The old school view of healthy eating is one of bland ingredients and overall tastelessness: unsalted lean meat, piles of flavourless peas and carrots and a bowl of lettuce. Of course, nobody actually makes ‘healthy’ meals like that anymore (you can serve up the above dish and have it be completely devoid of nutritional value if you cook it wrong), but there’s still widespread doubt around just how yummy healthy cooking can be.
Healthy cooking, in a nutshell, is one in which your body is getting the proper balance of nutrients from a variety of food groups, without leaning too far over in any direction. In other words, just because scientists have given saturated fats the thumbs up, you don’t want to be making cream based sauces for your veggies every night. Nor do you want to be serving up American-sized portions of grains with each meal just because we know that carbs are not evil (#timnoakes).
Here are my 5 simple rules for cooking balanced meals loaded with nutrients…
- Veggies with everything! Yes, even breakfast. Veggies contain the highest concentration of vitamins and minerals and they are low in carbs, so you truly can eat as much as you want without any ill effects. *Note – my go-to breakfast is actually a boiled egg and slice of wholegrain toast, but prior to that I have a green smoothie with fruit and spinach for my veggie hit.
- Complex carbs over refined carbs. I very rarely eat anything white – bread, rice, potatoes. While these won’t kill you if eaten in moderation, they have no nutritional value, or far less, than complex carbs, making them empty calories. I eat sweet potato, starchy veg like gem squash and parsnips and, if I really feel like grains, brown rice.
- Protein with every meal. Protein-rich meals keep you fuller for longer and keep your blood sugar levels stable, meaning you won’t crave something sweet which spikes your sugar levels and gives you the 3pm slump.
- Keep processed foods to a minimum. Packaged products are filled with unpronounceable chemical preservatives. You wouldn’t buy a packet of Butylated Hydroxytoluene and stick it on the braai, so why would you eat it every day in your favourite breakfast cereal? Mad-made chemicals acidify the body’s PH levels, which accelerates bones degeneration and loss.
- Cut down on sugar. I won’t go into the why’s and wherefore’s – you can read all about the evils of sugar here and here – but suffice it to say that it is the single most damaging food that humans today consume. I’m not saying don’t ever have it, but cut it down so that the bulk of your diet contains little or no sugar.
Here’s some healthy dinner inspiration.
Quick and Easy Stir Fried Beef on Rye Pasta
Chop up veggies of choice and saute in coconut oil with a little cumin. Fry strips of beef in olive oil, paprika, cayenne pepper and garlic. In a separate pot, combine a good quality tomato puree with fresh chillies, garlic and red wine. Reduce til thick and full of flavour. Boil a handful of rye pasta or other wholewheat pasta of choice. Toss everything together and garnish with fresh spinach.