Durban - Today (April 7) is World Health Day. Use this as an opportunity to make healthy eating a priority, says a nutrition, health and wellness expert.

South Africans are tightening their belts due to rising costs, but with a little planning and minimal effort, eating healthy food on a budget is attainable.

After all, looking after your health is an essential investment in your future, as well as that of your kids.

Food preparation can be a lot of fun, especially if you plan ahead, get your kids involved and make a game of replicating your favourite restaurant meals at home.

Here are 10 essential healthy eating tips that will save you time and money:


1. Superb side dishes: Don’t compromise on healthy proteins. Rather buy smaller portions of the specific protein you want and bulk up your meal with a nutritional side dish. For example, creamy samp and beans is high in protein and energy.


2. Love those leftovers: Plan for deliberate leftovers that will make tasty additions to the kids’ lunch boxes the next day: bolognaise sauce is a perfect sandwich topping the next day, and leftover pasta is a filling addition to a healthy chickpea and tomato salad. Excess tinned fish can be mixed with mashed white beans to make the batter for quick and easy frikkadels go further.


3. Full of beans: Remember that adding inexpensive vegetables and legumes (baked beans, lentils, kidney beans and butter beans) to meat-based dishes extends the number of portions and provides energy.


4. Door-to-door delivery: Most of us buy ready-made meals and fast food when we’ve got no food in the cupboard or feel uninspired to cook. Consider buying your groceries online (many local food retailers are offering this service) and having them delivered. Not only does this focus your shopping list, but it saves you time after work that could be better spent. This not only saves you petrol costs but helps you prepare more balanced meals.


5. Visit your local farmers’ market: Make an outing out of a visit to your local farmers’ markets on the weekend. The kids will love it and you’ll be able to shop for fresh produce and good deals while enjoying some family bonding time. Buy long-lasting vegetables like butternut and pumpkin in bulk and freeze seasonal berries and fruits for use in smoothies and desserts.


6. DIY sauces are cheaper: The temptation to buy packet sauces is a great one, but they can be more costly than making a sauce in bulk at home and freezing it in small portions. White sauces freeze very well, as do chicken and vegetable stocks for gravies and marinades.


7. Skip buying salad dressing: Instead of buying expensive salad dressing, opt for your own quick-and-easy home-made versions. A dash of lemon juice, olive oil and balsamic vinegar makes a refreshing and healthy dressing that is delicious and easy to make.


8. Simple “one pot” meals: The fast food temptation is greatest when you’re driving home and dreading making a complicated meal. But don’t forget that there are many quick, nutritious and affordable meal options that will deliver on your whole family’s nutritional requirements. Whip up a boiled egg on a slice of wholewheat toast or a baked potato with tuna and salad.


9. Replicate your favourite fast food: Try to replicate your children’s favourite fast food meals at home – fried chicken can be done at home using olive oil and skinless chicken breasts, and burgers can be made using wholegrain bread, lean mince, fresh salad and low-fat cheese.


10. Recruit your children’s help in the kitchen: Enlist your kids in the cooking process – it’s a wonderful opportunity to chat to them about their school day and chances are they’ll enjoy grating the cheese and peeling the veggies while you catch up on news. - The Mercury

* Naazneen Khan is a nutrition, health and wellness manager at Nestlé. For more tips on how to adopt a healthy lifestyle, visit