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Plan for healthy eating

By theghanaianjournal

We know it's essential, but most of us struggle to find the time or the energy to make healthy eating happen.

It's true that healthy eating definitely doesn't happen by accident, but is it really worth the extra effort? Absolutely! A balanced diet can help you live a longer, fuller, healthier life because optimal fuel and essential nutrients mean optimal energy, weight and vitality.

But how can we realistically implement nutritious choices in the maze of drive-throughs, fast foods and vending machines? According to Marieke Loubser, Discovery Vitality's in-house dietician, it's actually not that difficult — it just requires a little planning…

Coming up with a plan
Failing to plan is planning to fail — this is definitely true for nutrition. But before you wince at the thought of adding another task to your 'to do' list, meal planning can be quick and simple. A few minutes invested in planning can save hours of wasted time later.

Planning what you are going to eat over a period of time reduces stress, helps you make more nutritious food choices and saves you money. By incorporating leftovers, reducing unnecessary trips to the shops as well as the amount of take-aways you eat, you will benefit your wellbeing, waistline and wallet!

Plan A
Step 1: Start by choosing one meal (e.g. dinners) for a specific time frame (e.g. a week) and decide on your budget.

Step 2: Involve all members of the family in the meal planning and visualise your week in terms of work, school, exercise, leisure, travel, social occasions and extra-mural activities.

Get ideas from everyone and try to work around each person's preferences, recipes and dietary requirements.

Assign responsibilities to each person to streamline the process, such as making the shopping list, doing the shopping, unpacking the groceries, setting the table and preparing foods like salad.

Step 3: Plan meals based on the healthy plate formula: ½ the plate should be vegetables and fruit, ¼ of the plate should be lean protein or dairy and the last ¼ should be healthy starches.

Some healthy fat should be incorporated in the cooking or as part of the meal. Choose foods and recipes that are easy to prepare and that fit into your budget. Plan to use leftovers for lunch to save time and money.

Step 4: Refer to recipes and compile a shopping list for the week. Make sure you have enough space to store the food safely at the right temperatures.

Step 5: Shop according to your list.
For example, figure out which lean protein (e.g. fish, chicken, meat, eggs, lentils, legumes); which high-fibre starches (e.g. brown rice, baby potatoes, sweet potato, seed bread; vegetables and fruit (a wide range of bright colours); and healthy fats (e.g. olive oil, olives, avocado pear, peanut butter, canola oil, nuts) you will have on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday…

If you can, prepare double portions of meals and freeze half for quick future meals.

Examples of large batches of foods that can be made and frozen are: homemade vegetable soups (legumes, such as beans, peas and lentils, as well as other leftovers could be added when reheating the soup), casseroles and curries. Cook starchy foods, such as barley and rice in bulk and freeze them to be used later.

A slow cooker is a convenient and time-saving appliance. Simply add your ingredients in the morning and a delicious home-cooked meal will be waiting for you when you get home. Less expensive cuts of meat can be used in a slow cooker as they are tenderised in the slow cooking process and these meals retain nutrients.

Plan B
A good strategy for times when you haven't managed to plan ahead is to choose some quick, nutritious meals and always keep stock of the ingredients.

Quick, nutritious meals
Low fat milk or yoghurt (lean protein), whole-grain cereal (high-fibre starches), dried fruit (veg or fruit) and a tablespoon of nuts (healthy fats). Or a boiled egg, seed bread or toast, fruit salad and lite margarine. Or how about a canned tuna in brine, tinned corn, tomato and onion mix. Also sliced cooked chicken or cold meat, wholewheat crackers, cherry tomatoes and baby carrots, and lite mayonnaise. Then there's low-fat cottage cheese, seed roll, sliced cucumber, tomato and gherkin, canned fruit in juice, and a ¼ of a small avocado.

Pantry cuisine
Basic and versatile ingredients to keep in stock for quick 'pantry cuisine' could include: tinned tomato and onion mix, tinned corn, tinned asparagus, tinned chickpeas, tinned lentils, tinned tuna and salmon in brine, tinned sardines and pilchards, dried fruit, whole-grain cereal, nuts, tinned fruit in fruit juice or wholewheat couscous.

Last minute
Buy a freshly roasted chicken from the supermarket, remove the skin and create a balanced meal by adding some wholewheat couscous, a green salad and fresh fruit or yoghurt for dessert.

A simple strategy and a little organisation can mean that your good intentions to eat healthily really do come to fruition!

For more information on healthy eating from Discovery Vitality, visit www.discovery.co.za

Article By: Discovery Vitality