The fix --Spence suggesting loading up on vegetables and fish, and avoiding dishes with sauces.
Update --Blaney, who suffers from high blood pressure, says his health is good at the present. "Yes, I am a little more conscientious about what I eat after listening to Robin's advice. I have not been back to Wegmans [Asian hot food bar], but that is not to say I would not eat there again. I would just be more selective."
The problem --A busy working mother with a sweet tooth wanted to lose 35 pounds before a trip to China and eat better.
The fix --The nutritionist tried to talk her out of rapid weight loss and gave her strategies like eating only the intended portion.
Update --Did she lose the weight? "Oh, heck no," Battle told me. "I lost maybe 5 pounds. But I did start exercising and I've stopped eating Kayla's [her daughter's unfinished] food. I've reduced butter in cooking."
She also eats her favorite steak, rib-eye, less often, and has substituted sherbet for ice cream when she craves sweets.
The problem --A MedEvac crew needed help with nutritious, fast and low-calorie meals.
The fix --A slow-cooker dinner would be ready when the crew returned from a life-saving mission.
Update --Flight nurse Fitzpatrick (above, left) has managed to keep his weight down, and the group uses the slow cooker regularly.
"We try to do communal cooking," he said, "but it's hard because of the schedule. We still eat a lot of frozen dinners."
The problem --A new job meant a longer commute by bus and the need for a nutritious lunch that would travel well.
The fix --Nonperishable, nutritious items that didn't add too many calories.
Update --The first day on her new job, Yao said, her co-workers cheered her because of her newspaper fame: "Here comes the superstar!"
She's followed Spence's advice and feels good about the healthful choices she makes, from Trader Joe's soups to a frozen bottle of water that keeps her lunch cold.
The problem --The 84-year-old is on a fixed income, and it's hard for her to get to the store.
The fix --Making better use of her freezer so she has nutritious meals on hand.
Update --"I'm doing OK except for my arthritis," Barnett told me. "I use the plastic containers that you brought to freeze food. Everything was real nice."
And what was she eating for dinner that night? Rice and gravy and string beans. "No dessert!"
What we learned
For Make Over My Meal, we wanted to present a diverse group of makeover subjects -- diverse in types of problems, gender, age, race and income -- and we ended up doing pretty well. But what struck me was that no matter how different the people and their problems, the basic solutions were often the same and very simple:
Eat more vegetables and fruit, fresh if possible.
Eat less saturated (animal) fat.
Eat less salt.
The hard part, of course, is doing these things, and our nutritionist turned out to be a master at giving people -- and by extension, readers -- practical strategies they could use in their daily lives.
Maybe the most important thing we learned is that you can't expect people to change drastically. They need small steps they can incorporate into their lives, and they have to be encouraged to do whatever they can.
[ Elizabeth Large]