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Two people cooking a healthy meal using vegetables

How to cook healthy food

Between holding down a job, caring for your family and everything else in between, spending time in the kitchen cooking healthy meals from scratch might not be at the top of your list of priorities. Instead, you may prefer to keep your dishes quick, easy and convenient - especially if you’re not particularly confident when it comes to cooking up a storm at mealtimes. However, opting for speedy, unhealthy meals could be depriving your body of the essential nutrients it needs on a daily basis.

The truth is, cooking healthy, nutritious food isn’t as difficult as you might think. Keep reading to find out how your diet impacts your health and wellbeing, what a well-balanced diet plan looks like and some simple cooking tips that could help you adopt healthier eating habits.

How does diet affect health and wellbeing?

It’s no secret that what you choose to eat plays a major role in terms of your overall physical health and mental wellbeing. There are many benefits to eating healthily and making sure your diet is balanced and varied, such as:

It can help you maintain a healthy weight

By sticking to a nutritious, well-balanced diet, you should find that you’re able to maintain a healthy weight. While you may indulge in a sweet treat or tasty snack now and again, making sure that your diet is varied and healthy for the most part can help you stay on track when it comes to stepping on the scales.

It can help reduce your risk of developing a serious health problem

An unhealthy diet can lead to obesity, which in turn can significantly increase your chances of developing a serious health condition such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and even some cancers. Being mindful of what you’re putting into your body can also help fight harmful bacteria and viruses, such as the common cold and the flu.

It makes you feel good

While some typically unhealthy foods - including snacks that are high in sugar, such as candy, cupcakes, doughnuts and cookies - may taste great, the reality is, you could be left feeling low, sluggish and fatigued afterwards. By opting for healthier, more nutritious alternatives, such as a piece of fruit or a protein bar, you should find that you feel better from the inside out.

It can help you sleep better

There are a variety of different factors that can affect your ability to sleep well - including your diet. For example, you may suffer from sleep apnea - a condition that causes your breathing to stop and start while you sleep. As a result, you may find that you wake up throughout the night, which can make you feel tired during the day. Sleep apnea occurs when the airways are blocked, which can be caused by being overweight as a result of a poor diet. Making simple adjustments to your diet could prevent issues like this, helping you get the sleep you need.

What is a healthy eating plan?

In short, a healthy eating plan involves making sure you consume a wide variety of foods from all of the major food groups in the right proportions. It should provide your body with the essential nutrients it needs on a daily basis, as well as helping you to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

In order to stick to a healthy, balanced food plan, you should aim to:

  • Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day
  • Base your meals on foods that are high in fiber
  • Instead of dairy, try plant-based alternatives like soy milk and OWYN Protein Shakes
  • Include a sufficient amount of protein by eating foods such as eggs, meat, fish, pulses and beans
  • Opt for unsaturated spreads and oils in small quantities
  • Drink plenty of hydrating fluids

Healthy cooking tips

You don’t need to be an expert chef in order to adopt better cooking habits. In fact, there are a number of simple changes you can make in the kitchen to ensure that you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet, such as:

Ditch Ready-to-Eat meals and cook from scratch

While they may seem like a quick and easy solution at mealtimes, ready-to-eat meals are notorious for being highly processed and rich in salt, meaning they are bad news for your overall health - especially if you’re eating them on a regular basis.

Simply ditching ready-to-eat meals in favor of cooking from scratch is the first step to living a healthier lifestyle. Preparing and cooking recipes using fresh, nutritious ingredients means you’re in control of what you put into your body, making it easier for you to make healthy food choices.

Switch to low fat alternatives

Switching to low fat alternatives is an easy way to make your cooking a little healthier. For example, you could swap cream for low fat milk, yogurt or almond milk, or you may want to try replacing high fat sauces with a substitute such as pesto or salsa. You could also try switching cooking oil for a healthier alternative like stock, vinegar, lemon juice or even just water.

Try to retain the nutrients

Some of the vitamins found in foods can be lost during the preparation and cooking process, but by simply fine tuning your culinary technique, you could actually retain a lot of these all-important nutrients. For instance, since many nutrients are found close to the skin, you may want to try washing your vegetables instead of using a peeler. It might also be worth microwaving or steaming your veggies rather than boiling them.

Cut down on your salt intake

While salt can enhance the flavor in some of your favorite meals, too much of it can contribute to a range of health problems, including high blood pressure, so it’s important to be mindful of how much of it you include in your diet. The good news is, reducing your salt intake doesn’t mean you have to lose out on that all-important taste. For example, you could try adding a splash of olive oil, lemon juice or vinegar to your recipes instead.

You may also want to get into the habit of limiting your consumption of salty, processed meats, including ham, salami, bacon and corned beef, and choose reduced salt alternatives when it comes to foods such as bread, butter and cheese.

Are you ready to shake up your diet to feel happier and healthier? Making a few simple changes to what you eat could have a significant impact on both your physical and mental wellbeing.