Anyone who prepares meals for others knows how hard meal planning can be. People often wonder how we determine the meal plans for our homebound clients.

Under guidelines from the Older Americans Act, Meals on Wheels must provide at least two-thirds of their daily nutrition needs via both the hot and cold meals. This means that the menu must meet certain ranges for nutrients such as calories, carbohydrates, protein, cholesterol, vitamin A and vitamin C. We also strive to keep sodium as low as possible.

Our balanced meals are in line with MyPlate recommendations as well. The USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) created the MyPlate image as a reference guide for healthy eating.  The idea behind MyPlate is to have balanced meals and snacks throughout the day. This involves making healthy food and beverage choices from all five food groups including fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy. Below are some of the MyPlate guidelines:

•Vary your protein routine.

•Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.

oFocus on whole fruits.

oVary your veggies.

•Make half your grains whole grains.

•Move to low-fat and fat-free dairy.

•Drink and eat less sodium, saturated fat, and added sugars.

Meals on Wheels for WNY provides all elements of this balanced plate in our meals. See these pictures of examples of our cold and hot meals. 

•The cold meal provides at least two ounces of protein while the hot meal must have at least three ounces; this can vary between poultry, beef, pork, beans, fish and eggs. Here the cold meal provides two ounces of turkey salad, and the hot meal is goulash with a mixture of ground turkey, ground beef and cheese to make up the three-ounce protein portion.

•On most days one to two servings of vegetables are included in both the hot and cold meals. This cold meal serves up a cup of fresh lettuce, while the hot meal has a serving of broccoli, as well as a serving and zucchini and yellow squash.

•Also provided are one to two servings of fruit a day, varying between whole fruit and canned fruit. In this example, a fresh apple is served.

•About half of the grain servings are wheat or multigrain options.

•One cup of low fat 1% milk is provided for each meal.

•We can’t forget dessert! There is often one half cup serving of dessert provided daily. The controlled portion helps limit added sugars. Here a serving of oatmeal raisin cookies is served.  It is ok to experience the foods you love to eat, such as desserts, but aim for moderation!

Building a healthier eating style, such as the one provided by Meals on Wheels for WNY, can help you avoid overweight and obesity and reduce your risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Try making small changes to work towards a balanced plate such as increasing just one fruit or vegetable serving each week.