Practical guidelines to cook healthier meals

Living a healthier lifestyle may seem daunting, but making a few changes can make all the difference. Start with your choice of ingredients, seasonings and cooking methods to make sure that you eat as healthily, fresh and unprocessed as possible. This does not mean buying expensive ingredients. There are lots of really healthy meals that can be made with everyday ingredients. If you run out of ideas, just use the recipes on this website.

When planning a meal that should keep you feeling fuller for longer or to be ideal for people with diabetes, there are a couple of choices that can determine how healthy the meal is. What you choose and how you decide to prepare it is a good starting point, and could have a positive effect on your blood sugar levels. Always keep your Plate model in mind.

Follow these 7-steps to a healthier meal

Step 1.

Choose the protein-rich food for the meal.

Step 2.

Decide what the end result should be, e.g. is it a protein with a separate starch and veg, or a one-pot meal?

Step 3.

Decide on the starch for the meal, remember this can even be a starchy vegetable like sweet potatoes or butternut – a better choice than white rice or potatoes.

Step 4.

Choose more fresh fruit and veg and decide if they will be part of the main dish or served as a side or salad.

Step 5.

Before you start cooking, determine your portions correctly so that you have the right amount of food for the size of your family. If you are unsure, you can follow the portions indicated in each of the recipes in this book. Remember the guidelines from the Plate model.

Step 6.

Choose a cooking method as explained below.

Step 7.

Decide on a fat or oil best suited for the meal, where necessary. Sometimes you will use this to prepare the food and with other dishes it will be an accompaniment, like avocado or a salad dressing.

Choice of cooking methods

The flavour of a dish does not only depend on the ingredients and seasoning – your choice of cooking method can definitely enhance the flavour of a dish. For instance, when making a stew, ingredients that are pan-fried at the beginning, add a lot of flavour when compared to those that are just boiled together. Choose cooking methods that don’t need a lot of fat or oil. Good options are steaming, grilling, roasting, stir-frying, dry-frying, pot-roasting, baking and boiling. If you are unsure, choose a cooking method from any of the recipes from the series of Cooking from the heart recipe books.

Choice of fats and oils to cook with

When cooking with oil, remember to measure it with a measuring spoon, instead of just pouring it. Use oils like olive, sunflower or canola oil. Avoid over-heating any of these oils to prevent them from forming harmful substances and losing important nutrients in the food you are preparing.

Cooking from the heart tip: When oil is over-heated it starts to smoke in the pan – this should never happen.