Now that the year’s well and truly underway, with the long weekends sadly behind us, it’s time to say goodbye to holiday eating mode. So long, bags of chips and a few beers each afternoon, numerous sausage and garlic-bread-filled barbecues, and fish and chip picnics at beaches and parks — it’s time to get healthy.
But it’s not all bad news — embracing healthier habits over the next few months will help you to feel more energised (and smug), and set you up to say ‘No’ to the stodgy foods of winter. So we’ve put together some tips for making mealtimes simple, healthy and delicious this month.
Yes, it can be tough trying to make sure you eat the recommended five serves of fruit and veg a day, but doing so will help ensure you’re getting all the essential nutrients your body needs, as well as fill you up so that you don’t over-indulge in not-so-good foods.
The humble cauliflower can really be your friend here, by serving as a starch-like component in meals. If you blitz raw florets in a food processor (the KitchenAid Food Processor, $599.99, is a great investment) you’ll end up with cauliflower “rice” - use it raw, with chopped herbs, citrus zest and toasted nuts folded through to create a couscous-like dish, or microwave it (for around 4 minutes on high power) to steam it a little, then season with salt and pepper and serve as a rice substitute. Serving cauliflower instead of rice or pasta with meals means you’re eating more vegetables while also cutting down on carbs - a win win. And, coming into winter, try a cauliflower puree instead of mashed spuds. Simply cook cauliflower florets in a little milk (and cream, if you want to up the ante) until tender, then season well and purée with a hand blender (KitchenAid model, $369.99, also comes with a number of different attachments) until smooth.
Invest in some great slicing and dicing tools and eating your vegetables will become much more interesting. A good mandoline like this Chef’n Pull’n Slice Box Mandoline ($79.99) might sound like an overly cheffy tool, but once you invest, you won’t look back. You can start by thinly slicing cabbage to make restaurant-quality coleslaw to go with all kinds of meals. To keep it healthy, dress it with a mix of natural yoghurt, lemon juice, wholegrain mustard and a pinch of sugar, or go for an Asian-style slaw with a dressing of soy sauce, sesame oil, Dijon mustard, rice wine vinegar and a pinch of sugar. Thinly sliced zucchini also work beautifully in salads (try it tossed with lemon zest, feta and mint leaves), or use the slices as “wraps” for meatballs or fried haloumi.
And of course we can’t not mention zucchini noodles, aka zoodles. If you’ve never tried them, 2018 is the year to give them a whirl (if you pardon the pun). Toss them with meat sauces, pesto, soft cheeses and more; they’re a fantastic healthy base for all kinds of dishes. This simple-to-use Stevens spiraliser ($59.99) has three easy-to-change blades. The noodle blade allows you to make vegetable “noodles” with carrots and zucchini; the spiral blade will create curly fries from potato, pumpkin and kumara (roast these rather than deep-frying them); and the flat blade makes curled “ribbon” shapes from vegetables (shape them into rosettes or fan them out for super-cheffy-looking garnishes).
Steaming vegetables and proteins is one of the healthiest ways to cook them, because you don’t need to use any fats, as you do with frying or roasting, and no nutrients are lost through water, as with boiling vegetables. Invest in a steamer with adjustable sides like this clever Joseph Joseph Lotus Steamer ($39.99), which also folds away when not in use, and you’ll be able to use it with saucepans in varied sizes. Alternatively, go for a classic Asian bamboo steamer ($24.99).
If you’ve never been a big fan of mushy vegetables, try steaming cauliflower, broccoli and zucchini. These vegetables tend to absorb water, making them soggy if boiled, so steaming them helps retain a bit of crispness.
Fish is always a healthy dinner option, and steaming makes it extra virtuous. You can add flavourings such as ginger, citrus peel and herbs to the water you’re using to steam, or cook fish fillets en papillote, by sealing them in a little baking paper parcel with flavourings (slices of citrus, thinly sliced chilli, sprigs of herbs, peppercorns and so on) and then steaming the parcel.