Important Factors to be considered during Meal planning




In our previous post 2- Fundamentals of Meal Planning we have seen general aspects of Meal planning. However, there are other factors that should be considered while meal planning, and these factors may vary from region to region in the world. 

We will talk about those factors which affect the food acceptability by people.

I. Food acceptability by people

Food Acceptability depends on several factors as discussed below- 

1. Food habits and religious beliefs

( Different religions have specific prohibitions which we should keep in mind during meal planning. For eg., Hindus and Sikhs don’t eat Beef, whereas, Muslims and Jews completely prohibit pork in their diet)

Different Religions in the world

2. Food availability

( i.e. whether food is available or not, for the meal planning. This can be a concern to meal planners (especially to moms who buy vegetables or other foods products, and they are confused about buying substitute products when desired food products are not available).

We should use seasonal and locally available foods for meal planning as they are fresh, full of texture, flavor, etc. People who spend less have the advantage to use seasonal foods because they are cheaper too).

Seasonal fruits & vegetables are cheaper and fresh too !!

3. Likes and dislikes of family members should be kept in mind while meal planning.

For example Children generally dislike brinjal, bitter gourd, broccoli, etc. Older people have their own lists of likes and dislike due to their increasing age and decreasing chewing ability.

          Adults too refrain from some foods

 Children have likes/dislikes of specific foods

4. Variety in meals

Meals planned should have a variety of color, texture, and flavor, so that the food can look pleasant and its acceptability can be increased among the people.

If we observe the South Indian Thali, we can see the pleasant appearance it provides to the people. It contains different foods served in different bowls having different tastes, flavors, textures and it is widely accepted among the Indians and abroad.

                 A served meal at an Indian restaurant

Above shown is the South Indian Thali, having a variety of foods which arouse the senses to feel the best.


So, different options are there to include variety in foods during meal planning-

  • We should select different foods from different food groups as shown in the Food Pyramid.
  • We should avoid repetition of food from a particular food group.

For example– I was preparing a meal.

I chose-

fresh carrots as salads, and

boiled carrots as a spicy vegetable

So, here I had included carrots in the same diet twice, i.e. in the form of salads and vegetables both. So, it may create an unwillingness to eat due to the feeling of fullness of carrots around us in the meal.

  • We can use different methods of cooking to enhance and change the textures of foods.

Different methods may be-

I. Baking (it will enhance browning reaction if sugar is present and brown color may be observed in foods, which is appealing to consumers.

II. Boiling (Boiling may soften the outer surface of vegetables, so peeling off outer skin may be easy. Boiling may also be termed as Blanching under specific temperature conditions.

III. Blanching inactivates the enzymes, because if the enzymes are not deactivated in the fruits or vegetables, then they can cause flavor, nutrients loss, etc.

In Blanching process, fruits or vegetables are put in hot water for some time and then kept in cold water. This process slows the quality loss with the passage of time.

        Blanching of green beans

IV. Frying (Frying is generally done in fats or oils. So, the surface of foods become oily and texture is improved to much extent.

We can also use attractive garnishes, toppings, etc. to make foods more appealing. Papadums, pickles like extra dishes make main planned foods more colorful and relishing.

5. Satiety value

Satiety is a feeling aroused due to hormonal secretion, after fulfillment of hunger. If a person is even eating his favorite sweet dish, then after some time, he will reach a state of satiation, and will not be able to consume more sweets.

Similarly, the meals planned should provide adequate satiety, so as to prevent hunger until the next meal time. We should take sufficient amount of proteins, dietary fiber, and fats. The foods which are rich in fats and fibers often prevent early hunger after taking them.

For example- Generally, in India, many people who plan to go on fast for a day or two for their reasons, initially consume food rich in fats or fibers before starting their fast, so as to prevent their early feeling of hunger. Foods like Chole Bhature are widely consumed in India, however, it is very oily and not advised to consume regularly.

            Chole Bhature- An Indian oily food


6. Time and Convenience

Now people are busy in their work. Women are now working in offices and corporate fields like never before. So, the family needs well cooked and balanced nutritionally planned meal in less time and with many conveniences.

So, meals planned should be done by keeping the above factors in mind.

Many public and private sectors in food are devising new convenient foods like RTE (Ready to Eat Foods). The RTE foods require only opening the packet and some mild heat through microwave may be given and it is ready to eat now.

       RTE foods are much convenient to use

7. Food Fads

Food fads are the various beliefs and fallacies prevalent in different communities in the world. Generally educated people also follow these fads as they believe to know the basic benefits and harms of consuming certain foods

Majority of the food fads are baseless and away from the truth of Science. These type of food fads and fallacies need to be cross-checked with the scientific findings before believing in them.

For example-

    1. Milk and fish should not be taken together. This fad is very famous because it is said to cause white patches on the skin. However, there is very less evidence to prove that drinking milk after eating fish can be harmful or could result in the white patches/ pigmentation of the skin

                          Milk and Fish together or not?

    2. Dry fruits should be eaten only in Winters – But the truth is that dry fruits should be taken in any season in an appropriate amount.It is true that almond, a typical dry fruit is a heat producing food and thus it is soaked overnight to consume in the morning during summers, but consuming in appropriate quantity shows less harmful effects like hampered digestion, etc.


So, by considering the above factors, we can utilize each individual’s preferences during meal planning by keeping their restrictions, likes or dislikes of specific foods into consideration.

Hence, by following principles of Nutrition and Dietetics and understanding its importance, we can serve the society very well despite their diverse rules and prohibitions.

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