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How to set the foundation of healthy eating in the home

Let’s get something straight. You don’t need to give yourself a label in order to start eating healthier, and you don’t need to purchase an array of foods that may have been foreign to you up until this point – trust me, people were eating healthy well before coconut oil became a thing. So, if you’re reading this because you are feeling motivated about eating a little better at home, here is my first message: KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid.

What do I mean?

Don’t start down a path you’re not going to follow. The trouble with strict diets is unless you have a medical need for a nutritional plan that cuts out particular food groups or nutrients, it can be incredibly hard to stick to it. And by not sticking to it, you can begin to feel down or overwhelmed by it all.

Instead, start with a few basic rules. You may find this approach much easier for sustaining a well-balanced and healthy diet. Plus, you will find you will naturally start eating less of the stuff that is not as good for you (such as added and free sugars) and feel much happier overall!

So, here are some basics to help you set the foundation for better eating at home.

Hot tips for healthy eating in the home:

  • A weekly shop and a meal plan will help you resist the temptation to ditch the healthy meal for junky take-away or ultra-processed foods
  • Try amping up the vegetable intake by eating whole food vegetarian more often, i.e. every second night
  • Reduce the portion size of meat. Instead of a 250g steak, try for 150g, and bolster the meal with some more veg
  • Cook double-batches of recipes and store the leftovers in the freezer for easy weeknight meals
  • Variety!! Try out a new recipe each week, experiment with different foods and cuisines to keep things interesting

At the beginning of the week, stock your pantry, fridge, and freezer with foods that are good for you. That means lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, a little meat, good quality tinned products that are low in sugar and additives, and a range of pantry products that can help you put together quick meals.

Here’s what’s in my pantry on any given day:

  • Canned vegetables & legumes: Chickpeas, cannellini beans, black beans, tinned tomatoes
  • Canned Fish: Anchovies, sustainable tinned tuna
  • Grains: Quinoa, brown rice, freekeh, buckwheat groats, polenta, whole-wheat couscous
  • Dried Legumes: Lentils (of all varieties), split peas, chickpeas
  • Tahini, peanut or other nut or seed butter. Make sure to check the ingredients list on the back of the jar for a 100% pure product

And in my fridge:

  • Good quality jarred pickles & vegetables: Preserved lemons, jarred roasted capsicum, gherkins, pickled onions
  • Good quality jarred sauces/marinades such as Chermoula and Harissa Paste
  • Cows milk and goats milk cheeses
  • Greek yoghurt to make sauces and dressings, or to dollop

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with buying some pre-prepared sauces or marinades to help you during the week – but opt for a good quality product and check the ingredients list for added sugar. That might mean you need to purge some items in your pantry or fridge – that bottle of tomato sauce filled with sugar? Be brave. Chuck it out.

If you don’t often cook, and you’re living off take-away or pre-packaged meals, you might be getting a little nervous at this point. Yes – you need to armour up and get in the kitchen if you want to start eating healthier. Don’t know where to start? Head to our article for first-time cooks.

Even for those of us that do love cooking, life sometimes gets in the way. How many times have you come home from a tiring day at work, stared blankly in the fridge and just thought – ah, let’s get takeaway? Trying to plan meals at the beginning of the week will help remove this obstacle, as well as having some quick-wins for those busy evenings. Check out our blog on meal planning as well as suggestions for one-pan dinners to help you build some healthy recipes into your week.

Finally, enjoy meals with others to encourage healthier eating by everyone in the household. And a simple rule that’s borrowed from Buddhist teachings on mindfulness, but one I’ve found really useful through the years:

Sit down when you eat.

Simple, right? So instead of eating that apple on the go, cut it up, put it on a plate, sit down, and appreciate that apple when you eat it. You’ll be surprised at how much more satisfied you’ll feel! 

By Victoria Thaine,
Recipe Contributor

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