The Kitchen

Healthy Cooking and Meal Planning

Cooking healthy meals from scratch doesn’t need to be a hassle. With a little planning and preparation healthy eating can be as easy as A, B, C!

A: Stock up on some kitchen staples

Having a kitchen well-stocked with healthy staples can make all the difference when you are trying to eat healthily. It means these foods are always on hand to help you whip up a healthy meal even after a long, hard day (instead of reaching for a ready meal or a take away). Many of these ingredients are also long-life so therefore will stay fresh, even when you don’t have time to go to the shops. Here are some ideas…

Breakfast staples: You could try making overnight oats, peanut butter and banana porridge, or yoghurt with berries and nuts. 

  • Oats
  • Frozen berries or fruits
  • Mixed nuts + seeds
  • Yoghurt – opt for high-protein
  • Milk (or dairy free alternative)
  • Nut butter

Lunch and dinner staples: You could try a bean chilli with cheese, garlic, egg fried rice and peas, or a slow cooked chicken and bean stew – who would’ve thought you could make such a variety of meals only requiring 10 simple ingredients?

  • Tinned tomatoes
  • Garlic, onions, dried herbs
  • Chicken or vegetable stock (opt for low salt)
  • Frozen vegetables – try peas, sweetcorn and carrots
  • Tinned beans – try chickpeas, butter beans, kidney beans
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Eggs
  • Tinned fish – try some mackerel
  • Lean meat – low fat mince, chicken or turkey (or meat alternatives such as soya mince). You can buy frozen if available.
  • Dried pasta or rice – choose wholegrain options

Did you know that it can be cheaper and healthier to cook your own sauces from scratch? Many recipes such as spaghetti bolognese, chilli con carne and casseroles can be made quickly using a simple tomato sauce recipe, using one key kitchen staple – tinned tomatoes!  Tinned tomatoes are cheap and versatile – they even count towards one of your 5-a-day- win!

Fool proof tomato sauce recipe: 

  1. Thinly slice 1 onion and 1 garlic clove (if you only have one or the other, that’s fine too!)
  2. Fry onions and garlic in a little olive oil.
  3. Add 2 cans of tinned tomatoes and add 500ml of stock.
  4. Bring to the boil
  5. Once boiling, reduce the heat and continue simmering until sauce thickens.
  6. Season with dried herbs or spices, as desired.

P.S. This sauce can also be frozen so make a big batch and freeze different portions. Save on time and energy costs by just defrosting when you need it for the next meal. 

B: Get savvy on healthier cooking

  • Keep vegetables textured and crunchy. For a healthier choice, choose to steam vegetables instead of boil – this will provide plenty of volume and fibre- keeping you fuller for longer and maintaining bowel health. In addition, it keeps many healthy nutrients locked inside the food as they have no opportunity to leach out into the cooking water.
  • Grill (or bake) rather than fry meats. Doing so will prevent any additional calories being added to your food through oils. If you do occasionally need to fry foods, use a low kcal oil spray rather than butter or lard.
  • Bulk up dishes with beans, peas or lentils. These cheap ingredients make your meals cheaper, meaning it will go further. Beans and legumes are also lean healthy proteins which reduce the overall calorie content of your meal whilst giving you a healthy protein boost!
  • Reduce the amount of sugar and salt you add. A huge benefit of cooking from scratch is that you know exactly what you add to your sauces. Often too much sugar or salt is added to ready prepared sauces, which we don’t need in our diet. We recommend trying your finished meal before adding salt or sugar – or better still, add none at all! Your taste buds will soon adapt to a lower salt level. High salt diets are linked to high bloods pressure so the less salt we can use the better.
  • Keep trying new ingredients and flavours. Did you know, research shows the more times you try a new food, the more you are likely to enjoy it. So, it is always worth giving it another go before you make up your mind.
  • Remember frozen is just as good. And in some cases, even better! There is a misconception that frozen food is not as nutritionally ‘good’ as the fresh varieties. However, this simply isn’t true. In some cases (such as frozen peas), many nutrients such as vitamin C are better preserved when they are frozen immediately after picking. Even more reason to keep some frozen fruit and veggies in stock at home.
  • Leave the skins on. Whether it’s a potato, veggies, or fruit- leaving skins on will provide you with a boost of nutrients to your diet, particularly fibre, keeping you fuller for longer.

C: Prep prep prep!

With such little time on our hands, it can be difficult to have the time to cook healthy food every day. But this doesn’t mean we have to reach for a takeaway menu after a long day at work. How amazing would it be to have a delicious, healthy, and nutritious meal waiting for you? Meal prep helps you to keep on track and make healthy decisions, even at the times you are most unlikely to.  It may sound complicated and scary, but it needn’t be - to get going with meal prep, we recommend putting aside a little time once a week to plan what meals you will be having. You can use the meal planner template below to help with planning: 

             DAY                 BREAKFAST            SNACK          LUNCH          SNACK          DINNER          SNACK

MONDAY

 

TUESDAY

 

WEDNESDAY

 

.

 

You could then dedicate an hour or two hours every week towards preparing food for the week ahead – whether this is an activity to fit in first thing on a Sunday, or even on a lunch break midweek. Find a time of the week that suits you. You could try batch cooking, or just starting recipes off… Evenly portion out prepared foods between some suitable containers and store however you choose – voila! Healthy lunch and dinners ready to go when you need them.

Ingredient recycling 

Meal prep does not mean you need to eat exactly the same meal every night, it can just mean that you have a tasty ingredient ready to recycle in different ways through the week. Chose a main ingredient and just add some fresh salad or vegetables on the side each night. 

For example, after cooking up a batch of chilli con carne, you can prepare a number of different meals:

  • Chilli con carne with rice, cheese and yoghurt
  • Tacos with avocado, lime and beans
  • Pasta with beef ragu
  • Spicy shepherd's pie with mince and bean filling – add one of your 5-a-day with a sweet potato mash topping!
  • Jacket potato with chilli and cheese
  • Freeze a portion to use in burritos in a couple of weeks!

Reheating safety 

When cooling cooked meals for the fridge or freezer, ensure to cool foods down as quickly as possible. Do not leave foods sitting around at room temperature, as this is when bacteria can grow. Place them in the fridge or freezer within 2 hours. 

Always store cooked and raw foods separately (particularly raw meat) and label all your meals to make it easier to remember what it is and when you stored it. Do not chill cooked foods for longer than 2 days, if you want to store it for longer – freeze it! Most foods can be frozen safely for up to 3 months 

When ready to eat, many dishes can be reheated in the oven or microwave – just ensure to stir halfway through and ensure food is steaming hot throughout before serving. Food can often heat well around the edges but remain cooler in the centre. Food should reach a minimum temperature of 72 degrees Celsius for 2 minutes (a food thermometer can help here) . Ensure to serve food immediately, whilst it is still hot and steaming. 

Transform Healthcare Limited is registered with the Care Quality Commission. Cosmetic surgery results and benefits can vary and are different for each individual. As such, Transform Healthcare Limited cannot guarantee specific results. Transform is a trading name of Transform Healthcare Limited, registered in England and Wales, Company Registration Number – 10616065. TRANSFORM HEALTHCARE HOLDINGS LIMITED is an Appointed Representative of Funding Falcon Ltd which is Authorised and Regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. TRANSFORM HEALTHCARE HOLDINGS LIMITED (FRN:988595) has been added as an Appointed Representative under Funding Falcon Ltd (FRN:743100). Effective date: 29/11/2022

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