Written by Ceitanna Cooper
Ceitanna is a UK Registered Associate Nutritionist and Health & Wellbeing Physiologist Programme Manager for AXA Health.
The merits of a nutritionally balanced diet are long-established. Most of us are aware, to some degree, that when combined with other healthy lifestyle habits, such as better sleep, moving more, and drinking plenty of water, diet is the foundation to building – and maintaining – great health.
But healthy eating doesn’t have to be boring, restrictive or complicated.
While cooking from scratch is one of the best ways to look after your health, with a bit of planning and creative know-how it’s possible to keep loving your food, minimise your time in the kitchen and have more time for other things you love.
“The key to staying on the wellbeing wagon is to keep things interesting”, says Ceitanna Cooper, Registered Associate Nutritionist at AXA PPP healthcare.
“Healthy eating doesn’t have to mean taking the enjoyment out of food. It’s possible to have fun and make delicious meals using healthy ingredients with a few little tricks and hacks along the way.”
Ceitanna’s shared her top 6 tips for keeping your diet interesting:
1. Try one new recipe every week
This’ll give you something to look forward to if you’re feeling a little stuck in a rut with your weekly shop, not to mention increase your kitchen confidence.
If you’ve got a favourite staple that you have often, there’s nothing wrong with that. But why not look up some more recipes featuring that specific ingredient to increase your repertoire!
2. Recreate your favourite takeaway
Just because you’re trying to eat better, doesn’t mean you should deprive yourself of your favourite treats. But instead of heading for the takeaway menu on Friday night, why not recreate your own? It often works out cheaper, as well as healthier, so a double win.
3. Plan ahead
This may sounds obvious, but it works so well. Just 30 minutes at weekend will be one of the best half hours you can spend planning your breakfast, lunch and dinner for the week ahead, especially if you know it’s going to be a busy one. If you’ve got the ingredients you need to put together a meal, you’re less likely to head for the convenience food. Plenty of online supermarkets allow you to add ingredients into your basket from their recipe inspiration pages which can really help you to optimise your prep!
4. Treat your taste buds
Try something you haven’t tasted before. Even those of us who think we’ve tried pretty much everything haven’t! Challenge yourself to try a new food every week and incorporate it into a recipe to keep things interesting.
5. Batch cook ‘base’ meals
You can make your own ‘convenience food’ by having a ready prepped ‘base’, which can be used for a variety of different meals. Why not batch cook some roasted veg, beef or turkey mince and a simple tomato sauce with garlic and herbs, then freeze them in separate containers to have at the ready. You can then use them how you like depending on what you fancy – a pasta dish, chilli, burritos, or lasagne, customising them by adding extra herbs, beans or pulses. (If meat’s not for you, perhaps try a protein substitute, such as soya or tofu.)
6. Ban the bland
At its most basic, healthy food is simple to prepare, but it’s what you do with it that can take it from naturally delicious to next level scrumptious! Adding flavour needn’t mean shaking on extra salt or heading for a sugary, fat-laden sauce. A few ingredients, such as garlic, spices, chillies and herbs give a real flavour boost to any dish. Making your food as colourful as possible with fruit and veg makes it a feast for the eyes, helps keep things interesting and means you’re getting a greater variety of vitamins and minerals.
Also, why not try a different cooking method? Boiling, frying, steaming, poaching all provide different textures and flavours.