With the nutrition basics in mind, let’s now take a look at the practical side of a healthy diet – that is, eating good food that taste’s great!
You’ve probably heard it before that breaking the overnight fast (i.e. eating breakfast) is important. Eating breakfast is like refuelling the car before a long trip – without the fuel, you won’t go very far. As well as the fuel that breakfast provides, it gives essential vitamins and minerals. People who skip breakfast often struggle to make up the missed nutrients later in the day.
Not everyone feels like eating first thing in the morning. On the other hand, some people wake up feeling hungry and look forward to a more substantial meal before they head out the door. Either way, large or small is better than none at all!
Try one of these energy boosting breakfasts:
- Wholegrain English muffins topped with reduced fat cheese and tomato, with a glass of cold milk and MILO (using reduced fat milk).
- Canned fruit (e.g. pears, peaches, apricots or plums) topped with a tub of light vanilla yogurt.
- Bowl of wheat flake breakfast biscuits topped with reduced fat milk and sliced.
- Banana, and a glass of 100% orange and mango juice.
- Banana and MILO smoothie – made with reduced fat or low fat milk.
- Crumpets with a scraping of polyunsaturated margarine and yeast spread, and a mug of hot milk MILO.
- Porridge with grated apple and sultanas, and a mug of tea.
- Baked beans and grilled tomato on high fibre white toast, with a milk coffee (using reduced fat milk).
- Fresh fruit salad topped with a tub of light strawberry yogurt.
- Swiss muesli (untoasted) with reduced fat milk, topped with apple puree or fresh blueberries.
- Toasted jaffle with baked beans and reduced fat cheese, with a glass of guava juice.
- Grilled mushrooms and creamed corn on wholegrain toast, with a cold MILO and milk.
- Pikelets or flap jacks topped with apple puree and low fat honey flavoured yogurt.
- Boiled or poached egg with wholemeal crumpets and a milk coffee (using reduced fat milk).
Lunches and snacks to go
For lunch you want something to fill you up, not fill you out - out wide that is! You also want something that will provide you with energy for the long afternoon ahead. Falling asleep after lunch in the boardroom meeting isn’t an option!
Whether a takeaway lunch or a home prepared lunch is your style, these super lunch ideas should get you inspired and ‘wired for energy’:
- Thick grainy bread with lean roast beef, tomato, lettuce and relish.
- Tortilla or wrap filled with a skinless chicken breast, a variety of salad ingredients and avocado.
- Wholemeal roll with a small tin of flavoured tuna or salmon and tomato
- Jaffle with baked beans and reduced fat cheese.
- Sushi or California rolls.
- Chunky minestrone or chicken and vegetable soup with a warm crusty wholemeal roll.
- 97% fat free frozen meal in a bowl, heated in the microwave.
- Jacket potato filled with baked beans, reduced fat cheese and tomato salsa.
- Vietnamese rice paper rolls filled with lean meat or prawns, noodles and vegetables, served with sweet chilli sauce.
- Thai beef salad followed by a piece of fruit.
- Pasta with a tomato-based or vegetable-based sauce (avoid creamy sauces) and a leafy salad.
- Pita bread spread with hummus and filled with lean beef or falafel and lots of tabbouli or salad.
Having a snack attack? Try one of these tasty and healthy snacks for a change:
- Takeaway or homemade fresh fruit salad drizzled with low fat fruit yogurt.
- Fruit smoothie made with reduced fat milk, yogurt, banana or canned fruit and honey.
- Tub of low fat fruit-flavoured yogurt tossed through some canned apricots, peaches or pears.
- Handful of dried fruit and nut mix.
- Tall glass of MILO with low fat milk.
- Toasted fruit loaf with a scraping of polyunsaturated or monounsaturated margarine.
- Small tin of flavoured tuna or salmon tossed through a packet of prepared low fat 2 minute noodles.
- Wholemeal savoury biscuits topped with low fat cheese and tomato, or pastrami and relish.
- 97% fat free flavoured noodle snack.
- Steamed or microwaved corn on the cob.
- Fruit-based cereal bar or breakfast bar - look for a low fat variety.
Dinner for one (or two)
A small breakfast, a medium sized lunch and a large dinner – does this sound familiar? This uneven distribution of food is the way many of us eat, but it’s not the best approach. If anything, the largest meal of the day should be breakfast. We need to replenish our fuel reserves first thing in the morning so as to get us up and running. Less fuel is required at the end of the day, because this is when we wind down in preparation for our overnight rest. A medium sized meal that is rich in nutrients (but not kilojoules) is what your body needs in the evening.
If your evening meal is much larger than your breakfast and lunch meal, it’s time to do some shuffling. The best way to go about this is to slowly reduce the size of your evening meal (but not the vegies) while slowly increasing the size of your breakfast meal. This strategy is likely to give you more energy throughout the day and prevent you from feeling overly full at bedtime.
Here are some tasty and nutritious dinner ideas:
- Chicken, vegetable and cashew stir fry with steamed rice.
- Lean beef chilli con carne (with red kidney beans), boiled rice and a side salad.
- Vegetable lasagne with a Greek salad and no-oil salad dressing.
- Spinach and ricotta cannelloni with steamed or microwaved seasonal vegetables.
- A fillet of fish baked in foil with lemon pepper, served with cous cous and an Italian salad.
- Barbequed chicken (skin removed) with sweet corn cobs and a mixed bean salad.
- Grilled or barbequed lean steak with jacket potatoes, peas, carrots and squash.
- 97% fat free frozen dinner (for those late nights when it’s too late to cook).
- Canned flavoured tuna or salmon tossed through low fat 2 minute noodles, served with a ready-made garden salad (available from most supermarkets).
Grocery shopping is probably not your favourite activity. In fact, shopping for food every week or fortnight is something you perhaps would happily do without. However, if you want to start (or continue) looking after yourself, the supermarket, green grocer and butcher is a great place to start.
All packaged foods (with a few exceptions) must display a nutrition information panel on the pack. This helps us to see just how much energy, fat and sugar is in the foods we eat. Taking an interest in the nutritional value of your food can help you achieve better eating habits.
So next time you go shopping, keep these handy tips in mind:
- 5g fat is equal to one teaspoon of fat (picture a teaspoon of butter). If a food has 30g fat per serve, that’s equivalent to eating six teaspoons of butter. That’s a lot of fat in one serve, so look for a lower fat version.
- 5g sugar is equal to one teaspoon of sugar. If a can of soft drink has 40g sugar, that’s like eating eight teaspoons of sugar. Consider another type of drink or a diet soft drink.
- It is recommended that we have around 30g dietary fibre a day. With this in mind, look for ‘high fibre’ breakfast cereals, breads and biscuits when you go shopping. Foods with a ‘high fibre’ claim contain at least 3g fibre per recommended serving size. Foods with a ‘very high fibre’ claim contain at least 6g of fibre per serve.
- Pile up the trolley with lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes (e.g. baked beans, red kidney beans, four bean mix), rice, pasta, cous cous and noodles.
- Choose trim or lean meats and skinless chicken. If there is fat around the steak that you normally buy, cut it off before you cook it.
- Buy reduced fat or low fat dairy products like milk, cheese, yogurt, custard and ice cream.
Takeaway and restaurant food
Restaurant and takeaway food can vary enormously. Sometimes you have little choice but to go with a high fat meal, but in most cases, there are healthier options. Where the healthier options are less obvious on the menu, don’t be afraid to ask your waiter for simple changes, like vegies instead of chips, to make it a more nutritious meal.
Here are some tips when dining out or buying takeaway food:
- Remove any visible excess fat from your meal, like the fat on a steak, the skin on chicken, the batter on fried fish, or the crumbs on fried schnitzel.
- Choose grilled, steamed, poached, barbequed or stir fried foods over fried or deep fried foods.
- Go for lean takeaway cuisine, like sushi, salad filled sandwiches and rolls, stir fried vegetables and seafood with rice, Vietnamese rice paper rolls and fresh fruit salad.
- Ask the sandwich shop staff for lower fat or higher fibre sandwich options (e.g. request only a scraping of margarine and plenty of salad, or lean ham and only one slice of cheese, or wholemeal bread and no added salt).
- Ask the restaurant waiter for boiled or jacket potatoes with your meal instead of chips, or perhaps steamed rice or pasta instead of potato wedges.
- Alcohol contains lots of kilojoules, so go easy when dining out. Ask for a bottle of iced water and alternate your sips between the alcoholic drink and the water.
- These days, many fast food restaurants provide nutrition information on the foods they sell. So next time you are there, look for (or ask for) the nutrition information to check out the fat and fibre content.