t's easy to make a change that's good for you, but often hard to stick with it. A year ago we started our monthly Make Over My Meal series, and this month we want to report on how our "guinea pigs" are doing.
These were real people with real problems. Readers identified with them and - we hope - learned from the solutions that registered dietitian Robin Spence provided.
"The series showed that there are a lot of reasons people have difficulty providing and eating the healthiest diet," Spence said. "Not all of the reasons are well-founded, and a desire to change plus some brainstorming can often make substantive improvements."
Here's what our subjects had to say about their experience:
The problem: Susan Kornick, a working mother of three, cooked five separate dinners every night.
The fix: Spence suggested not worrying about trying to get a child to eat, and for Kornick to stop being a short-order cook.
Update: "I wish I could say we've had a miraculous turnaround," said Kornick. But, she added, things have gotten a little better. She no longer cooks separate meals, but often makes a large casserole with at least one side dish that each person will eat.
"They can like it or lump it," she said. "I've tried to be more not as catering to every whim. "
Lori Cumberland and Kris Ulloa
The problem --The engaged couple worked such long hours they didn't have time to fix a sit-down dinner.
The fix --Spence came up with several nutritious dinners that could be put on the table in minutes.
Update --The two had just returned from their honeymoon when I talked to Cumberland. She reported that they don't always sit down to eat, and they still eat in front of the TV. But she was inspired to cook almost every day now, and they are eating healthier than they used to. The couple used Spence's "after" meal recipe, a salmon salad, repeatedly and bought the cookbook she recommended.
The problem --The new mother wanted us to remake her recipe for baked French toast for a holiday brunch.
The fix --We cut fat and cholesterol without sacrificing taste. Hannan preferred the "after" dish to the original.
Update --When I talked to Hannan, she told me her second son, Trevor, was born in June. While this makeover had been more specific than most, she said she was delighted the nutritionist had introduced her to Smart Balance as a substitute for butter. Her family uses it regularly. "It's a useful little product," she said.
The problem --The public-relations executive wanted help in throwing a party that included healthful and delicious food.
The fix --Spence's advice was to have some of the "good stuff," but also serve raw vegetables, hummus as well as creamy dips, grilled chicken, shrimp and a cheese board.
Update --Andrea Kunicky, the public-relations coordinator of Maroon PR Inc. who planned last year's party, told me there would be another party this year and the event would probably have many of the foods Spence recommended last year. But she wasn't sure the addition of healthful foods really made much of a difference.
"Holiday parties are more about letting it out," she said. "I went for it. At parties like that, I just eat what I want."
Maggie and Melvin Smith
The problem --Melvin had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and Maggie needed help planning meals.
The fix --The good news is that healthful eating for someone with diabetes is good for everyone in the family.
Update --I caught up with Maggie in Iowa, where she has been working since May, going home on weekends. Her mother has been staying with her husband and kids and cooks "very healthy meals," Maggie said. Melvin has been doing well and has had no major problems.
The problem --The lawyer eats out every meal, but worried that it was bad for his health.
The fix --Spence felt he should be more selective and downsize portions, particularly of meats high in saturated fat.
Update --Kaplow e-mailed me that he still eats out 21 meals a week, but, he added, "I have definitely incorporated more fruit and vegetables into my diet, and I have taken steps like all but eliminating soda from my diet, ordering salad dressing on the side and downsizing some portions ... admittedly, I still crave red meat."
Oliver and Alex Bennett
The problem --Parents Bill and Monica Bennett worried that their sons, serious athletes, weren't getting the right breakfast.
The fix --Spence approved of the boys' high-carb choices, but tweaked them to make them more nutritious.
Update --The nutritionist's visit made them much more aware of what they eat, Bill Bennett said. They now read labels, for instance. At the same time, his sons felt good about the fact that they were basically eating the right foods (cereal and toast) before an early-morning workout.
The Bennetts were so impressed by what Spence had to say they later invited her to come speak to the Loyola Blakefield Aquatics Club team.
The problem --Is it possible to eat healthfully from a by-the-pound hot food bar?