Great, Simple, Tasty (GST) meals
IN THE hustle and bustle of our busy everyday life, it can sometimes seem difficult to have a balanced diet. A lack of time to prepare meals or even to eat is a common excuse for not eating healthily.
According to the National Nutrition Survey 2010, there has been a significant drop in people eating home-cooked meals and a significant increase in those who skipped breakfast.
Eating a balanced diet means consuming a variety of foods to meet your daily nutritional requirements. You can ensure that you are able to have one by planning and preparing your meals in advance.
It is usually a lack of planning, not a lack of time, that prevents most of us from having nutritious and tasty food.
The benefits: It is better for you and better for your pocket! You have control over the quantity and quality of the food you eat, and more time to relax without squeezing with the crowd.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BREAKFAST
Start your day right by having a hearty, healthy breakfast. While you may feel that the time spent on breakfast may be better spent sleeping, beginning a day without breakfast is like starting your car without petrol.
Furthermore, there are plenty of options for a fuss-free and healthy breakfast. Breakfast cereals - both ready-to-eat varieties such as wholegrain cereals and muesli, and cooked varieties such as oats - provide vitamins, minerals and often lots of fibre.
They take almost no time to prepare and you can further increase the nutritional value simply by adding low-fat milk, yoghurt, and fruit or nuts.
These are simple, yet essential products that you can stash in the office to ensure that hearty breakfast to start off your day.
If you have a little more time, wholegrain breads with peanut butter, low-fat cheese or lean meats are good alternatives and can be prepared the night before and simply taken with you on the way to work.
KEEP IT SIMPLE BY USING EVERYDAY SIMPLE AND HEALTHY FOODS
In the office, ensure you have some essential "to-keep" items stashed in your drawers for a quick, easy and nutritious meal. Stock up on high-protein convenient food items such as canned tuna, sardines, mackerel, salmon, kidney or garbanzo beans (chickpeas).
There are so many tasty varieties out there to choose from these days, but choose those with the healthier-choice symbol - lower in fat and sodium.
Mix them with canned corn, peas, salad or mixed vegetables and have it with two to three slices of wholegrain bread, rice, or whole-wheat pasta to make a quick, simple, balanced lunch or dinner.
When you are at home, you can opt for low-fat or fat-free instant noodles or beehoon boiled with some vegetables, fish slices, chicken breast or lean meat, yet another simple and quick meal you can whip up in less than 30 minutes.
Canned tomatoes are great for stewing or cooking with protein and vegetables that can be eaten with bread, rice or pasta.
Start simple - steaming or grilling fish or chicken and blanching some vegetables to eat with rice keeps it healthy and well-balanced.
If your office has a kitchen, these could also serve as simple meals that you could prepare easily, with minimal ingredients, for a fuss-free lunch.
Use these simple preparation methods to prepare one-dish meals when stretched for time or opt for other easy meals such as sandwiches and wraps or soups.
Complete the meal by ending it off with a fruit as dessert, which not only contains natural sugars, but is also relatively effortless to prepare.
PLANNING IS THE KEY
The key to healthy home cooking is being prepared. Plan meals for the week and write a detailed shopping list and you are ready to go. This helps to avoid food wastage and purchasing unhealthy products.
You can also keep a list of simple healthy recipes that can be whipped up in less than 30 minutes. To help you further save time on getting that healthy meal ready in less time:
Prepare ingredients ahead of time when you are free. Wash and chop vegetables; chop and marinate chicken or fish after your visit to the market and store all pre-prepared items in containers in the fridge for easy access during the week.
Invest in the right equipment, such as a rice cooker, slow cooker, frying pans, pots, convection oven and salad bowls. A slow cooker can provide a ready meal when you get home from work so that you can spend some time after dinner preparing tomorrow's meals.
Prepare more for dinner to keep for a home-packed lunch the next day. Or cook in advance so that you don't have to eat late after coming home from work.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT FOODS
If you are unable to prepare your own food, choosing the right ones when eating out can go a long way in ensuring that you still get that balanced diet.
Start by planning your meals the "healthy plate" way - where vegetables are half your plate, rice and alternatives make up one quarter, and meat and alternatives the last quarter - and watch your portions. Calories do add up, so it is important to eat healthy portions.
The writer is a senior dietitian with the National Healthcare Group Polyclinics.