If you would have told me nine years ago that I would one day lead a Cub Scout den and be excited to do the activities, I would’ve figured you were on some heavy-duty medication – or needed some. As I held my newborn son, I feared I wouldn’t be able to interact with him, because, well…I knew Barbie dolls, colored pencils, nail polish, and Easy Bake Ovens.
There was no way I’d be catching bugs, crawling in mud, demo-ing stuff, or whatever else little boys did.
I needn’t have worried so much. All children…okay, most children have a certain sweetness about them. Yes, boys are different, but not so much so that it’s like I’m raising an alien. Most days.
Over the weekend, I worked with my son on his meal planning requirement for a scout activity pin. It wasn’t as simple as just penciling in his favorite foods. The meals had to be well-balanced, healthy and meet the recommended daily allowances and caloric intake. Luckily, the scout handbook referred us to a website that could help.
I fell in love with mypyramid.gov. Specifically, the “Plan a Healthy Menu” link. (See link with black box drawn around it.)
We had an option to set up an account, but instead, we entered a fake name, and accurate age, height and weight.
This was enough to get us to a screen separated into four quadrants. The top left part of the screen had a search box where we entered a food item and selected options from a list. We could also choose the amount and which meal it was for. Once we “added” an item, the bar chart to the right would update to reflect the amount of grains, veggies, fruit, milk, or meat/beans provided. Below that chart, the breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack list showed our selections.
After we planned one days’ meals, I turned him loose on the computer to figure it out himself. He spent hours (yes, hours) choosing different combinations of foods in an attempt to (1) meet all of the daily recommended allowances, while (2) staying within the ‘green zone’ for caloric intake, and (3) keeping the extras (bad stuff) from going in the red. I heard cheers, groans, and exclamations of surprise. I smiled at his excitement to show me a meal plan that nearly met all of the requirements.
We don’t have video games in our house, so I imagine this was almost like one in his mind. No, we are not Amish and I don’t think video games are possessed by the devil. They are just expensive luxuries that we won’t go into debt to afford. Good thing we found this meal planning website – now we don’t have to explain why we don’t have expensive toys. We can just log them into the computer and tell them to plan next week’s meals. Sweet.
I learned some things, too. Mostly, I realized I live in denial. I thought we ate fairly healthy, but it turns out, I was wrong. I plugged in close matches for an average day of meals. (See the picture above.)
At first glance, it didn’t look that bad. Some of the requirements were over-represented, while others were on the weak side (sorry, veggies…I have nothing against you.)
The horrifying part was the “Extras” measurement. This group includes solid fats, added sugars and alcohol. A number of 265 or less would have kept us in the green zone, but we came in at a hefty 472. I’m not a math whiz, but I recognized that this was just a few Double Stuf Oreo cookies away from being double the recommended amount.
Speaking of Oreos, I have a confession: I overrepresented them in my diet and underreported on this tool. There’s no denying the evidence.
And besides, to quote Shakira,: “Hips Don’t Lie”…
Have you ever used this tool, or something like it? If so, did you find it helpful? If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend plugging in a day’s worth of meals just to see where you fall. I’d love to know how you fare.