Figuring out the right foods to feed a growing family can feel like a guessing game. If you’re in charge of buying and preparing food for your family, wouldn’t you love to peek inside the pantry of a nutrition pro?
Jodi Nemeth, a registered dietitian and nutritionist, was happy to pull back the veil on what she feeds her family. She starts with some tips on choosing foods.
Start with meal planning, she says.
“When making your grocery list, think about all three meals and healthy snacks,” Nemeth says. “Also, dinner doesn’t have to be an elaborate recipe. Just try to focus on having something from all the food groups — a lean meat, vegetable, whole grain, fruit and glass of milk.”
From a nutritional standpoint, food monotony is real, but Nemeth suggests following your family’s cues when you need to.
“I always like to encourage variety because a variety of foods is a variety of nutrients,” Nemeth says. But if Taco Tuesday and other meal repetition works for your family, then keep it in the plan. “I am guilty of getting stuck in a rut and repeating meals that I know that everyone will eat,” Nemeth says. “However, now with teenagers, they are having more input on recipes they want to try, often found on TikTok or Pinterest.”
Food choices can change as the seasons change. Nemeth’s family embraces pumpkin, squash and apples in the fall; chili and homemade soups in the winter; grilled chicken and pork tenderloin with salad in the spring; and corn on the cob, tomatoes, fresh herbs, peaches, berries and more from the farmers market in the summer.
There are, however, at least six foods her family has on hand, year round:
This dairy favorite is delicious on its own or added into other dishes, like parfaits and smoothies. Nemeth’s family uses the plain flavor of Greek yogurt in place of sour cream, giving them an extra boost of protein and probiotics.
Bags of Frozen Fruit
“We use frozen fruit in smoothies, add it to oatmeal and eat it as a snack,” Nemeth says. The quality of the fruit is top notch because it is picked and bagged at its peak, she says. Nemeth typically buys prepared bags of frozen fruit from the freezer section at the grocery store, but she also freezes fruit — such as bananas and strawberries near the end of ripeness — on her own. (Check out this recipe for a tropical sun smoothie!)
Another versatile staple in Nemeth’s meal rotation are avocados, which can easily find their way into a dish any time of the day. “At breakfast, they pair well with eggs and toast, great on a sandwich or salad for lunch, and we love guacamole with a Mexican dinner,” Nemeth says.
Beans, such as black beans, garbanzo beans and pinto beans, are a great plant-based protein and an excellent source of fiber, says Nemeth, whose go-to dish to pass is a black bean salad. “Beans are a great addition to salads, soups, and pasta dishes,” she says. (Pair black beans with cheese and corn in this quesadilla recipe.)
Affordable and nutritious, eggs are a longtime favorite in American households. “Eggs are a great protein source to start your day off, great on salad, and we make a healthy version of fried rice and love them in that,” Nemeth says. (Eggs, mixed with milk, cheese, butter and a few other ingredients come together in this delicious frittata recipe.)
Nemeth’s family enjoys roasted vegetables several times a week, using different combinations and seasonings each time. “A favorite combination is Brussels sprouts, sweet potato, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, mushrooms and onions,” Nemeth says.
Learn more about healthy foods for the whole family at United Dairy Industry of Michigan’s site milkmeansmore.org.