How to cook healthier options – links to recipes and ideas
A healthy, balanced and nutritionally rich diet starts in the kitchen! Achieving this doesn’t require fanciful ingredients or gadgets. Instead, simple swaps or quick methods can ensure you are nourishing your body while enjoying your favourite foods!
It is essential to be mindful of how we cook and consume as this can be the foundation of our health. This can be done through easy changes such as reducing portion sizes, adaptations to cooking methods, simple cupboard swaps and conscious intake. Here are a few things to remember when cooking and further inspiration for your next tasty meal.
Things to Consider
Our portion size makes a huge difference to our bodies. The aim each day is to have 5 portions of fruit and vegetables. Try and consider using portion guides for your meals.
The UK Eatwell guide is to be used as a basis for your meals. By following this template for food choice, you’re already halfway there!
Be aware of the macronutrient content of your foods. The traffic light system is a great way of understanding how much salt, fat, sugar and saturates your food contains.
1. Instead of frying your meat, vegetables or meat-free choices, try grilling it! This will ensure you’re retaining the flavour without the additional saturated fat
2. If frying, avoid free pouring the oil. Instead, add it to a measured bottle or spray bottle! This allows the portion size to be controlled. Always remember to opt for unsaturated oils e.g. sunflower, vegetable, rapeseed and olive
3. When you want tender vegetables, avoid boiling and instead try and steam them! Overcooking veg can lead to nutrient loss, steaming prevents this, allowing you to enjoy your vegetables and still achieve your nutrient requirements.
4. Need some flavour? Try to limit your salt intake when using a whole stock cube in your meal. Instead, opt for fresh or frozen herbs and use half a cube if necessary!
5. Love starches with your meals? Try swapping your white rice, pasta and bread with a wholemeal version. It has the added benefit of more fibre and tastes just as good.
6. Want to hit your protein intake without regularly consuming meat? Try opting for beans, pulses or soya in your meals. These are excellent, cheaper protein alternatives to meat and often have a long shelf life too!
7. Feed your brain by consuming at least 2 portions of fish a week with 1 portion containing an oily fish such as mackerel, salmon or sardines. For vegetarians, these omega-3 fats can also be found in walnuts, soy-based products, flaxseeds and enriched eggs.
8. Avoid using large amounts of ultra-processed ingredients when cooking as these can contain high amounts of saturated fats, sugars and salt.
But…I don’t have the time or money for this?!
Healthier options can sometimes feel out of reach now more than ever. However, here are some small changes you can make to make life just that slight bit easier.
1. Try batch preparing meals when you have spare time, for example, a veggie-packed lentil bolognese. Then freeze portions up for future use! Simply defrost when ready and pair with your choice of cabohydrate.
2. Fresh herbs about to go off? Try freezing them in ice cube trays and add or grate them into meals for that instant flavour hit
3. Increasing your fruit and vegetable intake doesn’t always mean spending a lot on fresh sources. Frozen and tinned sources contain just as many nutrients with the added benefit of longer storage! Just remember to avoid always consuming fruit stored in high sugar syrups.
4. Frozen or tinned meat and fish are also nifty swaps for their fresh counterparts. These are often cheaper and can be easily defrosted when needed. Avoid tinned fish stored in brine and instead opt for fish stored in water to reduce the added salt content.
5. Tinned beans and pulses are a quick, cheap and easy protein source which can be added to almost any meal!
6. Busy day ahead? Try prepping your ingredients the days before to cut on time when cooking! Pre-prepped fruit and veg can also be conveniently frozen for later use.
7. Freezing your bread loaf upon purchase extends its shelf life, so you will always have that slice of toast to hand!
Food is Fuel
As the BDA highlights, mindful eating allows you to be fully present while you cook and consume. Healthier eating should never be about restricting yourself but instead, allowing yourself to enjoy and appreciate nourishing your body. By spending a little more time on food selection and preparation of your food, there will be many positive and nurturing opportunities that arise from it.
Resources to help
Accessing useful information and tips has never been easier. Here are a few examples of great websites:
BDA Food Fact Sheets – https://www.bda.uk.com/food-health/food-facts.html
BNF Portion Wise Guide – https://www.nutrition.org.uk/putting-it-into-practice/balancing-the-diet/get-portion-wise/
NHS Eat Well – https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/
Better Health (formerly known as Change4Life) – https://www.nhs.uk/healthier-families/
If in doubt, speak to a health professional about any dietary changes you wish to make. Remember! There are a lot of “nutrition experts” out there that are not appropriately qualified. ALWAYS refer to an accredited nutritionist or a registered dietitian for factual evidence-based advice.
Stuck on what to try next? Get Inspired!
Better Health Recipes – https://www.nhs.uk/healthier-families/recipes/
BDA Get Cooking Recipes – https://www.bda.uk.com/food-health/lets-get-cooking/recipes.html
BBC Good Food – https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/
Tesco Real Food Recipes – https://realfood.tesco.com/recipes.html
Hello Fresh Recipes – https://www.hellofresh.co.uk/recipes