A Meal Plan (but Not a Meal Plan)

I often start out the latest posts stating “It’s been way too long.” I think I suffice to say this may simply be how things are for lettucetalk. I will accept that fact; and I plan to send you some insights as they come – however sparse that may be! Thanks for being loyal and hanging in there with me! I will defend my dissertation in March, so things have been a little…wild. With any luck, I will write the next post as “Dr. Colin.” 

Today I want to talk about meal planning. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked to “create a meal plan” for someone, I would be a very rich girl. I have never created a detailed meal plan for anyone, nor will I ever. I don’t shun this request to be cruel. I very firmly believe that creating a “meal plan” does not teach the recipient anything about healthy eating for the long-term. I prefer to teach the roots of meal planning so the recipient can, instead, create a custom meal plan.

If I’ve learned one thing in the past 12+ years as a registered dietitian nutritionist, I’ve learned that people will not follow advice that is complicated. It’s not for lack of intelligence; it’s simply human nature. The simpler the plan, the more likely the person is to implement it. Without diving into a full review of the literature supporting my theory, I think my observation is supported by quite a lot of behavioral research.

So, here it goes: my simple template for meal planning. I want to introduce you to my Olympic medal approach. This template is built upon a Gold, Silver, and Bronze tiered structure.

Every meal and snack should include 
protein, fat, and fiber.

Casey colin

Now, let’s dive into each level.

Gold

Gold-level eating is relatively difficult for many of us to achieve, but certainly not impossible. Gold level consists of half the meal being dark, colorful, non-starchy vegetables; one-fourth of the meal consisting of either whole, starchy vegetables or 100% whole grains or fruit or milk/yogurt; one-fourth of the meal consisting of a protein-rich food source; and a hearty dose of healthy fats intermingled within each of these sections. Please note, sometimes your meal may not be split into sections. For instance, you may have a huge salad for a meal, or you may just have a bowl of soup. The premise here is the ratio of food types, so how you smoosh them together is up to your preferences. 

Here’s an illustration of this to help you:

Don’t forget about fat – include some.

Some examples of Gold meals:

  • Eggs scrambled with peppers and greens with avocado and a slice of 100% whole grain toast with real butter
  • Sliced, fresh tomatoes with cottage cheese and 100% whole grain crackers
  • Fresh greens, avocado, and tuna (I like it with a splash of olive oil & balsamic vinegar)
  • Vegetable & meat soup – I made this one recently with RAVE reviews from myself and my kids (although I subbed homemade taco seasoning and homemade ranch seasoning instead of packets for less additives)
  • Spaghetti & meat sauce made with 100% whole grain pasta, added vegetables to the sauce (spinach, peppers, mushrooms, whatever), and with a small salad or cooked vegetable on the side
  • Fresh vegetables and 100% whole grain crackers dipped in hummus or tuna salad
  • Most meat/potato/vegetable meals can be Gold meals, provided the meat isn’t deep-fat-fried, the potato portion is about one-fourth of the meal, and half the plate is non-starchy vegetables
  • Nuts and cheese with a pile of raw vegetables
  • Really, most of your favorite meals can be repurposed into Gold meals by simply reducing some of the meat and/or starch portions and jacking up the non-starchy vegetable portions. Be creative, and eat things that taste good!

Silver

Silver-level meals are those which may not fit the mold of the non-starchy-vegetable-rich Gold-level meals, but still make a deep dent in providing quality nutrients. Silver meals at least contain protein, fat, and fiber, even if they aren’t considered truly “balanced” from lack of vegetables, for instance.

Some examples of Silver meals:

  • Oatmeal with nuts or nut butter
  • 4% Cottage cheese with fruit
  • Tuna or chicken salad with 100% whole grain crackers or on 100% whole grain bread
  • Chili with meat and/or beans
  • Grilled cheese (100% whole grain bread, real cheese, real butter)
  • 100% whole grain cereal with whole milk or yogurt and fruit

Bronze

Bronze-level meals occur as a last resort, when Gold and Silver meals or snacks are not possible. Please keep in mind, although Bronze situations are going to occur in real-life, planning ahead can avoid having to rely upon them. Bronze meals are things like pre-mixed protein shakes, pre-packaged meals, canned soups, etc. Remember, all food is nourishing in some way (think desert island scenario), but planning ahead can make most meals fall within Gold or Silver tiers.

Also, remember snacks are just tiny little meals. To make any snack a Gold or Silver snack, follow the same guidelines noted above, and simply make smaller portions. Furthermore, try to consider if you’re snacking because you’re actually physically hungry, or if you are snacking because of another reason (habit, boredom, etc.). We should nourish our bodies when we are physically hungry. We should nourish our minds if we discover we are eating for reasons other than hunger.

There are so many other details and directions this conversation could take, but I will digress in the spirit of simplicity. I hope you find this meal planning template helpful with improving your perspective and efficiency with healthy eating. It does not have to be complicated. For more information, please take a look at my two books here: Shop.

xo,
Casey

It’s bean a long time, so I brought you chili.

WOW, everyone…it has been WAY TOO long since I’ve spent some time with you. WAYYYY too long. But, as they say, “better late than never,” right? Things have been pretty wild since my last posting, to say the least. 

I will spare you the nitty-gritty details, but I’ve been finishing my dissertation (still in progress, ETA this coming March); teaching an undergrad course; and taking over as a platoon leader in the Army Reserve. And, most recently, I survived the arduous interview process for an assistant professor position, accepting an offer just yesterday! Things are getting interesting!

I would like to make up for all this lost time with you by posting some elaborate, trendy nutrition buzzworthy info. But, I just don’t have it in me yet! Momma is tired! I did want to jump back on here to thank all of you reading this. Without your support, I couldn’t have made it through some of the moments of self-doubt along this journey. You all mean a lot to me, and I am grateful for each of you.

The best I can do today is to share what I feel is my coveted chili recipe. I do not consider my blog to be a “recipe blog;” but it seems fitting for this fall season, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. You can make it on the stovetop or Crockpot, whichever is easier for you! Fun fact: the reason I encourage you to drain and rinse the beans has nothing to do with sodium. It actually reduces some of the gas-producing compounds from the beans. You. Are. Welcome. 

Thanks for sticking with me all this time, you rock. Please comment if you try my chili, and let me know what you thought!

Also, just a shameless reminder that you can find both my books on Amazon! ‘Tis the holiday season, gift yourself or a loved one!
Book #1: https://amzn.to/3bBLAjk
Book #2: https://amzn.to/2uPWTnv

Cheers,
xoxo
Casey

What’s on the Dietitian’s Bookshelf?

Hey friends! It’s me, Casey. Instead of another holiday eating post (been there, done that – check the archives on the home page!), today I am going to share with you some reviews of books I’ve read this year.

But first, I have to address the newest fly-by-night, sensationalized, not-quality-research-based documentary (there’s one EVERY year that shocks the nation). Another dietitian already summarized my thoughts on the matter. It is worth noting this dietitian is a vegan; here is her review: https://kellyjonesnutrition.com/2019/11/06/the-game-changers-review/

Moving along…

I intentionally make New Year’s Resolutions which don’t involve food, since I have spent most of my career trying to steer people away from “diets” in the most modern sense of that word. This year, I vowed to read one book a month. While I didn’t always succeed in finishing exactly one book a month, I sometimes read more than one in a month…so it all came out in the wash, and I reached my goal (yay).

Nutrition is kind of like that – we don’t have to eat perfectly to help our bodies to WIN. Sometimes we eat better than other days; and usually, (if we are really intentional with our efforts) we get most of the nutrients we need in the end.

Dietitian's book review.png

I will spare you from a review of ALL the books I’ve read this year, as I can’t find a way to relate nutrition to the writings of my beloved Stephen King nor John Grisham. Therefore, I have selected those that are most relevant. They are listed in no particular order of relevance, as I found them each to be fantastic jackpots of information.

Nourishing Diets by Sally Fallon Morell

BLUF: This book reviews why saturated fats and whole, unprocessed, animal-based foods are nutrient-rich and beneficial to our lives.

Here is an example of the truth in a sea of society’s “opinions” versus reality. Sally meticulously describes the nutritional habits across countless cultures and time periods, and explains what a true “ancestral” diet really was.

She also discusses the fallacies brought into US nutrition policy by Ancel Keys, and why his poorly-designed study reports were…inaccurate at best…flat-out wrong at worst.

This book explains what a REAL Mediterranean diet is—as in, what the healthy inhabitants of the Mediterranean region ACTUALLY are/were eating.

Finally, she myth-busts one of the most popular books on the “blue zones,” the areas of the world where live the highest percentages of people who reach 100 years old or beyond. She points out the fact that the author of that book used methodology with inherent flaws. In fact, he seems to have completely ignored the massive amount of animal foods the centenarians actually ate, and inaccurately portrayed them to eat processed vegetable seed oils and mostly only plants (not true).

Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins

BLUF: This book challenges you to pull your head out of excuses and get after what you want in life. It is not for the faint of heart, and there are many profanities used. But it. is. awesome. In fact, I read it twice, back-to-back. I have never done that with any book before in my life.

David tells the story of how he was faced with barrier after barrier in his life, but persevered by mastering his mind. Despite an incredibly tragic upbringing as a child, he overcame abuse and poverty to become a prestigious Navy Seal.

He didn’t become a Navy Seal on his first…or second…or even third try. This guy has more heart and more gumption than anyone I’ve ever heard of or known, and he depicts it in such a way as to help you and I get over ourselves.

Although I am not likely to get as extreme as David did with all his ultra-marathons, he still inspired the crap out of me to get past my mental blocks to achieve anything I want to achieve in this one life.

I bought this book before our trip to Europe this past summer. While I had planned to sleep during our 10-ish hour flight….I actually read this book cover to cover instead. It was superb.

Intuitive Eating by Lynn Rossy

BLUF: If you struggle to manage your health, your weight, or indulgent food cravings, intuitive eating is a skill you will want to master.

Although I’ve read about (and taught) intuitive eating to my patients for more than a decade, this book was a more clear, concise version than most I’ve read.

Lynn teaches you how to really be intentional about what you are eating. She may even help you to realize you don’t even actually love those foods you keep binging on. Most importantly, she will help you to discover how you feel when you eat a certain way. You might even come to the realization you love how you feel when you are truly listening to your body.

Diets do not work, yet they seem to continue to be a dime a dozen. In December, January, and February, you will be inundated with ads for the latest diet. Now is the time to buck the trend, and truly get healthy.

Real Food for Pregnancy by Lily Nichols

BLUF: Every single woman of child-bearing age, especially those who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant MUST read this. I think it should be required reading with an exam that follows!

If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know I have a professional nutrition philosophy which requires a focus on NUTRIENTS first and foremost; that is exactly what Lily embodies, especially in this book.

Lily discusses the significant role of specific nutrients in building a baby. Her advice is not only for the health of the baby, but also for the health of the mother. Even for women who are not pregnant (or even considering it), I guarantee you will come away from this book learning some valuable nuggets of wisdom surrounding why we have to be concerned about NUTRIENTS, not just calories, in our eating styles.

She unpacks the ancestral practices of many cultures for pregnancy and post-partum care, many of which are still practiced in these countries today.

Lily also addresses the influence of environmental toxins on our bodies’ functioning, and many, many other super important aspects of healthy living.

Roar by Stacy Sims

BLUF: This book is geared toward women who are extremely physically active. However, even women who are aspiring to perform better in their leisure exercise or races will benefit from the information presented in this book.

Unlike the countless other performance-boosting-nutrition books on the market, this one is actually science-based, not opinion or internet-sensation-based.

Dr. Sims dissects the differences in male and female performance regarding nutrition, race fueling, hydration, and more. She breaks down the different aspects of fueling in relation to a woman’s hormonal cycle, and why/how performance changes when a woman is in different phases of the cycle.

This book helps women dial-in their heart rates, fueling strategies, and overall health with actual research-based advice. I will read this again, just to try to soak all the advice in (it’s so jam-packed with info!).

……

I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shameless plug for my very own book, lettucetalk. Some of you amazing friends have bought and read this, and I am forever grateful. If you have read this, please leave an amazon review to spread the word! Thanks x 1000000000.

I shall digress for now. You must’ve made it through this long post if you’re reading this…so, thanks!

Knowledge is power. But be cautious about the information you seek. In this beautiful country, we all have the 1st Amendment entitling us to freedom of speech. With that, we are surrounded by millions of internet websites and books that contain absolutely terrible nutrition advice, some of which is founded on no evidence whatsoever.

Be careful. If you are unsure if your source is an accurate portrayal of the current science surrounding nutrition, meet with a registered dietitian nutritionist.

Cheers to another upcoming year for all my fellow bookworms! Go forth, and read!

Oh – and Happy Thanksgiving! I can’t express enough how grateful I am for you all who have been loyal followers for so long. Thank you from the bottom of my heart ❤

 

xoxo, Casey