An all-inclusive menu

Nutritional needs of each family member vary as per age, gender and activity levels. Here's how to meet them all with a wholesome meal plan

Family dining together

It is up to the woman of the house to ensure everyone remains hale and hearty. With each family member having different nutritional needs, it can be overwhelming at times to get on the table a well-balanced meal, which everyone enjoys. But a few additions and subtractions in your meal plan, can make a marked difference. Let us look at what is most important for your family’s complete wellbeing and how. Here we use the example of a typical family many can identify with. If you feel your case is different, you can still follow the same nutrition advice, as the recommendations are more or less generic.


Personal profile

  • High blood pressure [140/90], though currently not on medication
  • Overweight—waist size 38 [was an athletic 30 at the time of wedding, thanks to all the nights of playing cricket]; body fat 32 per cent [healthy range for males is 12 – 19 per cent]
  • High stress, corporate job with long hours and a lot of travelling.

Eating habits

  • Not a ‘breakfast person’, so leaves for work having tea and a slice of toast
  • When in town, carries tiffin to work from home, which he eats mid-afternoon between meetings
  • No meal between lunch and dinner, which he has at home, around 9.30 pm.

Nutrition advice

  • Focus on high-fibre and low calorie foods to help keep the stomach full, therefore allowing less intake of calories from other foods.
  • Start meals with a salad of colourful vegetables: red, green, and yellow bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots, and lettuce.
  • Avoid foods that have a high salt content [pickle, papad, canned foods, and namkeen] to help control blood pressure.
  • Include adequate carbohydrates in the meals as they are the main source of energy for the brain.
  • Give him an apple and whole wheat toast for breakfast.
  • Make rotis from whole wheat or multigrain atta for lunch.
  • Pack fruits to have in the afternoon to avoid the 4 – 5 pm energy dip.


Personal profile

  • 16 years old, getting ready to start college next year
  • Die-hard cricket fan and plays cricket for the school team, which involves outdoor practice every afternoon for 2 – 3 hours.

Eating habits

  • Loves eating out with friends
  • Spends many-a-nights watching movies, hence is habituated to midnight snacks that include chips, biscuits, chocolate and ice-cream
  • Vegetable intake is restricted to what he believes to be vegetables—potatoes, green peas [mutter], and corn—all of which, actually fall in the starch food group.

Nutrition advice

  • Encourage him to consume plenty of water, since he spends a large amount of time out in the hot sun.
  • Add two teaspoons of oral rehydration salts to one litre of water if he starts feeling tired or complains of headaches after practice. This is a sign of dehydration, in which, not only water, but also sodium and potassium are lost. The best indication of your hydration status is your urine, which should be a pale yellow in colour.
  • Include high-energy and nutritious foods in his daytime meals when he is most active
  • Make breakfast a must to give him a good start to the day. It should include: iron-fortified cornflakes with low-fat or non-fat milk and fruits [keep the peel on for extra fibre]
  • Increase vegetable intake at lunch and dinner: methi rotis, dal palak and vegetable stir-fry items, which include a wide variety of steamed vegetables
  • Emphasise healthy eating habits now so weight gain does not occur during college years, when studies will eat up cricket time and thus exercise; less exercise and activity means less calories will be needed
  • Prevent him from late-night snacking on sweets and fried foods
  • Limit eating out to two times a week.


Personal profile

  • 13 year old, starting puberty, which brings about several bodily changes
  • Highly influenced by friends with all the choices she makes
  • Spends most of her time on the computer or on the phone with friends.

Eating habits

  • Small appetite though eats whatever is prepared at home
  • Fussy about dairy products due to the smell that puts her off
  • Only poor eating habit is love of soft drinks, which she has one bottle per day.

Nutritional needs

  • Control her calorie intake during this period, as during puberty the percentage of body fat increases
  • Constantly reiterate the importance of well-balanced meals as media greatly influences young minds causing severe changes in their eating habits
  • Educate her about including small amounts of fat in her diet. Fat does not necessarily equate to gain of body fat; fat is needed to help absorption of certain fat-soluble vitamins. Fats also helps in satiety.

Two most important nutrients for adolescents


Iron is a major component of haemoglobin, which carries oxygen to the body cells and thus provides energy. On an average, boys and girls between 14 and 18 years of age need approximately 11mg of iron per day.

  • Make 4-5 pieces of dried anjeer a part of the afternoon snack
  • Add 30g of raisins to cornflakes
  • Add cooked beans [rajma, chole, sprouted moong] to salads.


It is recommended that we consume 1,300mg of calcium per day to ensure development of strong bones and teeth. So aim for three servings of dairy per day:

  • 200ml low-fat or non-fat milk for breakfast
  • 100ml low-fat or non-fat yogurt with lunch and dinner
  • 200ml plain or salted lassi immediately after intense activity or part of the afternoon snack.

Lady of the house

Personal profile

  • Mother, wife and career woman
  • Gets up early in the morning to get the kids ready for school and sleeps late at nights preparing for the next day
  • Hyperglycaemia [high blood sugar levels] with fasting blood sugar running at 128 – 135 mg/dL [normal limit = 90-110 mg/dL], though still not on medication and trying to control levels with diet and exercise.

Eating habits

  • Guilty of finishing off foods to avoid leftovers in the fridge
  • Habituated to having 4-5 cups of tea per day at work with sugar
  • Has a hearty breakfast in the morning. After going to work, it all seems to fall apart by early evening, when the fried snacks like samosa, chaat or vada pav come out.

Nutritional advice

  • Avoid large intervals between meals; eat something every 3 – 4 hours to help keep blood sugar levels stable. Eat a snack 3 – 4 hours after lunch to prevent consuming high-calorie fried foods due to serious hunger pangs
  • Limit intake of tea to three cups per day and completely avoid sugar to help reduce blood sugar levels
  • Resign from the ‘clean the table’ club and eat only until you are half full
  • Leftovers are fine to make great breakfast items next morning
  • It takes 20 minutes for your brain to send a signal to your stomach that you are full. So, eat slowly and enjoy your meal.

Preparing healthy meals

Dinner is most often the meal that the family eats together. Stick to one meal and avoid preparing several dishes for different requests. A single meal often suffices.

A complete dinner that meets the needs of all family members can be:

  • Salad
    • Always start meals with salads as they are full of vitamins and minerals
    • High fibre and low calorie content helps for weight loss
    • Add sprouts for protein and fibre.
  • Jowar or Bajra rotis
    • Higher amounts of fibre help keep everyone full for longer, discouraging late night eating
    • Extra protein allows for building lean muscle mass for the exercisers in the family.
  • Green leafy vegetables
    • Packed with iron, fibre, and several other vitamins and minerals.
  • Low-fat or non-fat yogurt
    • Great way to cool down during these hot summer days
    • Good source of calcium
    • Excellent source of protein to help with satiety.

There you have it, all nutrition needs met with one simple meal. So move away from being the waitress at home taking several meal orders and stick to one menu.

This was first published in the May 2009 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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Radhika Karle-Ghorpade
Radhika Karle-Ghorpade is a Mumbai-based dietician with a Masters degree from Texas Women's University, Houston. She is a certified Yoga and Pilates instructor as well as a personal trainer. She loves to swim, play tennis, and travel in her free time. Her nutrition mantra: everything in moderation.


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