Food & Drink

Top tips for healthy cooking

Image - Luca Baroncini
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Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

Nutrition expert Juliette Kellow, in association with Uncle Ben, gives us just a little advice on how to cook more healthier.

Cooking wholesome, nutritious meals for all the family needn’t mean searching the supermarket for weird and wonderful ingredients, spending a fortune or endlessly slaving away in the kitchen. Fortunately, there are many ways you can create fuss-free, nutritious meals your family will love. Check out these tips…

Stock your kitchen with healthier convenience foods
Cans of beans and fish, frozen veg, jars of ready-made sauces and packets of microwaveable rice mean you’ll always be able to create healthy, balanced meals in minutes. In particular, look for products that are free from artificial flavours, colours and preservatives. Uncle Ben’s sauces and rice products are all free from these ingredients – and many are low in fat and/or saturated fat, too.

Eat fewer fatty foods
For a healthy heart it’s important to eat less fat and especially less saturated fat. Start by cutting down on fatty foods like crisps, biscuits, chocolate, cake, chips and fried foods – these foods don’t contain many vitamins and minerals either. Eat fewer takeaways, too, as they can be loaded with fat. With the help of Uncle Ben’s sauces and rice it’s easy to create an Indian or Chinese meal that’s lower in fat and calories than one from your local restaurant – and in much less time than it takes to wait for a takeaway to be delivered!

Check out the GDA
Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs) indicate how much a typical serving of a product contributes to guideline daily intakes for calories and certain nutrients. All Uncle Ben’s products include nutrition information on the front of the pack and clearly show the % GDA provided by a typical serving for calories, fat, saturates, sugar and salt. Looking at this information and understanding how it fits into your whole day’s intake can help you create healthy, balanced meals that all the family will love.

Ditch the salt pot
Nutrition experts recommend we reduce the amount of salt in our diet to stay healthy. Teenagers and adults should have no more than 6g a day, whilst younger children need even less. So don’t add salt to meals and get into the habit of looking at the label to find out how much salt a product contains. Where possible, choose products that contain the lower amount of salt.

Get the balance right
Putting together a healthy balanced meal couldn’t be easier. Fill a third of your plate with rice, potatoes or pasta, another third with vegetables and the remainder with protein-rich foods such as lean meat, chicken, fish, eggs or beans. Then finish off with a pot of low-fat yogurt and some fruit. It’s that simple!

On your way to 5-a-day
One of the easiest ways to give your health a boost is to eat five different servings of fruit and vegetables every day. Fresh, frozen and canned fruit and veg all count (but potatoes don’t as they belong with other starchy foods like rice and pasta). For children who don’t like eating veg on their own, try adding peas, peppers, sweetcorn and onions to ready-made sauces or packets of microwaveable rice.

Cook with your kids
If your children are fussy eaters, get them involved in helping to prepare meals such as washing veg, adding ingredients to a pan or pouring in a jar of ready-made sauce. Let them help lay the table, too. Children are more likely to eat well and try new dishes if they’ve had a hand in preparing them and if you use a pack of rice or a jar of sauce, it couldn’t be easier.

Get experimenting
If you fancy a change from your usual family meals start experimenting with a few new ingredients. It doesn’t mean you’ll have to spend hours in the kitchen. Simply add a few different varieties of veg to your supermarket trolley; try turkey instead of chicken and swap canned tuna for canned salmon. Uncle Ben’s has a wide range of different cooking sauces and varieties of rice that you can mix and match, too, helping you create literally hundreds of different nutritious meals in minutes.

Snack right
Help your family to eat more healthily by providing nutritious snacks. Good choices include fresh and dried fruit, low-fat yogurts and fromage frais, oatcakes with low-fat cheese, wholegrain cereal with semi-skimmed milk, wholemeal toast with peanut butter, vegetable sticks with low-fat dips such as salsa and wholemeal pitta bread filled with egg and salad. Don’t forget drinks, either – water, milk, fruit juice and smoothies are the most nutritious drinks to choose.

Enjoy family mealtimes together
Young children love to copy older kids and their parents so if you want them to eat well, switch off the TV, sit around the table and enjoy family meals together. Children will be far more likely to dip into the salad bowl if they see everyone else doing it. Plus, it gives everyone in the family time to catch up on what’s happened during the day.