer.
- Add nut butter to crackers or apple slices
- Spread avocado on sandwiches or wraps
- Children are more sensitive to added salt than adults. Be aware when using high sodium ingredients like soy sauce or adding salt to meals.
- Calcium needs in childhood and adolescence is high to support healthy bone development. Dairy and non-dairy options that are calcium fortified are big contributors to their calcium intake. Offer milk as a drink and yoghurt and cheese as a snack.
- It's common for children to prefer smaller snacks throughout the day than large meals. Offering nutritious options at these times means you will be helping them meet their nutrient needs.
- Role modelling eating healthy food is great for encouraging long term healthy eating behaviours in children. It's best to avoid talking about the role of food, diets and weight loss with children.
What if we have allergies/intolerances to cater for?
You can substitute most foods in The Meal Builder for allergy friendly options. For example, use gluten free bread, pasta and flour in cooking instead of wheat products. Plant based dairy products are all able to be included and seeds and seed butter instead of nut-based products. If you or a family member has a seafood allergy, choose from the other protein options available.
If you are catering for low FODMAP needs, choose well tolerated fruits and vegetables. Add flavour with garlic/onion oil and allowed herbs and spices. Use gluten free and lactose free products as needed.
How to make family favourites work for you
- Use lean mince
- Add extra vegetables like grated carrot/zucchini and chopped mushrooms
- Consider adding a tin of drained lentils to cook down in the sauce
- Portion out your pasta serve, add sauce and serve with extra steamed vegetables to create a satisfying bowl.
- Choose soft tacos where possible – 3 mini tortillas around 10g carbohydrate per piece is suitable at all stages of Level 1 and Level 2
- Use natural yoghurt instead of sour cream
- Make extra salads to enjoy and add bulk to your meal.
- Choose lean meat or tofu as your protein
- Add plenty of vegetables (frozen or fresh)
- Flavour with low sugar options like garlic, ginger, soy, sesame oil and oyster sauce.
- If using sweet chili or teriyaki sauce – aim for maximum 2 teaspoons per person
- Portion out your cooked noodles/rice in a bowl. Then add stirfry mix.
- Wrap bread or pita bread makes a crunchy base for your pizza
- Add thinly sliced vegetables
- Avoid salami and ham – go for chicken, lamb or prawns
Can I adapt the recipes in the APP?
Yes, you can easily tweak the recipes to suit your family’s taste. Like the sound of our Soft Fish Tacos, but would prefer to use chicken – Go for it! Not a salmon fan but like white fish – no problem you can swap it.
With these tips in mind, you will be able to plan and prepare meals that help you meet your nutrition goals, while saving time and simplifying food prep and cooking.
Liz Borgo Dietitian|Nutritionist