Pantry Raid update: Couple on the right track with portion sizes

In October, we raided the pantry of Elizabeth and Tim McCreary, a young Corona couple who were having trouble determining portion sizes and needed help preparing healthful, low-fat meals at home. Both were too busy with their jobs to find much time to cook, and matters were further complicated by the fact that Elizabeth has a gluten sensitivity that prevents her from eating wheat and certain other foods.

Before our visit, a frequent meal for these newlyweds was fried corn chips with handfuls of cheese or boxes of gluten-free macaroni and cheese with some hot dogs added. Fresh fruits and vegetables were sorely lacking in their diet.

Irvine-based registered dietitian Lisa Gibson guided them through the grocery store and gave suggestions about adding more fresh produce, lean proteins and low-fat dairy to their diets. She discussed how to read nutrition labels, explained the new USDA MyPlate meal template and showed the couple how to make roasted vegetables.

A few months later, the McCrearys have made some big changes: They’re eating fresh fruits and vegetables about five days a week and cooking at home more often. A typical meal might include salad, grilled lean meat and roasted potatoes and vegetables. On weekends, there may be a batch of chili cooked with lean buffalo meat. Instead of fattening desserts they’re opting for fruit drizzled with a bit of orange juice-sweetened dressing made with mascarpone cheese.

Tim used to snack on two to three cups of almonds each day, which Gibson labeled too much of a good thing. Now nuts are portioned in plastic bags.


When eating out, the couple asks for half the meal to be boxed up before they start eating. “Sometimes we want to dig into the box that night,” Elizabeth says, “but we don’t, and eat it for lunch the next day.” The same is done with meals cooked at home — leftovers are put in the refrigerator immediately to reduce the temptation to have seconds.

Gibson was happy to hear the couple has adopted better eating habits. “The big thing for them was portion size, and it seems like they picked up on a lot of the key things that were mentioned,” she said.

They could still add more fruits and vegetables to their diet, and Gibson suggests they refer back to the MyPlate template. “They should be consciously thinking at lunch and dinner that half the plate should be fruits and vegetables,” she adds. Adding seasonal vegetables to pasta, chili and salads is a good way to incorporate them.

Elizabeth says she and Tim have more energy since they started eating more healthful foods. “That’s the nice part,” she says. “The nutrients we’re eating are better for us, and we’re not having as much sugar and processed foods.”