One of the keys to nutrition success is food preparation. As in, spending a couple of hours in the weekend planning what you are going to eat during the week, shopping accordingly, then doing a few basics (such as cutting vegetables, organising smoothie-bags to freeze, or prepping meatballs) to minimise the workload each night and help you feel on top of things. If you do get caught short — there has been no prep, there is nothing in the cupboard and you need lunch (or dinner) quickly, here's a table of foods you can pick and choose from to make nutritious choices at the supermarket and remain on top of your game. First, a few pointers:
1. Take a couple of containers to work to store your supermarket haul in. Some basic essentials for work may include salt and pepper, olive oil and raw nuts and seeds — these add flavour and crunch to any meal.
2. If you are taller and carry more muscle mass, choose towards the higher end of the portion size/amount for each food category. Smaller or less active people choose on the smaller end of the portion size/amount.
3. Fill up on protein and fibre with some flavour added. Some people won’t need the carbohydrate portions, others might. Fist-sized amounts or ½ cup cooked is generally considered a portion size here.
- Go for a variety of textures. Grate beetroot, radish, carrot, daikon. Shred cabbage, lettuce, kale. Steam broccoli, cauliflower, green beans in the microwave. Add mung bean sprouts.
- Use cabbage or lettuce leaves as wraps.
- Choose in season for cost-effective options.
- Frozen vegetables are fine but go for a variety of vegetables, not just peas, corn and those little squares of carrots.
- Add as many as you need to add volume and make you feel full.
- Buy enough for 2-3 days, including canned. A container to store it in at work is a good option to help keep fresh.
- Mix a protein portion with mayonnaise/cream cheese/ aioli for added flavour.
- Sprinkle tofu/tempeh with sesame oil for flavour.
- Fat adds satiety and flavour.
- Bigger people, with higher energy requirements, choose between 3-4 serves of fat per meal. Smaller or less active people, choose around 2 serves of fat per meal.
- When having a higher fat protein component (ie pork belly), you may want to add less additional fat to the meal. Fat is generally more filling when served alongside protein.
- Try as much as you can to choose pesto and mayonnaise based on olive oil and not highly-refined vegetable oil. I've listed the Sabato brand here, there will be others — and if there are, let me know!
- Used to add flavour and for variety. These extras allow the creation of a different meal every day.
- Starchy or dense carbohydrate sources listed in here (with a diamond symbol) are for people with higher energy requirements; smaller or less active people should be mindful when choosing these. Start with one serve and assess from there. If carbohydrate-based foods make you feel a bit sluggish in the afternoon, you are better off omitting them earlier in the day and potentially including them in your evening meal.
- Suggested maximum amounts are listed where it would be good to moderate portion control (and where people often over-serve).
- Try as much as you can to choose hummus that is based on olive oil and not highly refined vegetable oil.
* Eggs can be hard boiled from the deli, or pick up a six-pack and scramble 2-3 in the microwave.
* Microwave the bacon.
* Legumes are high-carbohydrate and are not a substantial source of protein unless you are vegetarian/vegan.
* Get rid of the pre-made dressings as they are typically made with highly refined vegetable oil and/or sugar, and add your own dressing.
* Rinse off the oil from sundried tomatoes, these are usually preserved in highly refined vegetable oil.
Through her nutrition consultation and subscription service of meal plans, nutritionist Mikki Williden helps people manage their diets in an interesting way, at a low cost. Find out more at mikkiwilliden.com