BEAT THE DIN­NER DILEMMA

OR­GAN­I­SA­TION IS THE KEY TO SUC­CESS AND HEALTHY MEAL PLAN­NING IS NO EX­CEP­TION. IT’S OF­TEN DIN­NER WHERE OUR GOOD INTENTIONS BE­COME UNSTUCK, SO HERE’S HOW TO SHOP SMARTER

Life & Style Weekend - - WELLBEING -

It’s 5pm and you’ve just walked through the door. There’s the kids’ home­work to do, wash­ing to put on and, oh, it’s prob­a­bly the first chance you’ve had all day to think about din­ner. You open the fridge for in­spi­ra­tion but all that jumps out at you is a wilted let­tuce and limp car­rot. Time to pull out the frozen pizza or call for a take­away. Sound fa­mil­iar? If you find your­self on this Fer­ris wheel of dis­or­gan­i­sa­tion at meal times, get your­self into gear with smart meal plan­ning.

HAVE A HEALTHY RECIPE BANK

By read­ing healthy recipe books and fol­low­ing blogs and web­sites for in­spi­ra­tion, you will bank up a pile of ideas for your meal plans. This is the fun part. Search for recipes that take about 15-20 min­utes to pre­pare and cook. Win­ter is a great time to try slow-cooker recipes that al­low you to walk into the house to the mag­i­cal aroma of a hot, nu­tri­tious meal. Print your bank of recipes and save the chal­leng­ing ones for the week­end when you have more time.

GET SMART WITH YOUR SHOP­PING LIST

The next step is to cre­ate shop­ping lists from your meal plans, but keep in mind we are talk­ing healthy. Keep this list handy so you can jot down items that run low dur­ing the week. It’s this con­scious way of think­ing that makes you feel in con­trol of the in­com­ings and out­go­ings of your kitchen (and less in­clined to im­pulse-buy junk).

There are also many meal-plan­ning apps that can do the job for you. Aim to keep your meals as fresh as pos­si­ble and re­sist sauces, bread­crumbed meats and pro­cessed meals. You want to stay as close to na­ture as food can be. Here’s a guide to get you started with healthy gro­cery ba­sics for your weekly shop­ping list: Com­plex car­bo­hy­drates: Brown rice (the 90sec­ond mi­crowave sa­chets are a god­send), whole­wheat pasta, rice noo­dles, cous­cous, quinoa, sweet po­tato/po­tato to make home­made chips, whole­wheat buns for healthy burg­ers or wraps. Salad sta­ples: We’re talk­ing in-sea­son veg­eta­bles that you can whip up into a salad, use for a stir-fry or turn into a de­li­cious bake. Don’t for­get to load up on frozen veg­eta­bles as well — these are your best friend when it comes to din­ners on the run and may be more nu­tri­tious than fresh veg­eta­bles as they are snap frozen im­me­di­ately af­ter pick­ing. Add some cheese for va­ri­ety, or fruit to a salad to bump up your nu­tri­tion if your day’s in­take has been a lit­tle ho-hum.

Protein: Limit red meat to twice a week and try to al­ter­nate dif­fer­ent sources so you’re not hav­ing one par­tic­u­lar meat in suc­ces­sion. Look for low-fat cuts of lamb, pork, beef, kan­ga­roo, chicken and turkey, plus a va­ri­ety of fish. Try to in­clude a veg­e­tar­ian meal once a week us­ing legumes or eggs, or make a veg­etable soup and serve it with crusty whole­grain bread.

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