Look after yourself: healthy food for busy people

Most of us find it difficult to find the time to shop every day for fresh foods, or cook healthy dishes from scratch. Eating well doesn't have to mean spending ages in the kitchen or giving up all your favourite foods. 

Choose healthier alternatives
  • Use plant oils (olive or sunflower oil) rather than animal fats (butter or lard)
  • Choose the low fat version of foods, fish, leaner cuts of meat and skinless cuts of poultry
  • Use pesto, salsas, mustards, chutneys and vinegars for flavour rather than sour cream, mayonnaise and creamy sauces
  • At the end of your cooking, enhance flavours with a splash of olive oil or lemon juice instead of salt.
    Experiment with fresh or dried herbs, lemon juice and spices
Low fat cooking
  • Steam, grill, boil or microwave rather than frying or baking in oil
  • Cook in liquids (stock, wine, juice or water) rather than oil
  • Using non-stick pans and apply oil as a spray or with a pastry brush
  • Thicken and enrich sauces with low fat alternatives to cream and eggs – yoghurt, skim milk or soy milk stabilised with cornflour
Retain nutrients
  • Scrub vegetables rather than peel them. Many nutrients are found close to or in the skin
  • Cook vegetables quickly and with a minimum of liquid by microwaving, steaming, or stir-frying instead of boiling
Keep a well stocked pantry and fridge

Keep a stock of long-life ingredients that can be combined to create interesting dishes, including:

  • Different types of dried pasta and rice, noodles, lentils and couscous
  • Frozen vegetables and fruits, low salt varieties of tinned vegetables, low sugar varieties of tinned fruits, dried fruit, legumes, mushrooms and tomatoes
  • Low salt varieties of tinned fish
  • Long lasting fresh vegetables (potatoes, beets, carrots and onions) and fruit (apples, pears)
  • A range of condiments (tomato sauce and paste, mustards, vinegars, relishes and chutneys, soy, chilli and other bottled sauces)
  • Dried herbs, spices and nuts, frozen fresh herbs and refrigerated jars of garlic and ginger
Reduce cooking time
  • Buy meat and chicken already cut up and marinated
  • Buy pre-prepared vegetables and salad ingredients
  • Prepare easy, one pot meals like soups, risottos, stews or curries
  • Use a microwave to speed up cooking time – even baked foods can be often be microwaved first to reduce the total cooking time
  • Use minced or small, thin pieces of food to speed up cooking time
  • Make extra and freeze the remainder in meal size portions
  • Don’t throw out leftovers – store them appropriately refrigerated or frozen for a quick meal the next day


For more information, read the fact sheets titled, Caring and stressManaging stress; Eating well and Find time to exercise