7 ways to healthy home cooked mealsTuesday, 3 November 2020
Do you plan your week intending to cook every meal at home, only to find yourself with a few drops of milk and a soft bendy carrot? Do you find yourself grabbing a takeaway on more days than you’d like? Or dialling for delivery simply because you are tired and there isn’t enough time to cook? Here are seven hacks to help you conquer your kitchen and make home cooked meals easier.
Find 10 minutes and plan your week ahead
Spend 10 minutes on the weekend to create a plan that will help you to cook home meals more regularly. A week-to-week plan will allow you to consider your schedule and plan accordingly. When planning, think about dinner first – one way to simplify your thought process is to vary your protein. Aim to have one to two serves of red meat a week, one to two serves of poultry, one to two serves of fish/seafood, and one to two meat free days per week. When planning try to aim for half of your recipe to be vegetables, and choose lower GI carbohydrates with a touch of healthy fats.
Once you have thought about what you want to eat and checked what you already have at home, create a shopping list.
Pantry essentials will ensure you can always prepare a healthy meal at home. For some carbohydrate staples, include wholegrains like quinoa, rolled oats, barley, brown/long grain rice, whole meal pasta, cous cous, crispbreads or wholegrain crackers and wholegrain or wholemeal bread or wraps. Canned vegetables and legumes such as tinned tomato, beetroot, corn, lentils, beans, and chickpeas can be quick additions to meals. A good strategy to reduce the salt (sodium) content of canned foods is by draining and rinsing them to remove the salt. Adding herbs and spices will turn boring, flavourless food into drool worthy creations.
Cook extra portions
Cooking in bulk can help you save time and money. One of the easiest ways to speed up your cooking session is to batch prepare your ingredients. Re-using ingredients can reduce the number of ingredients you have to prep. If you are using pumpkin, you can use it for a number of dishes. Cooking in bulk means you can cook up more serves of a dish and put it in the fridge (to consume within three days) or in the freezer for when you are time poor.
Click here for a printable cold food storage chart.
Stock up your freezer with frozen produce
Frozen vegetables can save time and can be bought and stored in bulk ready to use. Simply, put them straight into stir-fries, casseroles or curries. Also, when buying fresh meat, divide it into meal-sized portions and freeze separately for easy access when required.
Vary your cooking methods
Healthy cooking does not mean that you have to become a gourmet chef; you can simply use different cooking techniques to capture flavour. A pressure cooker can save lots of time, it is designed to reduce cooking times for slow cooked dishes. Most vegetables can be ready in five minutes or less. A roast is pressure cooked to fall apart in just 35 minutes.
A slow cooker can be used as well. It allows you to ‘set and forget’ your meals and can be ready when you need them. Brown lean meat or skinless chicken in two tablespoons of olive oil and add a variety of vegetables and enough water, and then let it set. You can adjust flavour by adding different herbs and spices. You can even turn your rice cooker into a workhorse. Rice cookers can steam veggies, cook fish or even slow cook chicken.
Alternatively, try wrapping food in foil to make a sealed parcel and cook it the oven. This is an ideal way to cook pumpkin, potato, beetroot, fish, meat and chicken fillets. Add herbs, spices, lemon juice or vinegar for extra flavour.
For other healthy cooking methods and encouragement on building healthy meals click here.
Get inspiration and involve others
A great healthy cookbook can be just the inspiration you need. Healthy cooking doesn’t need to be bland – get inspired from this range of recipes and cookbooks. You’ll find more support here: DAA and here: eat for health. Spend little time browsing through to create delicious dishes that are great for the whole family.
Involving others and sharing cooking responsibilities can maintain your determination for cooking at home. If you have a child involve them in cooking, children enjoy preparing and cooking food. Here are some cooking tips that can be adapted easily.
Ensure nothing goes to waste. Revisit the darkest recesses of your pantry and fridge in an effort to use what you have. This means getting creative and trying new things. Whipping up a homemade stock is an easy way to use up remaining bits and pieces. If you make a big batch, divide into smaller portions and store in the freezer