The Family Project: Nutritious meals
Q. I am a single mom with two young children. Nearly all my income goes to rent, keeping my car on the road and bills. “Good” food is expensive. I can already see my six-year-old getting fat on what I can afford. What can I do? I’m not sure they will eat vegetables and salad, but they sure love macaroni and cheese.
“The idea that good food is necessarily expensive isn’t exacting accurate,” panelist Chad Stefanyak said. “Grandmother showed us that if you have chicken tonight, you have chicken salad for lunch tomorrow and chicken soup the next day. You can stretch things.”
He added that it is often cheaper to buy the ingredients and prepare a meal yourself, instead of buying ready-made or processed foods.
While vegetables can be expensive, especially in the winter, panelist Kristy Bernard said there are stores where the mother could get cheaper basic produce. Bernard also suggested going to a public library to look for books with recipes on how to hide vegetables in food the children will eat.
Panelist Mike Daniels said he hates Brussel sprouts, “but if you chop them up and fry them you can put them in anything and no one will know.”
Stefanyak suggested that a better alternative to regular pastas are whole-grain substitutes. Make sure that mac and cheese and other foods higher in carbohydrates and fat are not the main entrée, but are sides, panelist Wanda Mercado-Arroyo said. She also suggested letting the children help look for recipes online so they become part of the meal-planning.
Panelist Denise Continenza suggested that the mother go to The Pennsylvania State University Nutrition Links web site for help in meal-planning, cooking and finding educational resources: extension.psu.edu/nutritionlinks.
There are also free nutrition apps for mobile phones that can be found by searching “nutrition on low-income free apps.”
If the mother is really struggling to buy food, the panel said she should contact the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at 1-800-692-7452.
If she is hesitant to ask for help, she could offer to volunteer at one of the food banks in exchange for assistance, Daniels said.
Finally, if mother is concerned about her child’s weight gain, she might want to have him evaluated to make sure there are not health problems. Bernard suggested the Helwig Center, Lehigh Valley Hospital - Muhlenberg, 2545 Schoenersville Road, Bethlehem.
This week’s team of parenting experts are: Pam Wallace, Program Coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Mike Daniels, LCSW, Psychotherapist, CTS; Wanda Mercado-Arroyo, educator and former school administrator; Chad Stefanyak, school counselor; Kristy Bernard, Northampton County CYF program specialist and training coordinator, and Denise Continenza, extension educator, Penn State Extension.
Have a question? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The Family Project is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child. The Times News, Inc., and affiliates (Lehigh Valley Press) do not endorse or recommend any medical products, processes, or services or provide medical advice. The views of the columnist and column do not necessarily state or reflect those of the Lehigh Valley Press. The article content is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician with questions you may have.