Easy planning ideas for a healthy diet

Healthy cooking does not mean costly lists of little-known ingredients. Much of it is about making a few easy changes to your usual routine and planning ahead.

Easy planning ideas for a healthy diet

Freezing foods is a time saver

Using a freezer to store food ready to use at any time is a great idea — vegetables, fruit, meat, poultry, fish and even some fresh herbs and spices retain their nutritional value when frozen. Here are some tips to keep the food's nutrients.

  • Freeze meat, poultry and fish on the day of purchase and do not store them for longer than three months.
  • Never refreeze raw meat, fish or poultry.
  • Frozen vegetables are very handy — either when store-bought or fresh from the garden.
  • Always freeze your own produce as soon as possible after picking to avoid losing essential vitamins and minerals.
  • Wash and chop the vegetables ready for freezing, then blanch in a pot of boiling water for two to three minutes. Lift out with a slotted spoon, refresh under cold water, drain and pack into labelled containers.
  • Salad vegetables cannot be frozen.
  • Always defrost food thoroughly in the refrigerator before cooking.
  • Do not cook raw poultry or meat from frozen as it may not cook completely.
  • Some seafood and fish can be cooked from frozen — follow the recipe instructions.

Keep your pantry stocked

Stock up on super-food pantry staples and you will always be able to make delicious, healthy food even if you forget to plan ahead. These are the staples that should always be on your shelves:

  • grain products such as brown rice, rolled oats, bulgur, couscous, quinoa, a few different whole wheat pasta shapes, noodles and flour
  • dried and canned legumes, including lentils, cannellini beans, kidney beans and chickpeas
  • a variety of unsalted nuts and seeds
  • oils for cooking and salads — canola oil and olive oil are best
  • natural sweeteners such as agave syrup, honey and maple syrup
  • whole and ground spices, plus a selection of seasonings, such as low-salt soy sauce, stock cubes, herbs and pepper.

The savvy shopper

  • If your local store has a fish or meat counter, ask the fishmonger or butcher to prepare the food fresh for you. You are likely to end up with less waste — and even save money.
  • Try specialty shops either at shopping centres or online, and make use of local farmers' markets for top-quality produce that is locally and ethically farmed.
  • Choose organic ingredients whenever possible as they should be free from pesticides and artificial additives.
  • Look for sustainable sources when buying fish — try to avoid endangered bluefin tuna, orange roughy (ocean perch) and shark, and use more abundant varieties such as snapper, haddock and flounder.
  • Choose free-range chicken and turkey where possible. They are slightly more expensive than cage-raised and may have a better flavour.
  • Beef, pork and lamb are sold ready cubed, sliced or ground, which will save on preparation time. Steaks, chops and tenderloin are best for quick cooking. Always choose lean ground meat. Choose grass-fed or wild meat where available.
  • Fresh is best when it comes to fruits and vegetables, but ready-prepared packs will save you time.

Being prepared with a well-stocked pantry and freezer will make it easier when you're in a rush to maintain your healthy eating habits.

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