NUTRITION: Healthy Cooking | Great Health Guide
NUTRITION: Healthy Cooking

NUTRITION: Healthy Cooking

‘Healthy Cooking’ by Julia Lawson published in Great Health Guide (Feb 2016). Women are busier than ever which leads to less time being spent in the kitchen. A lack of time may lead to purchasing pre-prepared convenience and falsely labelled ‘healthy’ foods. Julia provides great recommendations for healthy eating without spending excessive time in the kitchen. 
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NUTRITION: Healthy Cooking

written by Julia Lawson

Australian women are busy, significantly more-so than previous generations. Where a woman’s place was once at home, preparing lovingly- made dishes for her family, today women juggle full-time or part-time work with family commitments and a well-deserved social life. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) report, that women spend about 20 minutes each day on food preparation and clean up, with that figure steadily on the decline. Meanwhile, sales of convenience foods have increased to approximately 1 billion dollars, highlighting a shift in the eating habits of Australian families towards foods that require little to no preparation.

An article in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine reported that a greater amount of time spent on home food preparation was associated with a higher- quality diet, which is related to reduced instances of environmental and lifestyle diseases such as:

  • high blood pressure

  • high cholesterol

  • heart disease and stroke

  • type 2 diabetes

  • osteoporosis

  • obesity

  • certain cancers


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Currently in Australia nearly 2 in 3 adults are overweight or obese, a 10% increase since 1995. It’s no secret that commercially-made sauces, dressings and snacks contain large amounts of added sugar and salt to help extend shelf life and replace flavour that’s removed when a product is altered to reduce the fat content.

Marketing buzz words like ‘all natural’ and ‘wholesome’ are used to target the health- conscious consumer, however these phrases can confuse shoppers into purchasing products they believe to be healthy, when in reality their health benefits are minimal or non-existent.


The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends:

  • Total fat should not exceed 30% of total energy intake

  • Limiting intake of free sugars to less than 10% of total energy intake

  • Keeping salt intake to less than 5 g per day



In keeping with the APJM study, decreasing the consumption of pre-prepared convenience foods and cooking more from scratch will have a positive effect on overall health. But ditching pre-prepared meals doesn’t necessarily mean spending lots more time in the kitchen; in fact, there are a number of foods that are quick and easy to make at home without sacrificing flavour.

1. Salad Dressing

Salad dressing is super simple to whip up and contains none of the added sugar and salt of commercial varieties. They’re also easy to customise to suit your tastebuds or whatever you’ve got in the pantry. A basic formula for home-made salad dressing is 2 tablespoons of vinegar to 3 tablespoons of olive oil, then add flavourings such as herbs and spices as desired. Shake it before pouring.

2. Flavoured yoghurt

Yoghurt is a great snack – protein rich and low in fat, however flavoured yoghurts contain between three and five teaspoons of sugar per serve (!!) depending on the brand. Purchase low fat, unflavoured Greek yoghurt then add your own fruit and a small amount of honey or maple syrup for extra sweetness if required.

3. Pasta Sauce

Pasta is often seen as a diet no-no, but the pasta sauce you’re using could be just as bad for your health – if not worse. A half- cup serve of pasta sauce contains 20% of your daily sodium allowance and 10g of sugar. Make your own pasta sauce by simmering together ripe tomatoes, onion, garlic and herbs, all done in the time it takes the pasta to cook. Bonus points for making a big batch and freezing a few portions for later.

4. Muesli Bars

Muesli is a healthier breakfast option than most commercial cereals, but buyer beware – muesli bars have large amounts of sticky sweet syrup added during cooking to help them bind together. A popular brand of muesli bar contains nearly 20g of carbohydrates whereas a home-made version can contain just a third that amount. Five minutes of preparation time will give you enough healthy muesli bars for more than a week and for a fraction of the price.

5. Curry Paste

The long list of ingredients can scare people, but curry paste is actually very simple to make at home with a good quality blender. Home- made curry paste is also significantly lower in fat, with some commercial varieties containing more than half the daily recommended fat intake in one serve.

Cooking from scratch can have a significant impact on our health. By ditching pre- prepared convenience foods, we can reduce unnecessary and often excessive added sugars, salts and fats in our diet and in doing so reduce the risk of preventable lifestyle diseases.

Author of this article:
Julia Lawson is a qualified Nutritionist, holding a Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Science as well as an Accredited Certificate of Human Nutrition. Her business, JL Fit Nutrition, focuses on promoting everyday healthy eating and the avoidance of extreme fad and exclusionary diets.

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