Cheese and Meal Planning: Bridging the Gap Between Taste and Nutrition
Jackie Newgent is a New York City-based chef, registered dietitian nutritionist and media personality. She’s the author of 1,000 Low-Calorie Recipes, Big Green Cookbook, and the award-winning The All‐Natural Diabetes Cookbook. Jackie is also a recreational culinary instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education and a frequent contributor to Health, Shape and Coastal Living magazines.
Nutritious meal planning is an important part of a balanced lifestyle, just as balancing a checking account or arranging quality time with family and friends are keys to a balanced life. Unfortunately, planning meals often takes a back seat to other activities. That puts taste, not nutrition, in the driver’s seat of diet.
In fact, the 2013 International Food Information Council Foundation’s Food & Health Survey finds that there’s room for improvement when it comes to our eating habits. Consumers gave the healthfulness of the average American diet a disappointing average grade of C-minus, while believing that having a more balanced diet and eating more fruits and vegetables and fewer sweets would improve their diets. When it comes to taste, it definitely rules. Taste continues to drive food and beverage choices according to 89 percent of Americans surveyed; healthfulness was rated as an important influencer by 64 percent. (1)
Luckily for everyone, enjoying great-tasting food is and should be important to a healthy lifestyle. However, deliciousness shouldn’t have to come at the expense of nutrient richness. There’s room for both. Finding a way to bridge the gap between these two fundamental features of cuisine is the key to a truly balanced meal approach—and one that can be followed for a lifetime.
Where should you start? Americans consume about two-thirds of their daily calories from home-prepared food. (2) That means that food selected at the supermarket plays an important role in planning a healthful diet. So, before popping into the grocery store, draft an outline of a menu to ensure there’s a balance of food choices in your repertoire. Then, make a shopping list and stick to it. The time it takes for these meal planning strategies can actually save you time when shopping, too.
One grocery pick that is an excellent example of a culinary bridge between taste and nutrition is natural cheese. So consider adding these balanced cheese-friendly meal and snack ideas to your meal planning: • Breakfast: Scrambled egg on toasted whole grain bun with sliced Sharp Provolone cheese, baby spinach, and tomato; glass of freshly squeezed orange juice • Lunch: Entrée arugula salad with grilled chicken breast, shredded Artisan Blends Swiss cheese, red onion, shredded carrot, raisins, sunflower seeds or pistachios, and vinaigrette dressing; unsweetened iced tea • Dinner: Whole-wheat burrito stuffed with pinto beans, shredded 4 Cheese Mexican cheese, Romaine lettuce, pico de gallo, and Hass avocado; steamed brown rice with fresh cilantro and lime wedge • Snack: Sharp Cheddar cheese snack paired with seasonal fresh fruit
Just remember, cheese can be a highlight of a healthful eating plan. It showcases how good nutrition and great taste are perfect partners, especially as part of a well-planned meal.