If you have viral hepatitis eating well can make a real difference to your quality of life but consistently eating fresh, healthy food most of the time can be a lot of effort. Most of us struggle to meet the Australian Dietary Guidelines by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables and limiting the amount of convenience foods in our diet. However, with a little thought, planning and effort you can make cooking more convenient and eating the way you want to a lot more achievable.
Although cooking is often presented as a pleasurable activity that we all enjoy and naturally know how to do this isn’t the case for many people. At the end of a long day cooking can be a real chore. Surprisingly, recognising this can be the key to eating better more often.
Approaching cooking as a chore like any other – doing laundry, cleaning the house – can make it much easier to come to terms with the fact that it’s just something you have to do if you want the rewards of having a healthy diet. It also allows you to look at the tasks that are involved and make choices that make it easier for you.
Below are some common aspects of cooking that people find a chore and suggested solutions. The links will take you to some of the best online resources on each topic.
- Prepare your veggies for the week all at once. Put them in a clean plastic container or new plastic bag and put them in the crisper ready to use for the week.
- Buy chopped or frozen vegetables. Frozen chopped onions are an excellent time and effort saver. Jars of garlic and ginger are also helpful.
- Use canned (low salt/unsalted varieties) beans.
- Buy chopped meat, chicken etc. Divide them into meal sized portions and add marinade.
- Cook batches of rice, pasta or noodles and freeze meal size portions.
- Cook extra and freeze for another meal. If you combine this with a meal plan (see below) you can make a few cooking sessions go a long way.
- Cook mainly one dish or one pan meals.
- Line your griller/baking tray etc.
- Wash up as you cook so that you only have to wash your plate and cutlery after dinner.
Deciding what to cook
- Use a meal plan. You can purchase them, make it yourself or get help from a dietician. Cookbooks which have excellent meal plans include the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet and the Low GI Diet series of books. These books are available at your local SA public library.
- An alternative to a meal plan is a simple list of meals with the ingredients listed out. Keep it with you or take a photo with your phone so you always have it on hand when you’re at the shops and can’t decide what to make.
- Have a few meals which are quick, easy and enjoyable and keep the ingredients on hand for them for when you don’t know what to cook.
- Get your groceries and/or fruit and vegetables home delivered. The major supermarkets do home delivery and there are many fruit & veggie services available in SA. Your orders are stored making it easier to order the second time.
- Keep it really simple. 1 grain or carbohydrate, 1 protein and some veggies will do it or use recipes with only a few ingredients. Trying to coordinate a complex meal takes time and experience.
- Build up a small collection of recipes that you make frequently.
- Make meals that you prepare and walk away from such as baking pan or one pot meals (see above for some recipes ideas).
- Use easier cooking methods such as baking, grilling, steaming and microwaving.
- Have some good quality, low salt ready or frozen meals on hand for when you really can’t be bothered.
- Look up times and instructions as needed to reduce frustration.
- Consider taking a cooking class (online here or here or in person) to increase your skills. Although this may seem counter-intuitive being competent at a task greatly improves how much we enjoy it.
Finally, eating out and takeaway doesn’t have to be unhealthy, here are some tips for making healthier choices.