Incorporate these healthy cooking tips into your hectic lifestyle so you can stick to your health goals without adding any further stress or chaos to your day! Rachel Williams tells you how ...
Whether you’re rushing around the city from meeting to meeting or juggling the housework with school runs, ballet practice or sports clubs, there is no denying that healthy cooking can often fall to the bottom of the list of priorities.
In this day and age it is all too easy to make poor food choices when you are so busy.
1. Clean Out The Cupboards!
Firstly, we need to begin at the beginning. If you are anything like me, I bet you have cupboards jammed packed with different jars, pots and bottles of all sorts.
Giving your pantry an overhaul of all the unhealthy things you don’t want to be using is a definite must to start.
2. Shop Smart
We’ve already established we don’t want junk in the house, so ensure you make the right choices on your weekly shopping trip is also essential.
These days what should be a simple chore can turn into a battle of willpower against clever marketing ploys and tempting special offers which result in you buying things you don’t need or actually want.
My number one tip for anyone who knows they simply cannot pass the cookie aisle without sneaking them into the trolley, is to do your shopping online.
Make a list of what you need and only add these items to your online cart. The website saves your previous purchases and then it is a lot simpler and quicker next time.
3. Know What’s In Your Food!
Wherever possible, I believe we should stick to a diet of whole foods – single ingredient foods that don’t require an ingredients list clogged with nasty additives and fillers; meat, fish, vegetables and fruits.
Believe me, it’s not as boring as it sounds. When you start flavouring foods with other foods, herbs and spices you can create dishes to impress any master chef.
The key here is knowing what’s in your food. If you are buying anything in a jar, packet or bottle, you must read the ingredients list.
Look out for added sugars, syrups or hydrogenated oils that simply don’t need to be in there. This will at first take a little more time, but once you know the brand that is suitable, you can simply go straight to that next time.
Like I said, sticking wherever possible to whole foods is much easier to ensure you remain a healthy chef!
4. Failure To Prepare Is Preparing To Fail!
Meal planning and preparation is a must for anyone starting or even maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Spending a little time at the beginning – looking at your food likes and dislikes, time available, and gathering a collection of your favourite quick and easy recipes, really will set you up for success.
You can get geeky with it and make a diary of what you will make on each day if that’s what works for you.
Keeping the fridge stocked with staples that can be whipped up into culinary delights works for many, and my favourite is batch cooking.
When you’re making your favourite dishes, make extra and freeze it ready for when you are short on time and need to pull something out in a hurry.
5. Share The Workload
If you’ve got others in the house, particularly children, get them involved in the healthy cooking process – it’s a great way to engage as a family at the end of the day.
You're setting them up with healthy habits that continue when they eventually fly the nest.
6. Know Your Oils
What to put in your pan has been a hot topic for many years; butter, margarine, vegetable oil, olive oil, we’ve heard it all.
Let's look at why it’s important to choose your cooking oil wisely. When cooking at a high heat we want what is known as a stable oil.
An oil that can withstand the heat without oxidising and going rancid, oils that react with oxygen at high heat form free radicals in the body that can cause inflammation, illness and even premature ageing.
So to keep you healthy, vibrant and most importantly maintaining those youthful looks, you want to cook with oils most resistant to heat: saturated and monounsaturated fats get the go ahead, whilst polyunsaturated fats should be avoided.
My personal preference is coconut oil, not just as it is very resistant to high heat, but it also brings a host of health benefits that have allowed it to claim “super food” status, including fighting bacteria, improving cholesterol and boosting metabolism.
Try roasting sweet potato in coconut oil with fresh garlic and rosemary, simply delicious!
7. Eat Your Veggies!
I don’t know how many times I’m told “I hate eating healthy because salads are boring”. This really gets my back up because yes, I’m the biggest advocate of getting more vegetables in your day (literally breakfast, lunch and dinner), but that doesn’t mean you have to eat salads and drink juices all day!
If that’s not your thing, you can do some pretty amazing things with vegetables that are actually very quick and easy.
Aim to get an array of colourful vegetables on your plate to make it appealing to the eyes as well as the taste buds and never again utter “vegetables are boring”.
8. Get Spicy!
Yes, I’m going to say it again, healthy doesn’t have to be boring! Store bought sauces and dressings can actually be loaded with sugar, additives and preservatives you don’t want to be consuming.
However, this doesn’t mean you are left to serve up bland offerings every day. Adding spices and herbs to your cooking is one of the best ways to add colour and flavour to your dishes without all the processed nasty extras.
9. Slow And Steady Wins The Race!
2014 definitely saw the revival of the slow cooker. I remember my mother using one for a while when I was a child and I have to admit the smell when we’d walk through the door was so homely and welcoming.
When you are out of the house all day or have your hands full with the kids, slow cooking is absolutely the way to go (especially during those cold winter months). Create homemade, healthy versions of your favourite soups, stews, curries or casseroles.
10. Quality Over Quantity!
When it comes to food choices, you really do need to consider quality over quantity. Going organic where you can is always a good option and it doesn’t necessarily mean breaking the bank balance.
Farmers' markets or local produce stalls are popping up all over the country these days and they are great for stocking up on seasonal fresh produce.
Buying organic meat is actually becoming a lot easier too; more and more butchers are branching out into online shopping to ensure people can get carefully and consciously sourced grass-fed produce.
As with many things buying in bulk is often cheaper, so if you have a friends or colleagues looking to get healthy this coming year, buddy up and split the shopping and share the rewards of nourishing your body from the inside out.
So we can see it's pretty easy – with a little thought, organisation and preparation you too can cook more healthily and eat cleaner.
Please feel free to share any healthy cooking tips you've discovered that makes your life brighter, cleaner and more vibrant.