Guy seeks healthy meal options

All Woman

DEAR DONOVAN,
For Valentine's Day this year I hope to cook, from scratch, a three-course meal for my girlfriend who is on the heavier side, and whom I want to be more healthy. However, she is a sweet- and junk-food lover, so I don't want to ruin her night by making anything too boring or too vegetarian.

Right now, I am thinking of a chicken parmesan dish with pasta and a salad, opened with cream of pumpkin soup and dinner rolls, and then for dessert, her favourite, apple pie. I know how to make all these items the traditional way, but need your help in making them more nutritious. Apart from using wheat flour as substitute, can you make any other suggestions? I really want her to be healthy, and right now she's tipping the scale at 200 pounds, at just 5'4”. She also doesn't exercise, apart from occasionally walking around the complex with me, and at 38, I've told her that she's at risk for various illnesses including diabetes. Please help make my Valentine's Day — and our life going forward — one to remember.

I must congratulate you on your desire and effort to do something special for your lady on Valentine's Day. I can just feel the love for her oozing from your letter. I also feel your concern for her due to the fact that she is getting on in age and she is overweight, not eating properly, and also not doing much exercise.

You are very right in the fact that at this stage she is at risk of many of the lifestyle disorders/diseases. However, the million-dollar challenge is to get her to understand her situation and be willing to make the changes necessary to lose weight and be healthy. From your account, you have spoken to her before about making the lifestyle changes that would allow her to get weight loss. However, I get the feeling you have not made much progress in that regard. The fact is that we all take some personal weak areas into our relationships. In her case it may be the love for food and the lack of passion for exercise. In your case you may also bring at least one weak area to the relationship too.

How can you get her to change her lifestyle without putting too much pressure on her or the relationship? In a number of ways this situation has the ability to break the relationship apart. One suggestion might be to get her to speak to a nutritionist. This could be a part of her Valentine's treat. The truth about the situation is that in most cases it is hard for you, the person so close to her, to get her to make long-term wellness changes. Also, in your case you might not have the skills to get her to change. I must tell you that change in any personal area is often not easy and the truth is that some people will never change or changes come too late.

So you have planned a very special dinner and possibly a very romantic night after. It might be wise to keep weight loss and changes to lifestyle out of the conversation for at least that evening. Hopefully, the special effort of the meal and tender moments will show her how much you really love her. This might wake her up to want to make some lifestyle changes.

The menu that you have planned in no way has healthy or low calorie written over it. It makes me wonder if you are also not enabling her with her food. I am quite aware that in many cases we want our partners to look slim, but we treat them with all kinds of nice foods!

I am not telling you to change the menu of your Valentine's dinner. However, there may be ways to make the meal a bit healthier and also reduce the calories. You could start out by telling your special lady that you will do dinner. You don't have to tell her what you will make, but you could ask her not to eat too much during the day. So she could have a small breakfast and lunch and allow most of the day's calories to come from the dinner. If she eats a big breakfast, lunch and dinner, the calories could be too high for the day.

In addition, cream of anything could be high in calories. So you could serve a small amount. Also, don't pack her up with too many rolls. Consider whole wheat dinner rolls instead of the white ones. How much butter you will put on the rolls, if any? Consider this. Also, with your chicken parmesan, how much cheese and sauce will you put it it? Are you just going to put a small amount of cheese in it to taste? You could use whole wheat pasta, and add some vegetables to it, and consider using sodium-free tomato sauce, or better yet, make your own from fresh tomatoes.

By all means, make your dinner tasty. But serve smaller portions of everything else, and more of the salad. Make sure that your salad is not swimming in high calorie salad dressing.

For the pie, use a whole wheat crust, and cut the sugar portions to half of what's on the recipe, and depend on the apples for sweetness.

Enjoy your meal and enjoy each other.

We will answer your weight-related questions

Are you struggling to lose weight or just need some advice on living a healthier life? Tell us about your health issues and we'll have nutritionist and wellness coach Donovan Grant answer them for you. Grant has over 12 years' experience in the fitness industry and is the owner of DG's Nutrition and Wellness Centre, 39 Lady Musgrave Road. Call him at 876-286-1363. E-mail questions to clarkep@jamaicaobserver.com .

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