Kitchen hacks that get the dietitian’s tick

You don’t have to slave over a hot stove to produce a healthy dinner. These dietitian-approved hacks will help make rustling up food a breeze.

At the end of the day, it can be hard to find the energy to create a healthy dinner.

But cooking nutritious meals isn’t as labour-intensive (or as expensive) as you might think.

Using benchtop appliances, buying tinned and frozen foods, and including a few key staples to your pantry, are just shortcut hacks you can use to get meals on the table quickly and with minimum fuss.

Here’s a bunch of ideas to help you serve up a quick, healthy dinner.

Fry food the fast and healthy way

“Air fryers use minimal oil, so they can definitely be a healthy alternative to deep or even shallow frying,” Shift Nutrition dietitian Skye Swaney says.

“But most air fryers can also be used for steaming foods such as fish, vegetables and dumplings.”

Dietitian Marieke Rodenstein says it’s important to remember meals are only as healthy as the ingredients you use.

“Just replacing deep-fried food for air-fried food does not guarantee a healthy diet,” Marieke, of The Nutrition Practice, cautions.

“You should use wholefoods and include plenty of seasonal vegetables in your meals.”

5 easy, healthy ways to use your air fryer:

  • Roast a rainbow of seasonal vegies.
  • Make sweet potato fries.
  • Make beetroot and carrot chips.
  • Toast nuts in three to five minutes for a healthy snack or to toss into a salad.
  • Cook crispy salmon (in under 20 minutes).

Healthy dinner ready in a zap

Your microwave can do a whole lot more than just reheat meals – and if you’re worried it will cook out all the goodness, think again.

According to a CSIRO review, there’s little difference in the nutritional value of foods prepared in a microwave compared to conventional cooking methods.

“Microwaves are great for quickly steaming vegies, and there are also many foods you can cook in the microwave such as porridge, baked potatoes, popcorn, rice and even risotto,” Skye says.

Skye advises to minimise nutrient loss, avoid cooking food at too high a heat or for too long.

Be aware that if not used properly, microwaves can cook food unevenly.

Be sure to cook food properly in your microwave to avoid partially cooked food and food poisoning.

4 ingenious ways to use your microwave for meal prep:

  • To turn fresh herbs into dry herbs, put them between pieces of paper towel and microwave on high for two to three minutes.
  • To easily peel garlic, zap garlic cloves in their skin for 15 to 20 seconds on high and then squeeze the cloves out of their skin.
  • To ripen bananas, pierce them all over with a fork and microwave for one to two minutes.
  • To juice lemons, microwave for 15 seconds then roll and juice.

Tinned and frozen foods are your friend

If you’re struggling to eat the recommended five servings of vegetables and two fruit daily, then canned and frozen foods are a convenient way to boost your intake.

“Frozen and canned fruit and vegetables can be a great alternative to fresh, particularly when the price of fresh produce means it can be unaffordable,” Skye says.

“In some cases, they can actually be more nutritious than fresh produce, which may have been sitting in the fridge or on supermarket shelves for some time.”

She says to opt for low-sodium canned vegetables, and fruit in natural juice, not syrup.

3 food staples you need in your pantry:

  • Legumes (such as beans, chickpeas and lentils): Add to soups, salads and pasta for a protein and fibre boost.
  • Canned fish: Rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, it is ideal for patties, dips, pasta and salads.
  • Tinned tomatoes: Packed with vitamins and lycopene for heart health and reduced cancer risk, they are a great addition to soups, pasta and casseroles.

Get your toaster working for your health

When it comes to a fast, nutritious meal, the humble toaster can be your hero, Skye says.

“Nut and seed butter, avocado, eggs and legume-based toppings such as hummus and baked beans are all nutritious toast toppings,” she says.

“My personal favourite for a quick, healthy meal is peanut butter with sliced banana.”

4 of Marieke’s favourite toast toppers:

  • Tinned wild salmon with avocado and rocket.
  • Sardines, tomato and parmesan cheese or buffalo mozzarella.
  • Poached, boiled or fried egg with leafy greens.
  • Goat’s cheese with sliced beetroot and chives or dill.

More healthy kitchen hack tips:

Written by Dimity Barber.