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How to make healthier meals at home
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

How to make healthier meals at home

Cooking at home is often healthier than eating out.

Key takeaways

  • Cooking at home can be healthier than eating out 
  • Being organised and planning your meals makes healthy eating easier 
  • Buying and cooking in batches can save time 
  • Learn some simple heart-healthy food swaps. 
3 min read

It puts you in control of what goes into your food and body. Making healthy home-cooked food doesn’t have to be hard. Small changes can have a big impact on your heart health. Over time these changes will become easier and fit in with your regular routine. 

Plan ahead 

You don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen to make a healthy meal. Planning your meals is a simple way to save on time and effort. 

Start with a plan 

Think about what you could prepare ahead of time. You can cut vegetables the night before and store them in the refrigerator or cook something for use the next night (e.g. pasta sauce).   

Involve the whole family 

Getting your family involved in meal planning and preparation can help. Ask them to choose their favourite meals from our heart healthy recipes.  

Shop with a list 

Make sure healthy ingredients are always on hand at home by shopping with a list. Being focused on what you need can also save time in the supermarket. Older kids can help by writing down the ingredients from the recipes they have chosen. 

Batch cook 

Making a big batch of one dish is more efficient than cooking every single night. Choose a meal that can be packaged separately and frozen. Our freezer-friendly recipes are great options to pull out when time is tight. 

Meal plan on a budget 

There are plenty of recipes with inexpensive ingredients. You can also find what you need for less, by: 

  • Buying in-season fruit and vegetables (perhaps try your local farmer’s markets) 
  • Shopping in bulk 
  • Looking out for sales.  

Build a heart-healthy pantry 

Eating at home allows you to make small changes, which together make a big difference. Having these foods in your pantry, fridge, or freezer means you have everything you need for healthy meals at home. 

 PantryFridge Freezer 
Fruit and veg 
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Tinned fruit (not in syrup) 
  • Tinned vegetables (no added salt)
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables 
  • Frozen vegetables – peas, corn, mixed vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower 
  • Frozen fruit – berries, passionfruit, mango pieces etc. 
Wholegrains 
  • Rolled oats 
  • Wholegrain breakfast cereals 
  • Wholegrain bread 
  • Brown rice  
  • Wholemeal pasta 
  • Couscous 
  • Quinoa 
  • Polenta 
  • Soba noodles 
  • Wholemeal flour 
  • Fresh noodles 
  • Fresh pasta 
 
Protein 
  • Canned legumes varieties (no added salt) 
  • Canned fish in olive oil or water – tuna, salmon, sardines 
  • Lentils (no added salt)
  • Fresh fish 
  • Fresh meats 
  • Tofu 
  • Tempeh 
  • Eggs
  • Frozen fish fillets – tuna, salmon, sardines 
  • Frozen poultry and meats
Dairy
  • Powdered milk 
  • Long life (UHT) milk 
  • Fresh milk 
  • Fresh cheese 
  • Fresh yoghurt
 
Fats
  • Healthy oils – olive, canola, peanut, sunflower oil 
  • Nut butters (no added salt) 
  • Unsalted nuts and seeds 
  • Margarine 
  • Avocado 
  • Olives
 
Flavour 
  • Dried herbs and spices 
  • Pepper 
  • Chilli
  • Garlic 
  • Ginger 
  • Vinegars
  • Lemon juice 
  • Lime juice 
  • Fresh herbs
 

Heart healthy food swaps 

Try some of our food swaps to find heart-healthy alternatives. 

Swap thisFor this
Flavoured milk and yoghurt Unflavoured milk and yoghurt varieties 
CreamRicotta cheese whipped with a little icing sugar
Sour creamNatural Greek yoghurt
Grated cheddarGrated parmesan – the more intense flavour means you can use less 
Butter as a spreadAvocado, tahini, hummus, nut butter or margarine spreads made from canola, sunflower or olive oils.
Butter in bakingSpreads made from canola, sunflower or olive oil
Coconut cream/coconut milk Add a little coconut essence to evaporated milk
White grain ingredients like pasta, bread, flour and rice Wholegrain bread, brown rice, brown pasta, quinoa or wholemeal flour
Shortcrust or puff pastryFilo pastry – brush every 3-4 layers with olive oil, egg white or yoghurt
Processed meatsRoasted or grilled lean meats, legumes or eggs

Healthy cooking methods 

The way you cook your food matters. The cooking methods below are the healthiest options: 

Steaming  

Steaming is one of the easiest ways to cook vegetables. Place a steam basket over a saucepan of boiling water then fill the steam basket with fresh or frozen vegetables. Cover with a lid and let your vegetables steam for a few minutes until tender.  

Poaching  

Poach delicate foods like eggs, fish or fruit by submerging them into gentle simmering liquid (e.g. water, vegetables and spices). Poaching is not the same as boiling, so be sure to maintain a low heat.  

Stir-frying/sautéing  

Stir-fry plenty of vegetables in a frying pan on high heat using a small portion of olive, canola, sunflower, soybean or peanut oil. Top it up with a splash of water as you cook.  

Roasting  

Put lean meats in a baking dish with a rack. Add 1 to 2 cm water and some herbs to the bottom of the pan for extra flavour. Substitute deep-frying with roasting in the oven on a lined tray or grill tray.  

Casserole/stewing  

This is a convenient method of cooking meats at a low temperature, generally for a longer period of time. Take the time to trim the fat off of the meat before putting it in a casserole dish with some vegetables and legumes.  

For more simple meal ideas check out our heart healthy recipes.

Heart healthy recipes

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