In this month's blog our resident dietitian Nicky goes through 10 of her nutritionist-approved convenience foods. Just because something is not made from scratch or fresh ingredients does not mean that it's unhealthy. While preparing your own meals is usually a healthier choice, there is an abundance of products out there that can make sticking to a nutritious diet easier and more time-efficient if you’re on the go or time poor. These following convenience foods get the green light from our dietitian:
- Frozen fruit and veggies- These often get a bad wrap but studies comparing the nutrient content of frozen and fresh fruit and vegetables have often found that frozen varieties tend to be nutritionally superior, because the loss of the water soluble vitamins is slowed considerably by freezing. Pre-cut fruit and vegetables are also convenient too.
- Canned legumes- Canned legumes such as chickpeas, beans and lentils are a great way to help you achieve your vegetable intake and less than 10% of Aussie adults and 7% of kids are currently doing this. They’re a great source of dietary fibre and plant protein which is a win win for your resident gut microbes. Add them to a salad, curry or casserole or substitute them for 50% of the mince in a meal such as a Mexican taco mince.
- Premade salad kits- There is no need for peeling, slicing and chopping when it comes to salad bags. Mixed salad bags or salad kits are great to serve as a side to a main meal or make for a quick easy lunch if you add some protein such as chicken, tofu, seafood, lean meat or legumes. If there is a creamy dressing included or one high in saturated fat simply add half the amount or add your own dressing made of extra-virgin olive oil, fresh or dried herbs and lemon juice or balsamic dressing. You could try Activate Foods Dukkah Chicken Salad for a ready made meal option.
- Tinned fish- Tinned tuna, salmon, sardines and rainbow trout are relatively cheap, nutritious and delicious and can be quickly converted into a protein-packed lunch or snack. Simply add to a salad, mix into some mashed sweet potato and potato for an easy pattie, mix in with some leftover roast vegetables, or serve on some good quality seeded bread or rice. Oily fish such as tinned salmon are a good source of protein, heart-healthy omega-3 fats and calcium.
- Quick oats- Breakfast is typically the most skipped meal and quick oats are a great convenience food to have on hand. Simply add your choice of milk (make sure it is a calcium-fortified option if opting for plant-milks), pop in the microwave and top with fruit, nuts & seeds and some greek yoghurt and you have yourself a nourishing and filling breakfast option. You can even use quick oats in lieu of flour in baking or instead of breadcrumbs in patties.
- Quick cooking or microwavable wholegrains– Some wholegrains like brown rice, barley and quinoa can take around 40 minutes to prepare. Precooked or partially cooked packets or pouches of grains can be heated up in less than five minutes and served in a salad, as a side to a curry, casserole or stir-fry or added to a nourish bowl.
- Greek Yoghurt- Plain Greek yoghurt works well as a quick breakfast or snack option when paired with fresh or frozen fruit and/or some natural muesli. You can also easily turn it into a salad dressing (add dill, lemon, olive oil and some salt and pepper) or use it as a substitute for sour cream for example with mexican dishes.
- Tinned tomatoes or tomato-based pasta sauces- Tinned tomatoes and many pasta sauces are inexpensive and versatile. Canned tomatoes are very similar to fresh tomatoes and are even higher in an antioxidant called lycopene found in cooked tomato products. Make sure to opt for brands with low or no added salt. Combine with some extra-virgin olive oil, onion, garlic and basil to make a quick pasta sauce or add to mexican mince dishes or casseroles,
- Vegetable based dips- These include things like hummus, sweet potato or beetroot dip. You can pair these with some good quality seeded crackers or vegetable sticks for a snack, add to a nourish or salad bowl in lieu of dressing or use as a spread on bread or wraps instead of butter.
- BBQ Chicken- Whole roast or BBQ chickens can be an absolute lifesaver when it's ten minutes before dinner and you have nothing planned. Dice the chicken and stir it through some instant basmati rice, frozen vegetables and soy sauce for a quick fried rice, pair it with a premade salad or left over roast vegetables or enjoy it with some salad on sourdough or good quality seeded bread.
If you need help with maintaining a healthy diet, reach out to an Eatsense dietitian for a consultation.