1. Healthy Cooking Guide: Protein
I’m not sure why, but protein is often overlooked.
I often see food diaries of toast for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and dinners of a few veggies and a small offering of meat.
Protein is so important it should form the basis for every meal you eat.
It’s not only essential for a healthy functioning body, it can help you feel fuller for longer, reducing your need for snacks between meals.
If you associate protein with muscle building, you’d be right, but don’t let that put you off.
The big muscles of body builders take years of dedication to build. You’re not going to look like that just because you’re having a portion of protein with every meal.
If you’re not sure where protein comes from; it’s mainly meat and fish. But other sources would include, beans, chickpeas, lentils, eggs, yogurt, and not forgetting protein powder.
Yes, women can have protein powder as well.
I have it for breakfast mixed into a smoothie, porridge or made into a pancake. Or for pudding, mixed with some yogurt and berries.
Whilst we’re talking about protein, I have to take a minute to talk about quality. Don’t just go for the cheapest you can find. Especially if you’re partial to fattier cuts of meat.
Grass fed animals are healthier and are exposed to far less toxins than their counterparts.
And this isn’t just about animal welfare, although I believe that certainly should form a basis of meat choices. It’s about what you are putting into your body. If animals are exposed to hormones, toxins and a crappy diet, all of that un-healthiness is going to be passed onto you.
So, be choosy with the quality of meat you eat. You’re worth it.
2. Healthy cooking guide: Fat
You won’t believe how many of my clients are scared of adding fat to their meals. It’s actually about the same amount as those afraid of carbs.
Fat supports cell growth; produces hormones; absorbs nutrients; and helps protect your organs.
Low-fat diets were a trend in the 80’s. I suppose they do make a kind of sense…fat is the most calorie dense food, so reducing the amount of fat you consume would reduce the number of calories you eat.
But the thing is, fat is really important to your health.
A lot of fat you eat will come from your meat and fish (if you eat them), particularly if you prefer fattier cuts of meat like thigh meat, rib eye etc. So, if you are going for these, use fat sparingly. But if you go for leaner cuts you will need to add fat to your meal.
Whether it’s used in cooking for roasting or frying, or as a dressing or sauce, that would depend on the type of meal you’re making.
Before you rush off and drape everything you’re eating in fat, I want to talk about what fat you should use.
Go for natural, or as close to natural state as possible. That means, butter and duck fat should be high on your list.
Coconut oil, olive oil, walnut oil are other great examples of good fats to use.
Steer clear of vegetable oil, or anything that is highly processed like margarine. They are really high in Omega 6 which has an inflammatory effect on your body.
3. Healthy cooking guide: carbohydrates
As scary to some as fat is to others, but I’m here to tell you, carbohydrates aren’t bad. And just like protein and fat, they are essential to a healthy functioning body.
Their main role is to provide energy. Energy for your physical activity. Energy for your brain function. Energy for your internal organs.
Carbohydrates are so important that if you are lacking, your body will convert protein to glucose in the first instance.
So, don’t be afraid of carbs.
Focus on eating good quality carbs, like starchy vegetables, wholegrains, oats, wholemeal bread, don’t eat too many and you’ll be fine.
4. Healthy cooking guide: Fruit and Vegetables
You knew it was coming, didn’t you?
Fruit and vegetables are powerhouses of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants, so they should make up the bulk of every meal.
Just to be clear, this doesn’t include potatoes or other starchy vegetables. They were covered in point 3.
The vegetables I’m talking about here are the ones with lovely colours, and eating a variety of those colours will make sure you’re getting lots of lovely vitamins. You know the saying ‘Eat a rainbow’.
I’m just going to take a second to talk about green vegetables, because, as usual, your mother was right to make you eat your greens. And you should be eating them still. Yes, with every meal.
If you live with fussy eaters, or, are a fussy eater yourself, including more vegetables into your meals may not be the easiest thing.
So, what can you do?
Well, there are lots of ways to disguise veggies.
Whizz them up to make soups, sauces and smoothies. Shredded vegetables can be added to mince to bulk out burgers. Spiralised veggies can act as noodles, grated veg can mascaraed as rice or grains.
There are lots of ways you can sneak some veggies into the diet of even the fussiest of eaters.
5. Healthy cooking guide: Flavour
This is last on the list, but not necessarily last in importance. Because let’s face it, flavour is the biggest reason we eat.
Most takeaways, micro-wave meals, and other convenience foods are jam packed full of artificial flavourings. Chemicals that mimic natural flavours.
Why would you bother?
Firstly, it’s never going to be as good as the real thing. And secondly, they are really bad for you.
Herbs, spices, garlic, ginger, Himalayan pink salt, or Celtic sea salt. They are all packed with anti-inflammatory properties, vital minerals and some even contain pain killing properties.
Now that is much better than a pretend, chemical flavour.
Use all of them, apart from salt, liberally.
As for salt, if all of the ingredients you are using are fresh, then adding some salt is fine, but even the good stuff you don’t want to go overboard with.
Healthy Cooking Guide
The specifics of what you include in each meal will depend on what type of meal you want to eat, what you enjoy and what food works for you.
In this healthy cooking guide, I’ve covered the board categories you need to include to make sure you’re having a healthy meal.
Make sure the ingredients are good quality, you cook them all yourself and you’ll be laughing.