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Make Meal Planning a Priority for Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle

Hy-Vee’s Dietitian Abby Kipfer Provides Tips for Eating Healthy
When life seems crazy, it can be difficult to prioritize and plan nutritional meals and snacks for your household. It’s sometimes easier to reach for frozen pizza or go through a fast food drive through.

While both can be enjoyed now and then, there are ways to make sure your family is eating nutritious meals on a regular basis. One method is to incorporate meal planning into the schedule. Spirit Lake Hy-Vee’s Dietitian Abby Kipfer says the key to successful meal planning is to find a strategy that works best for your home.

“I like to focus on a week at a time and plan my meals and snacks for the week. I do a lot of meal preparation on Sundays, so when the busy work week starts, I have healthy food ready for me to grab and go,” she said.

Kipfer says it’s important to follow a balanced diet that includes a variety of foods from all the food groups: fruits, vegetables, dairy, grains, and protein. Including fruits and vegetables are especially important, because most people aren’t getting enough of them in their diet.

Another suggestion for busy families is to always keep healthy convenient items on hand for that go-to meal, especially on the days when time is lacking. It means stocking the pantry, fridge, and freezer with healthy foods that are quick and easy to prepare, whether it’s a rotisserie chicken, frozen (steamed) vegetables and instant brown rice. Other things to keep on hand are frozen meat, eggs, whole wheat pasta and yogurt.

“At Hy-Vee, we offer Hy-Vee ShortCuts, which are filled with fruits and vegetables already washed and sliced for you. They are an easy snack or addition to a meal for busy parents,” Kipfer said. “I also like to make large batches of casseroles or soups and freeze several portions.”

As a dietitian, Kipfer, most importantly, wants to help people become nutrition-conscious. This means whether they’re meal planning or shopping for groceries.

“As a Hy-Vee dietitian, I believe that making healthy choices begins at the grocery store. I like to provide customers with the knowledge base to be confident in making healthy choices in the aisles,” she said.

This is why she provides complimentary grocery store tours and can tailor these tours for those battling diabetes, high blood pressure or want to lower their cholesterol. She can also help someone focusing on healthy eating.

During these tours, Kipfer likes to review label reading and will point out some of her healthy go-to items. She also offers a 7-10 week program called “Begin,” which emphasizes setting health and wellness goals. A participant will learn about different nutrition topics each week.

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Healthy Choices for Children
Kipfer also understands the struggle of helping children make wise eating choices. However, she said it begins at home.

“Kids observe everything their parents do, so it is extremely important for families to eat meals together. If they see other family members enjoying vegetables, then they are more likely to follow,” she said.

A person’s taste buds are always changing, so she said to continue to introduce foods in different ways (i.e. steaming, roasting, raw, etc.). Sometimes adding ranch or cheese sauce will help entice kids to eat their vegetables.

“Ranch and cheese sauce aren’t the healthiest choices, but it is much better than skipping the vegetables altogether,” Kipfer said.

Keeping New Year’s Goals
Eating healthy can sometimes be a difficult task but slowly making changes until they become habits are how New Year’s goals stay on track. It means focusing on small attainable goals, and then writing them down so they can be seen on a regular basis. This helps with focus and motivation.

“If it’s important to you, you will find a way,” Kipfer said. “If not, you will find an excuse. It’s best to plan health and wellness into your daily routine.”

This includes taking time to meal plan at the beginning of a week so healthy options are available when in a time crunch or when kids want something to munch on. Make sure to schedule days and times to workout, making it much more likely to take place.

“It might not always be easy to make healthy choices, but it is worth it,” Kipfer said. “Living a healthy lifestyle should really be something that we focus on year round. There will be times when we don’t exercise or don’t make healthy food choices, but the important thing is to get back on track as soon as possible.”

Kipfer says it does help to have a support system that focuses on similar health and wellness goals. It helps with accountability.

“I think another thing to help keep the New Year’s kick going all year round is to avoid temporary fad diets but instead make long-term sustainable changes to your diet and exercise routine,” she said. “Focus on adding healthy foods to your diet instead of making a list of all the things to cut out of your diet.”

Struggle of Food Allergies
There are numerous people struggling with health issues that are impacted by food. It can be extremely overwhelming to limit or eliminate foods, especially when they are first diagnosed. Kipfer likes to tell customers to focus on the basics and start with minimally processed, whole foods.

“Once you figure out the foods you can eat, it gets much easier and you find out more and more foods you can include,” she said “I can help people by showing them foods they can eat rather than focusing on the foods they can’t eat.”

Kipfer is available for one-on-one consultations at the store and can provide recipe and snack ideas for a variety of people struggling with food allergies or diseases affected by food.

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Freezer Meal Planning
Another option for interested participants wanting to plan healthy choices for their family is to attend a freezer meal class hosted by Kipfer at the Spirit Lake Hy-Vee. They take place once a month and include a new menu every month. She personally tries out the recipes before introducing them to the class, and the menus typically include two chicken recipes, one pork, and one beef recipe.

There are also healthy recipe swaps included, such as using a can of beans with no salt. Kipfer will provide recipe pairing suggestions so there are ideas to serve with the entrée.

To find out more about Kipfer’s monthly classes, the schedule is always posted on the Spirit Lake Hy-Vee Facebook page or by visiting the store’s customer service for additional information. For help with meal planning or creating a healthy lifestyle, contact Kipfer at 712-336-4900.