Tips for planning and preparing healthy home meals:
Choose a variety of foods that are affordable and in season. This can be achieved by drawing up a food budget, keeping this budget in mind when planning for the week ahead and writing down your thoughts in the form of a meal plan and then compiling a shopping list, only buying items that are needed (See tips when shopping for groceries).
Enjoying a healthy eating plan also means preparing food in healthy ways. For instance eating raw vegetables and using cooking methods such as boiling, grilling and baking instead of frying.
In choosing a variety of food to eat, make portion control a habit in order to avoid overeating (See Portion Control Guide on Supporting Materials page).
Try to eat regularly, this means that if you choose to eat three meals per day you do this most days of the week. Try not to skip meals as this can lead to feelings of hunger and low blood sugar (like dizziness, shaking or loss of concentration). Breakfast especially is an important meal.
Tips for eating vegetables and fruits daily:
Vegetables should be eaten every day, and not only on weekends.
Try to include a variety of vegetables and fruit in meal plans.
Indigenous vegetables and fruit are good sources of vitamins and minerals and should be included where possible (See Annexure III for the Uses of Indigenous Vegetables, Fruit and Legumes).
Frozen and dried vegetables can be incorporated as part of a healthy eating plan.
Include both cooked and raw vegetables and salads in meals.
Eat a yellow vegetable (carrots, pumpkin, butternut) or a dark green vegetable (broccoli, spinach,) at least once a day.
Add extra vegetables to recipes such as stews, curries, stir-fries, salads, soups, sandwiches and stews or brown rice or whole-wheat pasta dishes or to egg dishes (scrambled eggs or omelettes). Baby spinach, tomatoes, carrots, beetroot and sundried tomatoes are merely some of the vegetables that are easy to add to dishes. Grating vegetables into dishes can help to “hide” it in foods and increase acceptability. Add raw vegetables such as carrots or shredded cabbage to lunchboxes. Include a fresh fruit or fresh vegetable as a snack between meals.
Always wash vegetables and fruit well in clean water before preparing, cooking and eating.
Tips for eating dry beans, peas, lentils and soya regularly:
Soaking beans and chickpeas overnight in plenty of water will reduce cooking time and help to reduce bloating. Drain the soaking water and use fresh water for cooking.
Try not to cook dry beans, peas or lentils together as each has its distinct cooking time (See Supporting Materials page for the Conversion Guide for Cooking Dry Beans, Peas and Lentils).
Dry beans, peas and lentils should be thoroughly cooked until they are tender and drained well.
Use a large enough pot and cover with enough water as they increase two to three times in size.
Add seasonings such as bay leaves, onion, garlic and/or pepper corns when cooking, but leave salt, acidic foods and condiments, such as tomatoes, lemon juice and vinegar until after cooking as it can harden beans. Add herbs and spices near the end of the cooking process.
Food is expensive. Tips to save costs but still be able to prepare healthy meals for the family:
Look for store sales or specials on store pamphlets, coupons or online advertisements.
Check the expiry dates and quality of food you buy on sale.
Be sure you have enough extra money and storage space to buy in bulk (but check that you will use all the food up before the expiry date)
Buy only foods that your family will use up before it gets spoiled or expire.
For better value, buy fruits and vegetables when they are in season.
Dry products like maize meal, wheat flour, rice, pasta, couscous and frozen foods keep well for a longer period and therefore can be bought in bulk.
Single portion items are often more expensive than buying in bulk.
Buy fewer canned or prepared or ready-to-eat foods. They cost more and are often higher in sugar, salt and fat.
Ready-to-eat bottled baby foods are costly. Use fresh foods and vegetables that can be pureed or mashed to the right consistency for smaller children. Meat and fish can be grinded to the right texture for smaller children.
Non-breastfed children can use full cream milk from as early as 12 months. There is therefore no need to buy ‘growing up’ infant formula after this age.
Do not buy expensive food thinking it is healthy as some expensive foods can have a low nutritional value.