As we closer to the spring, it’s natural that our minds turn to fresh goals and objectives. Often this centers on our health like committing to eating more nutritious food. If you’ve made 2022 the year for getting into healthy cooking, we’re here to help. If you’re not used to being in the kitchen, shopping, preparing, and making healthy meals can feel a little overwhelming. However, with some handy hacks and clever tricks, this needn’t be the case. We asked the experts and here’s what you can do:
Plan in advance
As the old adage goes: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”, and this rings true when it comes to healthy eating. Planning in advance what you’re going to eat is by far the best way of ensuring you have nutritious meals on the table. “It not only takes the stress out of deciding what to cook but it can also save time on daily trips to the supermarket. Perhaps think about having a 2-week meal plan which you use for a couple of months before changing things up again,” Pete Williams, founder of Functional Medicine Associates, suggested.
Do a weekly shop
When you live a busy life, carving out time for a big shop often feels unattainable. Instead, popping to the store here and there seems easier. However, committing to a regular time each week where you go to the shop and buy all your food is much more efficient. “Doing a weekly shop as opposed to buying on the go is a great and effective way to make your cooking throughout the week easier and healthier. This type of planning and buying will mean you’re less likely to make impulsive choices and can also mean you’re spending less money overall,” David Wiener, Training Specialist at AI-based fitness and lifestyle coaching Freeletics, explained.
Stock your store cupboards
Ensure your pantry is filled with some healthy favorites so when you’re cut short and don’t have time to nip out to the store, you can rustle up something nutritious and tasty. “You will find store cupboard lists in many cookbooks but it’s a good start to have things like herbs and spices, beans, lentils, tinned tomatoes, olive oil, coconut oil, coconut, milk, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, tamari, nuts, nut butters, seeds, dates, prunes, whole grain rice, quinoa, buckwheat, and oats,” Williams listed.
Leftovers are your best friend
If you go to the hassle of making a lovely nutritious meal, you might as well make more than the portion you need right there and then. Making double so you can eat it the next day or even triple/quadruple so you can freeze it is one of the easiest time-saving hacks when it comes to eating healthily. “Chicken stew, vegetable lasagna, and dhal are examples of meals that can easily go from dinner on a Monday evening to lunch the next day or dinner again on Wednesday night,” Williams recommended. It is also worth prepping bases for meals in bulk.
“For example, home-made Thai curry paste. It might take a bit of time to prepare initially but one batch of paste is usually enough for 2 or 3 delicious meals that can then be whipped up in no time,” Williams added.
Variety is key
Variety is the spice of life and the kitchen when it comes to feeding your body in a nutritionally beneficial way. In order to maximise the nutritional value of food, mix up your meal plan. “When planning what to cook each week, try not to stick to the same meals as preparing the same food every day is not likely to help us achieve the ideal number of 30 diverse plants every week,” Dr. Federica Amati, Nutritionist and Chief Nutrition Scientist for Indi Supplements, highlighted.
Believe in plant power
To ensure you are getting the right array of nutrients, eating a wide variety of plants is key. “The food we eat is made up of complicated chemical structures. These interact with each other as well as with gut microbes and different cells. Build your plate starting with colourful plants at every meal to maximise polyphenols, antioxidants, and fibre,” Dr. Amati said. Consider how you can get more plants into every meal. Luckily there are a plethora of ways to do so. “This can come from seasonal fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, or from dozens of herbs and spices that you can add for extra flavour. For example, mixed herbs and spices added to scrambled eggs, frozen berries in overnight oats, a handful of mixed mushrooms added to a stir fry, or some nuts and seeds blended with fresh basil, rocket, and extra virgin olive oil to make a quick pesto,” Dr. Amati added.
Buy chopped veggies
It might sound like cheating but there’s no shame in this time-saving hack. “This saves time, energy, and effort, and will allow you to make a perfectly healthy, nutritious, and delicious meal,” Wiener noted. See also: frozen veg. “Frozen vegetables also offer more nutrition than freshly chopped vegetables, so don’t be scared to spend some time in the freezer aisle,” Wiener added. Stocking your freezer with vegetables means you always have something on standby to cook that’s full of nutrients.
Olive oil on everything
The research around extra virgin olive oil is impressive and it’s an easy way to get high-quality nutrients into your body. “We now understand more about the pathways through which extra virgin olive oil acts as an antioxidant and improves inflammation,” Dr. Amati explained. “Drizzle on your salads, pasta, fish, and meat dishes, but make sure it’s the extra virgin kind and not the blended ‘olive oils’ that don’t retain any of the nutritional benefits,” she added.
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