What you put in your shopping trolleys determines what you’re going to eat at home. So making healthy choices at the shops can make a big difference.
There are many things you can do to shop healthily, including:
- choosing nutritious, fresh and whole foods from the 5 food groups, such as fruit and vegetables, dried legumes, wholemeal pasta and reduced-fat dairy products
- avoiding processed discretionary foods
- learning to understand food labels, so that you know what you are buying.
Understanding food labels
In Australia, legislation requires most packaged foods to have a label that provides information like:
- ingredients, including additives and those that can cause allergies
- energy and nutrition information
- use-by date
- use and storage instructions.
It’s important to understand what it all means to make informed decisions about what you eat or drink.
Cooking at home with fresh ingredients from the 5 food groups – rather than eating pre-packaged or takeaway food – will help you eat healthier.
Look for recipes that require grilling, poaching, stir-frying, dry roasting and microwaving. Avoid those that require:
- frying in oil, which will be high in fat
- boiling, which can remove the nutrients from vegetables.
Quick and easy recipes for healthy meals are easy to find through an internet search. You can also adapt them to add extra vegetables, or to lower fat content.
You can save time by cooking more than you need for one meal. Then freeze the leftovers for another day or take them to work for lunch, instead of eating takeaway.
Meals and mealtime habits
How you eat your meals can help you eat healthier. Things you can do include:
- eating breakfast every day – people who don’t eat breakfast tend to eat more during the day
- keeping a consistent routine every day – it doesn’t matter if you have 3 larger meals or 5 smaller meals, as long as you keep the same routine
- planning for your snacks and preparing them in advance – so you don’t need to buy unhealthy snacks like chips
- eating with friends and family – people who eat together tend to eat healthier
- turning the TV off during meals – it’s easier to realise you’re full if you’re not distracted.
Eating out and takeaway
Everyone loves eating out – it’s a great way to catch up with friends while enjoying a meal.
But it’s easy to choose restaurant or takeaway meals that are high in sugar, salt and saturated fat. If you enjoy regular meals out with friends, make sure you make healthy choices.
For example, try to choose:
- grilled options over fried options
- vegetables or salad over chips as a side
- sushi, a salad sandwich or a salad over chips, pies, pizzas, sausage rolls or hamburgers
- tomato-based sauces over creamy sauces.
Limiting how often you eat out, and cooking at home instead, will also help you eat healthier.
Read about eating healthy when eating out.
School canteens and childcare providers
School canteens and childcare providers are in a great position to give children healthy and nutritious foods and drinks.
By offering healthy choices at school, instead of options with high salt and saturated fat content like meat pies and sausages, we can help kids grow and create good eating habits for life.
The National Healthy School Canteens Guidelines and associated resources can help canteen and childcare managers choose healthy canteen options. Each state and territory has implemented and adapted the guidelines differently to suit their local needs.