Stocking Your Kitchen Part 1: Read This Before Your Next Shop!
Stocking your kitchen: making healthy meals the easier choice - By Gillian Farren
One of the easiest ways to ensure you make a fresh and healthy start in your kitchen is to ensure a good stock of staple foods in your fridge, freezer and store-cupboard.
As a rule of thumb, foods which are less processed and have less packaging are not only kinder to the environment, they are usually healthier too. That said, though, to maintain a practical approach to healthy eating, you may find you need to have a balance of both.
When buying packaged foods, choose nutrient-rich options that have more vitamins, minerals and fibre, and less salt, fat and sugar – check your labels and use the following guide to help you find the healthier choices:
- Fats: if you are trying to keep fat to a minimum in your diet, look for a 40% fat spread (or containing 40g fat per 100g) or lower. Some people find that they struggle with the taste and texture of these products, so the sensible alternative can be to reduce your intake of full-fat versions (which are usually 60-80% fat) or to cut them out altogether – especially if using other spreadables such as jam, yeast spread (e.g. marmite/vegemite), nut butters or cheeses. “1 kcal” oil sprays are also a good alternative to cooking oils – alternatively try baking, poaching or grilling instead of frying.This guide to food labelling offers a general “rule of thumb”, but remember that some foods are naturally high in sugar, fat or salt, and so they will not be so straight-forward to navigate. For these foods, here are some additional tips:
- Naturally salty foods: (e.g. marmite, cheese and soy sauce) these can be tricky to substitute, so being mindful about how much we use daily is the best approach; healthy adults should aim for a salt intake of less than 6g per day (adults with health conditions and children: seek specialist advice)
- Sugary foods and drinks: (including table sugar, honey, fructose and syrups) many foods can taste just as pleasant without added sugar, but it can take a bit of getting used to, so stick with it once you have made a change (e.g. cutting out sugar in tea or coffee); most people find that their taste-buds adjust after about three weeks. If you still struggle without added sweetness in your foods, there are still changes you can make. Where you can (and unless you have health condition or a diagnosed sensitivity that prevents you from doing so), opt for alternative sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharin, sucralose or stevia. Some sugar manufacturers offer “half-and-half” options which can also be useful. Be mindful that products labelled “no added sugar” (e.g. fruit squash concentrates) may already be naturally high in sugar, so use in moderation. Packaged foods labelled “sugar free” usually offer the healthiest choice.
Part 2 of Stocking your kitchen: The Healthy Fridge