Simple ways to hack healthy home cooking

Using what is available locally is healthier, fresher and will save you money. Picture: Pexels/Askar Abayev

Using what is available locally is healthier, fresher and will save you money. Picture: Pexels/Askar Abayev

Published Apr 11, 2024


Cooking meals at home is one of the best things you can do for your health. When you make a home-cooked meal instead of ordering one at a restaurant or fast-food joint, you are more than likely going to consume fewer calories and less sodium, saturated fat, trans-fat and added sugars.

Having this kind of control over all the ingredients gives you freedom and peace of mind. However, some people may find healthy at-home cooking a bit challenging.

But fear not, we have gathered some easy, healthy cooking hacks to make your life a whole lot easier.

Having healthy pantry staples on hand makes it easier to make a quick meal. Picture: Pexels/Rachel Claire

Stock your pantry

Healthy pantry staples make it easy to whip up a homemade dinner in no time. Convenient, budget-friendly pantry items include low-sodium canned beans, canned tuna, diced tomatoes and tomato sauce, nut butter, mixed nuts, unsweetened dried fruits, and whole grains like oats, brown rice and wholegrain pasta.

Having a stash of these staples will save you time and money and allow you to pull together flavourful dishes when you have food in the fridge that needs to be eaten up.

Stock your fridge and freezer

Create a foundation for quick, healthy cooking by stocking your fridge and freezer with healthy cooking essentials like fresh produce, lean proteins, frozen vegetables and dairy alternatives.

Think of it as having your own healthy grocery store at home, ensuring you have the key components for balanced, delicious and quick-to-assemble meals.

Stick to simple recipes that are nourishing and filling. Picture: Pexels/Rdne Stock Project

Stick to simple recipes

There are times when it is exciting to be in the kitchen while creating an amazing meal – but not when you have arrived home at 7pm after a long workday or a tough commute.

Instead, stick to simple recipes (there are many three- and five-ingredient wonders out there) that are nourishing and filling.

For example, try pairing your protein of choice (meat, fish, eggs, beans, tofu, etc.) with your favourite roasted or steamed vegetables.

Amp up the flavour with lemon and sea salt.

Include all food groups

Healthy cooking consists of including foods from different groups. A wholesome diet comprises a variety of food groups combined together to give you all the essential nutrients that you need.

Both macro and micronutrients are essential for your body. A good portion of whole grains, dairy, nuts, oilseeds, fruits and vegetables should comprise your daily diet.

After you shop, try and wash, chop and portion your fresh produce straight away. Picture: Pexels/Alesia Kozik

Dedicate 30 minutes for produce prep every week

After your grocery haul, make a point to carve out 30 minutes each week to wash, chop and portion fresh produce. Wash berries and slice carrots or celery into sticks for snacks, chop vegetables for quick stir-fries, or portion greens for salad prep.

This small-time investment pays off in a big way by encouraging healthier snacking and cooking choices throughout the week.

Make the most out of your microwave

Your microwave is your kitchen’s “Most Valuable Player”. It can reheat leftovers and speed up your meal prep. Plus, your microwave can also help you eat a whole lot healthier.

The handy yet underrated kitchen appliance makes it easier to exercise portion control and resist the lure of ordering in. If you have been using your microwave primarily to heat up frozen foods or pop a bag of popcorn, it is time to familiarise yourself with all the other ways you can use it.

From getting more juice out of your citrus to whipping up single-serving desserts in a minute, your microwave can help you make healthy meals that much faster.

Using what is available locally is healthier, fresher and will save you money. Picture: Pexels/Askar Abayev

Cook seasonal meals

Nature has its own innate kitchen hacks – and that is local and seasonal ingredients. Using what is available locally means you will spend less time searching for ingredients.

Also, when food is in season and local it travels less from farm to plate. This means it will taste fresher and meals will require less adornment because the ingredients themselves will shine.

Avoid nibbling if you are cooking dinner at home

It can sometimes be hard to prevent yourself from nibbling on foods mindlessly while cooking. While it may not seem so, even a few bites here and there can add calories to your diet.

What you can do instead is drink lots of water before you start cooking, or eat a small, healthy snack beforehand. This way, you can enjoy the bigger meals with your family while having dinner.

Eating a varied diet is beneficial for your health. Picture: Pexels/Rachel Claire

Mix up the menu

Preparing the same type of meal over and over, or otherwise limiting the food you eat, restricts your nutrient intake. Research has linked a varied diet to better overall health and a reduced risk of cancer and heart disease.

You can find ideas for a wide range of breakfast, lunch and dinner menus on the internet.