Pressed for time? Healthy Food Guide dietitian Karissa Woolfe’s time-saving tips make it easy to provide healthy choices for the whole family!
Cooking healthy meals doesn’t have to take hours on end. With some simple planning and preparation, you’ll be serving up delicious fare to your family every night in no time. We show you how!
1. Plan ahead
You can avoid that feeling of dread when someone asks ‘What’s for dinner?’ by writing out a menu plan for the week.
Devoting just an hour a week to menu planning saves time, money and thinking space. Not only will you know exactly what’s for dinner, but you’ll also have an instant shopping list, eliminating the need to dash to the shops for that forgotten item. You’ll then have more time with your family.
You can start by downloading a weekly menu planner, or draw up one of your own. If planning meals for the whole week is too daunting, start with a day or two at a time, or focus purely on evening meals. Involving the family will stir up enthusiasm, and encourage them to get hands-on in the kitchen, too.
2. Pick up a new vegie
On par with ‘What’s for dinner?’ is the disappointed response, ‘Not that again!’
A recent survey found 37 per cent of Australians reported disagreements with their household over weeknight dinners.
If you’re stuck in a rut and a little tired of your usual repertoire, perhaps you just need some inspiration. So, next time you’re at the green grocers, be on the look-out for a fresh, in-season vegetable that takes your fancy and find a recipe that turns it into the hero of your meal.
Or, flick through your latest copy of Healthy Food Guide and try out a couple of recipes each month. You might even discover some new family favourites!
3. Invest wisely
Time is money and you can’t put a price tag on the value of investing in a healthy lifestyle for your family.
Grocery shopping, waiting for takeaway or eating out at restaurants can take up a huge chunk of your time, especially when you factor in the time spent browsing, travel time and the queueing up.
A recent consumer survey by McCrindle Research found Aussies spend an average of 56 minutes grocery shopping, with over half of us shopping twice a week or more.
Buying groceries online to be delivered to your door can save you time to spend with your family instead. You’ll also avoid crowded car parks, nagging in the supermarket, and impulse purchases.
4. Cook, eat and freeze
The kids’ afternoon activities can eat into meal-prep time, tempting you towards a quick takeaway.
Feeling tired and hungry after a busy day makes it all too easy to pick up a last-minute fast-food meal instead of cooking the fresh food you already have at home.
Apart from the excess kilojoules, fat and salt from most takeaways, uneaten leftovers is a main culprit for household food waste. Get ahead by scheduling your cooking around your family’s commitments.
Slow-cooked meals, bolognese and curries are ideal meals that you can cook once, eat twice (for lunch the next day) and freeze. Doubling the recipe ensures you have healthy meals ready in the freezer.
5. Munch and crunch
Getting in five serves of veg every day can be hard, especially if eating out, or catering for fussy eaters.
We can all benefit from eating an extra serve of fresh vegies a day. According to a recent UK study, this simple health hack reduces overall risk of death by 16 per cent. Read our following tips on tasty ways to include more vegetables into your day.
Ways to sneak in vegies
Serve grilled mushrooms, tomato or baby spinach with cooked breakfasts.
Add diced veg and herbs to omelettes.
Enjoy fresh tomato, avocado and baked beans on toast.
Fill sandwiches with extra salad.
Serve a side salad, or bowl of vegetable soup as an entrée.
Try a new mash combo of potato and pumpkin, cauliflower or cannellini beans.
Add colour to your roasts with a tray of carrots, beetroot and Brussels sprouts.
Use a spiraliser to make veg fun to eat.
Keep vegie sticks front and centre in the fridge for grazing on between meals.
Make vegie dip by adding plain yoghurt to roasted capsicum, beetroot or eggplant. Or hoummos with puréed chickpeas.
Grate beetroot, carrot or zucchini into muffins and cakes.
6. Lighten your load
Ordering meal boxes can take the pressure off meal planning for part of your week.
Meal boxes, such as Hello Fresh, Marley Spoon and Thomas Farms Kitchen, include recipes and ingredients so you can enjoy the cooking without stressing over what to make.
A recent study found many Australians are reluctant to be adventurous in the kitchen because they don’t want to buy ingredients they’ll only use once. By supplying you with the exact quantities for each recipe, ordering a meal box means you’ll have less food wastage.
Did you know? Aussies toss more than $1.1 billion worth of fruit and veg each year.
7. Go with the grain
Whole grains like brown rice, barley and quinoa are high in fibre and rich in vitamins and minerals, but can take time to cook.
Invest in time-saving gadgets like a microwave rice or pasta cooker, pressure cooker or slow cooker. Cook extra so you can freeze it in individual containers. For times when you’re in a rush, use quick and easy options that can be ready within minutes, like vermicelli mung bean noodles, wholemeal couscous or microwavable pouches of brown rice or quinoa.
8. Play together
Being active outdoors together is a great way to enjoy the fresh air and also saves time by not taking everyone to separate activities.
Research suggests families that exercise together have a healthier body weight and also eat better, reducing their risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes later in life. Definitely a win, win! With the rise in outdoor gym equipment being installed across Australia, playgrounds are no longer just for kids. They are a fun and free way for families of all ages to get active together. To find a location near you, visit aspaceto.com.au.
Try these affordable ways to work out as a family.
Go for a leisurely stroll or cycle together.
Walk, ride or scooter to school and work.
Enjoy a friendly family game of backyard cricket, soccer or tennis.
Boost your daily step count by taking shopping bags inside one at a time.
Focus family excursions on walking, like visiting the local zoo, museum or farmers market.
Pack a picnic and throw a frisbee at the beach, or kick a footy in the park.
On rainy days, enjoy a lounge room boogie together, or build an indoors obstacle course.
Go for a swim together (or splash, paddle and giggle!) at your local swimming pool or beach.
Use free outdoor gyms and exercise equipment.
9. Enjoy the table talk
Evidence suggests family meal times can prevent obesity, teen pregnancy or even dementia risk.
There’s a lot of talk about the health dangers of sitting down too much, but one place where we can afford to sit down more is at the dinner table. Studies suggest that families who eat together at the table make healthier food choices and have a healthier body mass index (BMI).
Family meals give everyone a chance to catch up. Digital-free meal times are even better for connecting families, so turn off all screens, including the TV.
10. Go green
Herbs are an easy way to lift a dish from an average mid-week meal to something really special.
Research suggests that including just one gram of fresh herbs each day significantly increases the antioxidants in your diet, helping to protect against oxidative stress and inflammation that can lead to heart disease, dementia and cancer. Herbs highest in antioxidants include marjoram (baby oregano), sage and thyme, so try scattering them on roasted vegies, or add them to meat dishes and pasta sauces.
Egg-cellent! Quick ideas with eggs
Frittata is the perfect way to sneak extra vegies into the kids’ lunch boxes. For a light, healthy meal, enjoy your frittata warm or cold with a side salad.
Poached eggs pair perfectly with avocado and sliced tomato on grainy toast. Find egg poachers or egg-poaching bags in most homewares stores.
Omelettes are an easy, last-minute dinner. Whisk two eggs, a dash of milk and a handful of fresh herbs together, and cook in a pan until set. Serve with grainy toast and a tossed salad.