COOK OF THE WEEK: Nutritionist stresses importance of eating from all food groups

MANTACHIE – As a nutritionist for the state Department of Health in Fulton, Debbie Mitchell is charged daily with teaching children, pregnant women and high-risk families about good nutrition.
But Mitchell doesn’t just talk the talk. She also walks the walk.
“What I’ve found is that people don’t eat from all the food groups each day,” said Mitchell, 57. “They eat a lot of high-fat, high-sugar foods. Fruits and vegetables are what they don’t get enough of. And we’re really stressing whole grains now.”
So what’s a typical daily menu look like for this mother of four and grandmother of three?
For breakfast, she might have plain yogurt with dried fruit, nuts and cereal. Lunch is a turkey sandwich on whole-grain bread, a cup of tomato soup, baked chips and a piece of fruit. In the afternoon, a glass of milk with a few peanut butter crackers could be a snack. And dinner is grilled salmon with a sweet potato and a green salad.
“You try to get the food groups in at each meal,” she said. “Sometimes you might not have all of them at breakfast, but you might make up for it with a snack.”
As a registered dietitian, Mitchell certainly realizes the obesity problem we have in Mississippi. But she doesn’t think strict dieting is the answer.
“I think eating from the food groups and limiting fast food to two times a week will make the difference we need,” she said.
By fast food, Mitchell doesn’t mean turkey sandwiches from Subway or grilled chicken salads from McDonald’s. Those are healthful choices. She’s talking about supersized burgers, fries and sodas.
“You need to eat healthy, but you need to enjoy food, too,” she said. “You can have the things you like. You just don’t need to eat them every day. That’s the whole key.”

Downsizing meals
When Mitchell isn’t preaching and teaching nutrition at work, she’s likely at home cooking or helping her husband, Dennis, prepare the evening meal.
“My husband cooks a lot and all my children, including the three boys, are good cooks,” she said. “My sons like to share recipes. They have contests to see who can make stuff the hottest, whose wings can burn the other’s mouth.”
One thing Mitchell has had to learn to do since her kids left home is downsize the amount of food she makes.
“When my boys were home, our weeknight suppers were like everybody else’s Sunday meals,” she said. “And our Sunday meals were like everybody else’s Christmas.”

Do you know a good cook? Send your nominations to Ginna Parsons, Cook of the Week, P.O. Box 909, Tupelo, MS 38802. Or you can fax them to (662) 842-2233 or e-mail them to ginna.parsons@djournal.com.

Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal