How to give your kitchen a healthy makeover

Healthy eating starts at home.
Healthy eating starts at home. Photo: Getty

And by makeover, I don't mean a completely unrecognisable cleanout that is totally unsustainable and a pie-in-the-sky, never-to-be-reached dream for most busy mums. I mean an achievable healthy kitchen, with small swaps your family is willing to accept and your children will actually embrace.

Ready? Let's give this thing a good go.

What to ditch:

1. Processed foods. The general rule, according to Bodypass nutritionist, Rachael Javes, is to, "remove any foods that contain a long list of ingredients, especially if those ingredients cannot be pronounced. Go back to basics. Fresh foods that are in their most basic form." This applies to everything. Pick up your yoghurt/ biscuits/ margerine and study the label. If it's loaded with ingredients that don't even sound like food to you, chuck it.

2. Anything labelled low-fat. "These over-processed foods are usually high in sugar and should be avoided at all costs," says Javes. Which means you and the kids eat more wholefoods, less of the unhealthy stuff. By eating full fat foods you have sustained energy and usually end up eating less calories overall. "Fat is an important source of energy," Javes confirms.

3. Sunflower or vegetable oils, margerine. Replace with olive oils - preferably Extra Virgin Olive Oil - to splash on salads and eat with cold foods. "Rice bran oil is good for cooking," says Javes, "coconut oil is good for cooking and using in easy recipes like bliss balls." Swap margerine for real butter.

4. Sugar laden peanut butter. Swap for the sugar-free varieties or even mix it up with other nut butter varieties.  

5. Fizzy drinks and sugary snacks. Soft drinks have zero nutritional value. "Replace these with fun and healthy alternatives," says Javes. "Flavoured teas are good, and things like lollies can be replaced with frozen grapes or homemade sweets made with rice malt syrup instead of sugar."

Stock up on:

The best bit about new-style healthy eating, is that it doesn't involve cutting out food groups and feeling hungry. The idea is to eat! Nourish your body with good foods rather than thinking you are depriving yourself of treats.

1. Pantry staples are important especially for busy (and hungry) people. It's harder to make healthy choices when you're starving as you tend to grab the easiest, most convenient things. Raw nuts - and a good variety of - are excellent choices for a hungry tummy. Quinoa, coconut milk, eggs (boil them in preparation), lots of veggies, cans of legumes such as lentils and chickpeas, seeds, oats, brown rice and hommous should be on hand as they can be thrown together to make an easy and filling meal in no time.  

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2. Fill your fridge with veggies. Vegetables should occupy the largest amount of space in the fridge. Look for delicious ways to increase your green vegetable intake by incorporating them into dishes. "I regularly make kale pesto to mix with pasta for a quick evening meal or spread it on salmon, or even with scrambled eggs," says Javes. "Other ways of incorporating green vegetables into your daily diet is through green smoothies, in frittatas or curries."

Sometime eats:

We can't be food angels everyday. Even nutritionists like Rachael acknowledge that moderation is the best policy, so we don't end up binging on sweet stuff all the time.

Dark chocolate

"A couple of pieces of dark chocolate are fine a few times a week but make sure it's a couple of pieces and not a couple of blocks," she says.

Cheese, red meat, bread

"A bit of cheese, a bit of red meat, a slice of good quality bread are all okay sometimes but the amounts in most households are quite high. A rule of thumb could be twice a week for these sorts of foods and alternatives sought for the rest of the time," says Javes. Aha! So we don't have to give up all the good stuff.  

Preparation Shortcuts

The key, according to Javes, is to spend time preparing on the weekend, so you save time during the week.

"I never cook enough just for one meal for the family," says Javes, "I always double or triple the amount so I have enough to put in the freezer for another two meals and pull out for week nights. I do this also with portions of rice or quinoa so I have enough to pull out for a healthy lunch or an accompaniment for a main meal. My other very useful tip is when you get home from the supermarket, chop up heaps of veggie sticks (carrots, celery, cucumber, capsicum etc) straight away so that you have them available for a few days."

"It's all about preparation," says Carla McMillan, co-founder and healthy chef at Bodypass. I love roasting veggies on a Sunday so I have them ready to throw into salads or to put into a frittata for a filling and healthy meal. Making up snack sized zip lock bags of nuts and snacks at the beginning of the week can be really helpful so you can throw them into your bag as you walk out the door."

Great food swaps:

Biscuits - for rice cakes/crisp breads spread with healthy peanut butter.

Toasted muesli - for porridge or raw fruit free muesli. Even better why not make your own.

Bread - try and replace cheap pre-sliced bread for good organic sourdoughs.

Cheese - a little cheese is okay but try to mix it up with some different varieties such as goats cheese and/or some lower fat options like cottage cheese.

White sugar and sugar alternatives - With rice malt syrup or Stevia.  

Muesli bars - make your own low sugar varieties, or on the go snacks like healthy bliss balls, or just grab a handful of nuts.

Sugar alternatives - swap equal with rice malt syrup or Stevia.

Icecream - serve some natural yoghurt sweetened with fruit or rice malt syrup.

Chicken nuggets - make your own:  a few chicken breasts, some lemon juice, parsley and breadcrumbs. 

Sausages - substitute for cans of tuna, poached chicken, or some boiled eggs.

Juice - coconut water is a great alternative to plain water if you want a treat.  Alternatively cooling some fruit tea and serving with ice and fruit (lemon/lime/mint) is very refreshing.

Party pies and sausage rolls - try making your own sausage rolls or fish fingers for the kids.

Chips - swap in nuts, seeds, veggie sticks, popcorn (preferably homemade).

Roasted nuts - always eat raw nuts.

Cup-a-soup - homemade soup that has been frozen in batches. If this is not an option then choose the good quality soups from the refrigerated section of the supermarket e.g. Pitango soups.

Last top tip:

"Invest in a good food processor if you can afford it as it will help speed up cooking," says Javes. "They can be used for multiple things like making pesto, soup, chopping nuts to make granola or bliss balls, chopping your veggies or grating. I use mine constantly to speed cooking up."  Ah yes, the Thermomix/VItamix/Is a super expensive kitchen appliance necessary debate. Let's save that for another time, shall we?