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Weight-Loss Software > Healthy Eating Menus

How to Create Healthy Eating Menus

By Terry Dunkle, DietPower Editor-In-Chief*

To create healthy eating menus, you don’t have to buy exotic foods or endure dishes that you don’t especially like. You can radically improve your nutrition by making two simple changes:

  • “Doctor” your favorite recipes to minimize bad nutrients and emphasize good. (We’ll show you how to do that in a minute.)

  • Make your dishes complement instead of aggravating one another.

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Although the changes we are about to describe seem simple, they are surprisingly powerful. Practiced for years, they can lower your heart risks by 30 to 50 percent. They can also help you ward off cancer, stroke, arthritis, diabetes, and other killers. Except for quitting smoking, adopting healthy eating menus is probably the best thing you could do to improve your health. (Third best would be getting more exercise.)

Doctoring Your Recipes

Let’s start with your recipes. To doctor them, follow just three rules:

  1. Cut sodium by halving the salt and replacing canned vegetables, dried soups, and processed meats with their fresh, frozen, or low-sodium counterparts.

  2. Cut sugar in half. If necessary, make up part or all of the difference with artificial sweeteners such as Splenda®. This will reduce the number of “empty” calories in the dish, helping you lose weight while delivering more vitamins and minerals per calorie.

  3. Cut saturated fat by substituting Smart Balance™, olive oil, or canola oil for butter or margarine; skim milk for whole milk; whole milk for cream; and vegetables for meat. These changes, too, will lower calories, fostering weight loss and improving your intake of vitamins and minerals.

In most cases, you’ll soon prefer the doctored dishes to the old. Studies show, for example, that people adapt to low-sodium diets with surprising speed. (“I don’t know how I ever stood so much salt,” my 90-year-old grandmother once told me over a dressing-free salad. She had stopped seasoning her food decades earlier.)

Download DietPower free trialIf you follow those three rules, your recipes will immediately qualify as building blocks for healthy eating menus.

Creating New Menus

Creating the menus themselves is more difficult than doctoring recipes, because it involves more variables. Still, some generalizations are possible:

  1. Combine dishes of different colors. These not only please the eye, but since food pigments often contain vitamins, a multi-colored meal tends to be multi-vitamin, too.

  2. Don’t include more than one unusually salty, sweet, or fatty dish in a meal.

  3. Be generous with vegetables. Most are 90 percent water, yet remarkably filling and nutrient-rich for the calories they carry. (Eggplant is exceptional in this regard.) Healthy eating menus typically include more than one vegetable.

There is an even more effective way to create healthy eating menus, however: test combinations of dishes with your computer. DietPower’s Eating Coach™, for example performs 10 million calculations every time you test a food against those already in your menu.

The best software programs can help you design healthy eating menus in only five minutes a day. As a bonus, they also analyze recipes.


*Terry Dunkle is a 30-year veteran medical journalist and consumer advocate who serves as CEO and chief editor at DietPower, Inc., a leading maker of nutrition and weight-loss software.

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Last modified September 15, 2010

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