Modification of Family Meals

Meal planning is an art and science in itself. What is to be cooked is decided by the homemaker from the available food items. But the meal planning is affected by various factors like nutritional requirements, budget, season, etc. all of which you have studied earlier. These factors vary from family to family. Do you remember what you had for lunch? Usually, it would have been chapati, rice, cooked vegetables, salad, curd, sometimes, fruits or sweets. This is generally a balanced meal. Can you tell why? Yes, because it has food items from all the food groups. This meal provides all the essential nutrients such as – energy, protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals. The nutritional requirements of all the family members can be met by varying the number of food items and by the combination of foods. Include food items from different food groups to get variety and maximum nutrients.

Consider a family having members in various age groups, that is, parents, grandparents, a school going child and an adolescent girl. Now, you know all of them to have different requirements. If you have to cook for them how will you go about it? Will you cook specially for each member according to individual nutritional needs or cook a common meal and serve according to the various nutritional needs? Definitely, the second alternative is a better choice. What are you doing here? You are modifying the same meal according to the needs of each member. This is what is known as diet modification. This can be achieved through two methods.

Through Modification in the Diet

Diet modification means serving the meal cooked for the family to any member after varying it in quantity, quality, and frequency of eating.

  • Quantitative modification of diet. This refers to the increase or decrease in the number of times a meal is taken and/or the portion size (Portion size the amount of a particular dish eaten at a meal). For example, pregnant women, sick people or older persons need to eat smaller meals but at shorter intervals, that is, they may need 6-8 meals instead of four meals a day. Similarly, adolescent boys need larger portions at each meal (maybe more rice/chapattis, more dal/curd) and also more frequent meals to meet their nutritional needs. Persons who are dieting are advised to reduce the amount of food eaten at each meal. This will force the body to use stored reserves which will help in reducing boy weight.

  • Qualitative modification of diet. It refers to the change in nutrients, consistency, flavour, amount of spices and fibre content of the diet. For example, the increased protein requirement of a pregnant woman can be met by increasing the quantity of protein-rich foods in her diet. You must have seen mothers taking out some boiled dal in a separate bowl, mashing it and feeding it to babies between the age of 6 months to 1 year. Dal does not contain any spices, except salt and turmeric. Slightly older children are fed well cooked and mashed food. Older people need a diet soft in consistency and less spicy. This is a qualitative modification of diet.

  • Modification in terms of frequency. What would you suggest to a person whose requirements are increased but they are not able to increase the quantity of food in the original meals? Yes, you will suggest an increase in the number of meals instead. This means they should take something in between the main meals. This is diet modification in terms of frequency.
Through Food Exchange Method

If you are modifying the same meal for different family members, then how will you decide on how much of one item is equivalent to another one? If you are not sure about how to go about exchanging one food item with another in the correct proportion, then you may not be able to fulfill everyone’s requirements correctly. For example, if you are exchanging milk with egg then you should know how much of milk is equivalent to one egg or if one does not want to eat egg, in that case, how much of pulses should be given instead? Food exchanges help you to modify the diet for an individual according to needs, likes, dislikes and food habits and help you to make the diet more flexible and interesting. The food exchange table gives you a fair idea about the exchanges that can be done among various foods so that the nutrients derived by these foods remain the same.

Read Also: Meal Planning for daily food guide