Heavenly Father could have created "people chow," but he didn't.

Instead, Dr. Nora Nyland says, he put a lot of care into creating food — with colors, textures, flavors, aromas and shapes.

Getting hungry yet?

Nyland, associate professor and dietetics program director in nutrition, dietetics and food science at Brigham Young University, gave advice on "What's for Dinner? Stocking a Healthy and Convenient Pantry" to attendees of the recent Campus Education Week.

So how does a busy lifestyle intersect with creative food?

Nyland says the keys are the four P's:

• Plan your menus.

• Procure the food (shopping).

• Pre-preparation, which saves time.

• Produce (cook) what you bought.

You can't expect nutritious, tasty meals without planning, she said, so select the time frame — by day, week or month — that works for you. Plan your menus with a purpose: for health, to celebrate an occasion, to teach, for enjoyment or to introduce new foods to your family.

It's also important to consider what foods your family members like, what foods you like to fix, and also your financial resources, she says.

Another issue is nutrition. Nyland says a good resource is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Web site, www.mypyramid.gov, which outlines a healthy food pyramid and has a menu planner, a food tracker and other helpful information.

Nyland suggests setting up a menu matrix with the days of the week across and the elements going down: entree, side dish/starch, vegetable/salad and dessert. That helps in making sure all food groups are covered every day.

Nyland also says it's important to let other family members be responsible for planning meals.

So should you make foods from scratch or go with convenience foods?

Nyland says making foods from scratch is less expensive, takes more time and you have more control over the ingredients. Conversely, convenience foods are more expensive, take less time to prepare and you have less control over the ingredients.

The key, she says, is to determine the mix that's right for you based on time, your skill, your resources and individual needs. A "happy medium" is best, she says.

Robert Walsh

rwalsh@desnews.com