How to make healthier meals

There are two easy ways to change your favourite recipes to reduce the energy (kilojoules) or saturated fat content:

  • try healthier cooking methods
  • reduce, replace or remove the less healthy ingredients. 

Find dozens of heart-healthy recipes to choose from.

Healthier cooking methods

Try these alternatives, tips and tricks for healthier cooking.


  • Instead of deep frying, roast in the oven on a lined tray or grill tray.
  • Lightly steam or microwave food before roasting.
  • Brush food with canola, sunflower, soybean or olive oil to make it crisp.
  • Cook crumbed fish, chicken and oven fries in the oven instead of deep-frying them.


  • Stir-fry food using canola, sunflower, soybean, olive or peanut oil.
  • Use a non-stick frying pan so you use less oil.  


  • Choose lean cuts of meat or trim all visible fat.
  • Put meat on a rack in a baking dish with 1 to 2 cm water. Add herbs to the water for extra flavour.
  • Brush meat with a marinade to stop it drying out.Try covering it with a lid or aluminium foil for part of the cooking time.
  • Roast meat on a spit or rotisserie and let the fat drip away.
  • Brush or spray vegetables with canola, sunflower, soybean, olive or peanut oil, and bake them in a separate pan from meat. 


  • Trim fat off meat before cooking.
  • Add legumes for extra fibre and flavour (e.g. kidney beans,chickpeas, soy beans or lentils).
  • Use reduced salt stock.
  • After cooking, chill the food so the fat becomes solid on the surface. Skim the fat off before reheating and thickening.

Healthier ingredients 

Try these tips and healthier replacements for common ingredients.

You can also use the nutrition action plan with healthier cooking methods to help you succeed.

Milk/yoghurt/ cream 

  • Use reduced fat varieties. Plain yogurt is best as many flavoured products are high in sugar.
  • Use ricotta cheese whipped with a little icing sugar, fruit or reduced fat milk instead of cream.

Sour cream 

Replace sour cream with one of these options:

  • cottage cheese blended with reduced fat milk - add a little lemon juice or vinegar to make it more ‘sour’ (acidic) if you like.
  • reduced fat natural yoghurt.
  • evaporated reduced fat milk mixed with lemon juice. 


  • Use smaller amounts of reduced fat cheese instead of full fat cheese.
  • Use a little grated parmesan cheese instead of grated cheddar – it gives more flavour and you don’t need to use as much.
  • Mix grated reduced fat cheese with oats, bread crumbs or wheat germ to make toppings for casseroles, gratins and baked dishes. 

Butter/margarine spreads

  • Use spreads made from canola, sunflower or olive oil.
  • Avoid using butter, other dairy blends, lard, copha or cooking fats.

Note: reduced fat or ‘lite’ spreads generally aren’t good for cooking.


  • Use a variety of oils for cooking.
  • Suitable cooking oils include canola, sunflower, soybean, olive and peanut oil.


  • Use salad dressings and mayonnaise made from canola, sunflower, soybean and olive oil.
  • Make your own salad dressing and mayonnaise. Use ingredients such as reduced fat yoghurt, buttermilk, tomato paste, balsamic or other vinegars, lemon juice, ricotta cheese, mustard or fruit pulp. 


  • Choose lean meats and poultry.
  • Remove all visible fat from meat and skin from poultry before cooking.
  • Marinate or add flavour with ingredients such as wine vinegars.
  • Sear meat quickly to keep in juices. 

Cake/biscuit ingredients 

  • Cook with spreads made from canola, sunflower or olive oil instead of butter.
  • Cook with canola, sunflower or olive oil.
  • The minimum fat required for biscuits is about 2 tablespoons per cup of flour – this will keep biscuits crisp.
  • Make plain sponges, yeast cakes, breads, muffins and scones because they generally use less fat.
  • Use wholegrain or wholemeal flour to add some extra fibre. 


  • Use filo pastry. Brush every three to four layers with canola, sunflower, soybean or olive oil, egg white or reduced fat yoghurt.
  • Use pastry made with canola, sunflower or olive oil. 

Coconut cream/coconut milk 

  • Add a little coconut essence to evaporated reduced fat milk.
  • Use evaporated reduced fat milk already flavoured with coconut essence.
  • Soak desiccated coconut in warm reduced fat milk for 30 minutes. Strain the mixture, discard the coconut and use the milk.
  • Occasionally, use a reduced fat coconut milk.

How to choose healthier foods and drinks

Small changes can make a big difference! Try these simple swaps.

Go for a healthier snack

Less healthy choice Healthier choice
1 cinnamon doughnut (70g) 1102kJ 377kJ1 medium banana (150g)
1 packet potato crisps (50g) 1080kJ 374kJ1 medium apple (150g)
2 chocolate coated cream-filled biscuits 776kJ 316kJ2 plain sweet biscuits
1 chocolate bar with biscuit and caramel (50g) 1020kJ 516kJSmall handful of raw almonds (20g)

Choose light/reduced alcohol drinks

Less healthy choice Healthier choice
1 glass dry white wine (100mL) 295kJ 173kJ1 glass reduced alcohol white wine (100mL)
1 can full strength beer (375 mL) 572kJ 390kJ1 can light beer (375 mL)

Change what you put on your veggies

Less healthy choice Healthier choice
1 large corn cob with 2 tsp butter 1012kJ 764kJ1 large corn cob, steamed
½ cup green beans (60g) with 1 tsp butter 177kJ 53kJ½ cup green beans, steamed (60g)
1 medium baked potato with 1 tbsp sour cream 769kJ 542kJ1 medium baked potato with 1 tbs low fat natural yoghurt

Go for leaner meats

Less healthy choice Healthier choice
1 medium T-bone steak, fat untrimmed 2263kJ 1388kJ1 medium T-bone steak, fat removed
Regular beef mince (100g) 1185kJ 849kJExtra lean beef mince (100g)
Roasted chicken breast with skin (100g) 781kJ 637kJRoasted chicken breast without skin (100g)
1 meat pie (175g) 1650kJ 876kJHam and salad sandwich
Hungarian salami (30g) 535kJ 140kJLean leg ham (30g)

Use a different cooking method

Less healthy choice Healthier choice
1 fish fillet, battered and fried (150g) 1649kJ 792kJ1 fish fillet, grilled (150g)
Chicken parmigiana 3648kJ 671kJStir-fried chicken breast, without skin (100g)
French fries (90g) 1217kJ 706kJPotato wedges, oven baked (90g)

Switch to low fat dairy

Less healthy choice Healthier choice
Cappuccino with full cream milk (1 cup) 552kJ 291kJCappuccino with skim milk (1 cup)
Extra creamy vanilla ice cream (100g) 956kJ 638kJLow fat vanilla ice cream (100g)
Regular fat berry yoghurt (200g) 802kJ 482kJLow fat natural yoghurt (200g)
2 breakfast wheat biscuits (30g) + 2/3 cup full fat milk 934kJ 698kJ2 breakfast wheat biscuits (30g) + 2/3 cup skim milk

Swap sugary drinks

Less healthy choice Healthier choice
1 glass cola soft drink (250mL) 437kJ 0kJ1 glass unflavoured mineral water (250mL)
1 glass orange juice (250mL) 305kJ 0kJ1 glass water

Note: All figures are approximate values. Source material: FoodWorks 8 Professional nutrient analysis software. Available at:  Accessed December 2016. 

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