Fill your plate with tasty and healthy foods from the main food groups, and cut back on less healthy foods and drinks
Cutting back on sugar
Sugar adds extra calories to food that we don't need. Because it doesn't fill us up, it's easy to have too much of it, and that can make us put on weight. It also has a small effect on raising cholesterol levels and blood pressure. While the natural sugars already present in foods aren't a problem, there can be a lot of extra sugar added to foods and drinks.
What can you do to cut down on added sugars? First look at:
- What you drink - water is the best drink and it's free. Your taste buds might need a bit of re-educating if you're used to only drinking sweet drinks, but they do get used to the change. For something a bit more exciting than tap water, you could try bubbly water and add some hints of flavour eg. lemon or lime slices, mint leaves, or chopped up fruit.
- The extra foods you eat that are high in added sugar eg. cakes, biscuits, sweet bakery items, lollies, and muffins. Try cutting back on these and replacing them with healthier options like fruit, yoghurt, nuts, or check out our recipes for healthier baked options.
- The everyday foods you eat - check the sugar content on food labels, and choose options with less sugar in them.
Sugar that is naturally present in whole fruit, plain milk and plain yoghurt is not a problem, and these are still healthy foods to eat.
Cutting back on salt
Most of us eat far too much salt – in fact, one and a half times the recommended maximum intake. Back in hunter-gatherer days, salt wasn’t added to food. Enough salt was obtained from the small amounts naturally occurring in foods, and still would be today. It is in the last few thousand years that use of salt has increased, driven by the need to preserve food. Over this time, our tastebuds have become used to being inundated with salty flavours. The good news is that it doesn’t take long for our tastebuds to get used to less, and to like less salty foods again.
So try taking a lighter hand to the salt shaker, or better still, ditch the salt altogether. Even more importantly, check food labels for the salt content (salt is listed as sodium on labels), and go for lower sodium options.
Three tips to ditch the salt:
- Read food labels and choose lower sodium options – three-quarters of the salt we eat is from processed foods
- Eat less of foods that are high in salt or sodium
- Use herbs and spices for flavour instead of salt
Using herbs and spices:
- Beef tastes great panfried with a choice of mustard powder, sage, thyme, rosemary, garlic, curry powder, bay leaf, or nutmeg
- Lamb roasts well with garlic, curry powder, oregano, thyme, rosemary, or served with mint jelly
- Chicken tastes fantastic pan- or stir-fried with a choice of lemon or lime, garlic, ginger, rosemary, paprika, parsley, sage, thyme, marjoram, basil or tarragon
- Fish works perfectly baked, steamed or panfried with bay leaf, curry powder, mustard, lemon, paprika, dill, lemongrass or ginger
- Pork can be braised or stewed with onion, sage, thyme, oregano, black pepper or served with applesauce
- Scrambled eggs get extra flavour from chopped chives, parsley or black pepper
- Potato gets a fresh twist from onion, garlic, parsley, dill, chives or a sprinkle of paprika
- Stir fry veges get an Asian touch with onion, garlic, fresh ginger, chilli, and sesame oil or sesame seeds
- Cabbage stirfries well with caraway seeds and allspice; or lime juice,and fresh coriander
Cutting back on saturated and trans fats
The healthy fats are unsaturated fats found in higher amounts in plant foods like nuts, seeds, plant oils, and avocado, as well as in oily fish. Eating these in place of animal fats is one part of a heart healthy way of eating that improves cholesterol levels and reduces risk of heart disease.
It can be harder to know how to cut back on trans fats as they are not listed on food labels. However, they are often found in foods that we recommend cutting back on anyway such as pastry products and creamy style pasta dishes, as well as popcorn, doughnuts and take away style fish products,