Personalize your plate: Nutritious changes to our meals

written by Meghan Perkins, registered dietitian

March is National Nutrition Month® and Project Angel Heart has been working on some exciting and nutritious changes to our meals to help celebrate.

This year’s theme is “Personalize Your Plate”, which means choosing foods you enjoy eating that honor your culture, family history, and personal preferences while picking foods that are full of nutrients and help support your health goals. Since we are always looking at ways to continue to support our clients’ health through the meals we prepare and deliver, we are introducing the following changes to our menus.

Our “regular” diet is now part of our “heart-healthy” diet

We have recently combined our regular diet with our heart-healthy diet. Historically, our regular diet has been a very nutritious option to help people living with a variety of life-threatening illnesses meet their nutrition needs. Our heart-healthy diet has contained the same nutritious meals, but with even lower levels of sodium. Recent nutrition research and evidence-based nutrition recommendations strongly encourage providing a moderate sodium, heart-healthy diet as the most nutritious option for most people. So our updated heart-healthy diet will now also go to our regular diet clients and will contain:

  • Moderate amount of sodium (less than 500mg sodium per meal tray)
  • Anti-inflammatory fats from an olive oil cooking blend
  • Lean proteins like chicken, fish, eggs, turkey, beans, and peas. We will send smaller portions of red meat like beef and pork and add even more vegetables to our meals.
  • Two to three servings of vegetables
  • Whole grains from brown rice, whole grain couscous, whole-wheat penne, barley, and/or complex carbohydrates from beans, lentils, and sweet potatoes

In addition to the heart-healthy diet, we will continue to provide a:

  • renal diet lower in potassium and phosphorous for clients living with chronic kidney disease or end-stage renal disease
  • allergen-friendly diet that is free of eggs and dairy
  • unseasoned diet for people who are experiencing taste changes or a lack of appetite
  • vegetarian meals for people who choose not to eat meat

Clients can also choose the following meal options: no pork, fish, or beef; soft foods only; gastro-intestinal friendly; or gluten-friendly.

More vegetarian meals for all clients

At least one of the meals we send out each week will be a vegetarian meal to provide even more vitamin and mineral-rich vegetables to our clients. Executive Chef Brett Newman has come up with a variety of new plant-based recipes that we will start cooking and delivering this month. Here’s a sneak peek of some of the meals clients will enjoy: whole grain spaghetti caponata (an eggplant and olive dish), vegetable gumbo, and mushroom shepherd’s pie. More vegetables in our meals means we’ll need even more volunteers to chop and dice vegetables with us!

How you can personalize your plate at home

Here are some simple nutrition tips to help you “Personalize Your Plate” while maximizing your nutrition at home:

  • Fill half of your plate with colorful vegetables like carrots, green beans, squash, bell peppers, spinach, kale, lettuce, bok choy, collard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, tomatoes, etc.
  • Now, visually split the other part of your plate in half to make room for about 1 cup of whole grains or complex carbohydrates. Try a new grain like quinoa, bulgur, or millet to keep things interesting.

Now fill the remaining quarter of your plate with a palm-sized portion of the protein of your choice. Try to use lean proteins like chicken, fish, seafood, turkey, eggs, beans, peas, lentils, and soy most often. Aim to eat less than 18oz of red meat per week.