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.

Deep-frying 

  • 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.

Shallow-frying/sautéing

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

Roasting 

  • 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. 

Casseroling/stewing

  • Trim fat off meat before cooking.
  • Add legumes for extra fibre and flavour (e.g. kidney beans, chickpeas, soybeans 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.

Combine these ideas with the nutrition action plan designed for people recovering from a heart attack, to help you eat healthily. 

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. 

Cheese 

  • Use smaller amounts of reduced fat cheese instead of full-fat cheese.
  • Use a small amount of 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.

Oil 

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

Mayonnaise/dressing

  • 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 kinds of vinegar, lemon juice, ricotta cheese, mustard or fruit pulp. 

Meat/poultry 

  • 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 vinegar.
  • 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, bread, muffins and scones because they generally use less fat.
  • Use wholegrain or wholemeal flour to add some extra fibre. 

Pastry

  • 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.

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