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How to make healthier versions of your family’s favourite meals

by HEALTH talk

We all want our kids to lead healthy lives, and a large part of that is what we as parents feed them. But how do you go about making sure each meal is as healthy as possible? Jane Rylands, Head of Marketing Communications at kitchen appliance manufacturer Belling, is here to share her top tips for how you can make healthier versions of your family’s favourite meals.

In today’s world, it’s more important than ever to watch what we’re letting our kids eat and drink. Part of this means teaching them about the joys of cooking while nurturing a love for healthy food. One way you can encourage your kids to do this is to create healthier versions of their favourite meals, which can often be very calorific. In this article, I’m going to share some fantastic tips you can use to make just about any meal that little bit healthier.

Limit added sugar and salt

It’s probably not a surprise that most people eat far more than the recommended amounts of added sugar and salt each day. If your kids are eating too much of either on a regular basis, this can increase their risk of developing health conditions later in life. Ideally, you want to aim for less than six teaspoons of added sugar and five grams of salt per day.

You’ll find sugar and salt in all kinds of food products, but it is added sugar and salt that we need to be most concerned about. When shopping, spend some time comparing food labels and choose products that have the lowest amounts of added sugar and salt. When you’re cooking at home and you have to use sugar or salt, try cutting back the serving. If you’re baking, try using half as much sugar as the recipe calls for. When it comes to salt, try not using any at all during cooking, and just add a little at the end if necessary.

Incorporate more fruits and vegetables

The NHS recommends that we should all have at least five portions of fruit and vegetables each day, but there’s really no limit to how many you can have. Fruit and veg provide us with the vitamins, minerals, and fibre that are essential to our bodily functions, which is even more important for growing kids. For the best results, you want them to eat as wide a variety of fruit and veg as possible.

There are all kinds of great ways you can add extra fruit and veg into meals. Home classics like spaghetti Bolognese, pizza, and a roast are all fantastic for squeezing in an extra couple of portions. Another great option for pasta dishes is to spiralise vegetables such as carrots, courgettes, and sweet potatoes. A good rule of thumb is to try to make at least half your plate fruits and veggies.

Cut down on fats

Fats get a bad name, but they are an incredibly important part of our diet. They give us all kinds of benefits such as providing essential fatty acids, helping out body’s absorb nutrients, and provide a great source of energy. It’s recommended that we get around a third of our calories from fats but, because they are so calorie-dense, it’s easy for them to enhance our waistlines. The most important factor is choosing fats that are healthy for us.

Saturated fats are the ones we need to watch out for. That includes fats from animal products, such as meat, dairy, and eggs, as well as vegetable fats that are liquid at room temperature. Limiting these kinds of fats to no more than 10% will help to keep your health in order. You can try substituting butter for a low-fat alternative such as margarine, or consider using reduced fat dairy products such as milk, cheese, and cream. If you’re cooking with oils, try using healthier options such as sunflower and olive oil.

Use healthier cooking methods

There are loads of different ways to cook your dishes, but many people don’t think about how their cooking methods affect the nutritional levels of their food. Heat can break down up to 20% of the vitamins in some vegetables, but it can also help your body absorb more in other vegetables. Carrots, celery, and green beans for example, vastly increase their level of antioxidants when cooked.

Microwaving:

Not only is microwaving an incredibly fast way to cook, the short duration means that fewer nutrients are destroyed in the cooking process.

Boiling:

Boiling is a healthy way to cook vegetables, although the high temperatures of the water can wash away vitamins and minerals.

Steaming:

Boiling’s healthier cousin, steaming allows your ingredients to sit in their own juices and absorb their natural goodness.

Grilling:

To get maximum nutrition and great flavour out of lean cuts of meat, grilling is your best option.

No cooking:

Sometimes the healthiest way to eat your vegetables is just as nature intended: raw and without any additional fat (oil). Carrots, celery, snap peas, and bell peppers all taste great raw.

Keep these tips in mind when putting together your weekly meal plan and think about how you can do things a little differently to make your meals healthier.

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Smalltalk Magazine

Since 2005 Smalltalk Magazine is a printed A4 information magazine aimed at parents, distributed throughout the Yorkshire region. Printed 6 times a year it is distributed free to over 300 parent-friendly locations in the area. Full of useful and informative articles about family life.

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