It is the process of planning and scheduling intake of meals for general or specific individual requirement. It is advisable to eat small regular meals during the day rather than one huge Meal.
Good meal planning is both an art and a science. Science shows us the way to include nutritious food in the diet while art is involved in combining the needed nutritious food into meals which are attractive , appetising and satisfying in all the ways.
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Principles of meal planning or menu planning :
- Meeting nutritional requirement : Good menu is one with not only provided adequate calories, proteins and fat but also vitamins and minerals essential for the physical well-being of each member of the family. The diet should contain the basic five food groups.
- Meal pattern must fulfill family needs : Family meals should be created according to the needs of different members . A growing adolescent boy may need rich food to satisfy his appetite, where as a young Child may require soft and bland diet. Heavy worker requires more calories and B complex vitamins than others, pregnant women require more greens in the diet, meal pattern varies with age, occupation and lifestyle of the family members. The family meal must offer children enough fat and flexibility in calorie density so that their energy needs are met.
- Meal planning should save time and energy : Planning of meals should be done in such a way that the recipes should be simple and nutritious. Labour and time saving devices can be used. Using convenient foods save time and energy.
- Economic considerations : Any meal that is planned if it does not satisfy the budget of the family it cannot be put in practice. The cost of the meals can be reduced by bulk purchasing and using seasonal fruits and vegetables.
- Meal plan should give maximum nutrients : Loss of nutrients during processing and cooking should be minimised. Sprouted grams, malted cereals, fermented foods enhances the nutritive value. Good quality protein should be distributed in all the meals. Pressure cooking can be used to conserve the nutrients.
- Consideration for individual likes or dislikes : Meal plans should not only meet the RDA but also individual preferences. Particularly vegetarians and non-vegetarian preferences. If a person doesn’t like greens it can be tried in different forms or substituted by some other equally nourishing food.
- Food habits and dietary pattern : Food habits and dietary patterns should also consider religion, traditions and customs of the individuals.
- Planned meals should provide variety : If the meals are monotone as it is not consumed. Variety can be introduced in colour, texture and taste by using different kinds of foods and cooking methods. Variety also helps in meeting the nutritional requirement.
- Meals should give satiety : Each meal should have some amount of fat , protein, fibre to Satiety. Meals should be planned in such a way that intervals between the meals should also be considered.
- Availability of foods : Menu should include locally available food, the wide variation and dietary pattern throughout the world depends largely upon the available food supply.