I read a really interesting article recently about the one thing that the healthiest, longest living communities in the world had in common – it was that they all cooked their own meals. No frozen dinners, jars of sauces or sachets of flavourings. They prepared a meal from scratch with whole food ingredients.
Certainly as we’ve moved away from preparing meals from real foods to assembling meals from processed or pre-packaged ingredients or ordering take-ways, the rates of diet related illness has also risen.
But, I do understand that in our culture, asking people to cook every meal, from scratch is just not realistic. So I thought I’d share some of my tips for saving time in the kitchen, planning ahead for a pear-shaped day and choosing healthy options when eating out.
- It is really important to have a routine in place for stocking your cupboards with core ingredients. So I personally shop for the bulk of my fresh produce once a week at my local farmers market and once a fortnight I stock up on dry stores and toiletries/cleaning products at the supermarket. This routine ensures I have everything I need to feed my family well. For further inspiration for stocking your pantry well, check out the free healthy pantry list at www.wellnourished.com.au.
- When you spend time preparing a meal, always cook more than you need. Doubling-up only takes only a few more minutes, but you will end up with enough for another meal or at least extras to pack a decent lunch the next day.
- Even when I bake, I often double the recipe and for example, make two cakes or slices that I portion and freeze. I generally pack these into my kids’ lunches from frozen.
- Stock-up your freezer with the left overs (perfect preparation for a future pear-shaped day).
- Take-out for me is always either a good quality pizza, Japanese, Thai or Indian. Instead of eating ‘fast food’, phone ahead to order a decent meal.
- Please do your best to avoid ‘kids’ meals when dining out. Most kids’ meals are just horrendous. Personally, I have always skipped the kids menu and halved-up an adult’s meal, or I order them an entree. When they were really young, we just shared food from our own plate (also a great way to extend their own palate for real foods).
Eating well is more about habit than will power – it is not a ‘diet’ rather a lifestyle.
RECIPE // QUICK AND EASY DHAL
This quick and easy dhal recipe is great for a last minute meal as I always have the ingredients in the pantry. It’s my backstop when I forget to take meat from the freezer or if the day escapes me. Serve it with rice or quinoa and a big leafy salad, or some steamed vegetables and you have a nutritionally balanced meal.
1 large onion, finely diced
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
2-3cm piece ginger, finely diced
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander seed
2 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 large carrot, grated
1 small zucchini, grated
350g tin tomatoes, roughly chopped or 1 can of diced tomatoes
1 cup red lentils
400g tin coconut milk
1 ½ cups, water, chicken or vegetable stock
3 tbsp almond meal
Dried chilli, to taste
1 tsp sea salt (or more to taste)
Black pepper, to taste
1 lime, juice & zest to finish
Bunch coriander, roughly chopped
5-6 curry leaves (optional)
- In a medium sized pot, over a low to moderate heat, add a little coconut oil or ghee. Sauté the onion, garlic, ginger and spices for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the grated carrot, zucchini, tomatoes, lentils, coconut milk, water (or stock) and almond meal. Season well, stir and leave to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the lentils are cooked and most of the moisture is absorbed.
- Finish with coriander leaves and lime. Season again if necessary (sea salt lifts the flavours in this so make sure you add it).
- I always serve this with brown rice or quinoa and either fresh or dried chilli so the heat can be adjusted by each individual.
A little natural yogurt or coconut cream on top of the dhal helps kids adjust to the spiciness.
For more healthy inspiration and free recipes, visit www.wellnourished.com.au.