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Meal Planning: Choosing the Healthier Option

Using a weekly planner for shopping and meal prep is a recommended tool to help with healthier meals.

On January 25, University of Arizona instructional specialist Amber McCary taught Meal Prep 101, a healthy cooking class for 13 adults at the Salt River Community Building. McCary currently teaches small special-interest classes with Salt River Recreation for the children in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. Her goal for the evening class was to reach out to parents with healthier meal options.

McCary welcomed everyone to the class and provided pamphlets and handouts. First she discussed eating healthy on a budget. McCary asked the class, “Does everyone usually have a grocery list before they go to the store?” Some said yes, some said no. “It’s always good to stick to a list when going to the grocery store to avoid buying unhealthy items you may not need,” she said.

Participants learned how to stretch their grocery budget by making a few small changes, such as using leftovers in the next meal or as a side dish. Another suggestion was to go meatless once or twice a week by substituting beans and rice instead of meat as a lean protein in your diet.

McCary gave examples of healthy meals. For breakfast: one cup whole-grain hot or cold cereal, a half-cup of low-fat or fat-free milk, and some fresh fruit, such as blueberries, sliced strawberries or bananas. For lunch: one slice cheese or vegetable pizza made with low-fat cheese and a small garden salad with one tablespoon of fat-free or low-fat dressing. For dinner: three ounces grilled honey-mustard chicken, one cup green beans and a half-cup of wild rice.

Using a weekly planner for shopping and meal prep is a recommended tool to help with healthier meals. You can also save money by shopping for seasonal fruits and vegetables as well as comparing prices.

For more information on healthy cooking and shopping tips, visit For more upcoming events held by the Salt River Recreation Department, call (480) 362-6360.

Healthy Recipes

Yogurt Parfait
4 cups nonfat plain yogurt
½ cup raisins
1 cup strawberries
1 cup blueberries
1 cup raspberries
1 cup granola

Wash the fresh fruit before preparing. Place the yogurt into a large bowl. Slice strawberries into quarters. Add the strawberries, blueberries and raspberries to the yogurt and mix.
To serve, scoop out portions into smaller bowls and add granola on top


Jicama & Chayote Salad
1 medium jicama
1 chayote squash
1 nectarine
2 limes
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon salt

Wash fresh fruit and vegetables before preparing. Peel jicama and chayote, slice into matchstick-size pieces, and place in a large bowl. Slice nectarine into matchstick-size pieces and add to the jicama and chayote. Squeeze limes over the jicama, chayote and nectarines. Drizzle olive oil over the mixture and sprinkle with salt. Gently mix.
Serve immediately. Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours. Makes 4 servings of approximately 1 cup each.


Chicken Salad Wraps
1½ cups cooked chicken breast
1 cup carrots, shredded
2 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
2 teaspoons garlic herb seasoning
¼ cup reduced-fat mayo
16 large green-leaf lettuce leaves, remove from head

Wash fresh vegetables before preparation. Combine all ingredients except lettuce leaves and mix well. Place an equal amount of salad mixture on each lettuce leaf. Roll from one end of the lettuce leaf to the middle. Fold in the sides and continue to roll. Secure wraps with toothpicks and serve.