Cook from scratch

Cook from scratch and limit foods high in salt, sugar and fat.

It is easier to avoid foods high in salt, sugar and fat when you cook your own food, rather than buying precooked, packaged food. Fat, salt and sugar often feature heavily in processed foods and take-aways.

Learn how to read labels so you are wise to the pseudonyms used for sugar and fat. Our food labeling laws are not very comprehensive. For example, food labels don’t have to list if the food contains unhealthy trans-fats or orangutan unfriendly palm oil.


There is clear evidence that a diet high in salt, sugar and fat (particularly saturated and trans-fat) is a major contributor to heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes and some major cancers. Check out the recipe section which features a load of meals that you can knock up faster that you can order a take away. And, when you cook from scratch you know exactly what is going into your food

When you have more time, enjoy the process of slow food and prepare extra food for friends or for using later on. Commit to making 1 or 2 “double dinners” a week. That is, cook twice as much as you need for your household and freeze half for next week.  This saves time cooking and means you can have “convenience” food twice a week without having to eat processed packaged food that probably costs more and isn’t so tasty.  An alternative is to cook twice as much and give half to your neighbour and have them reciprocate the next night.

Eat food in its natural state as much as possible. For example, the delicious nutty brown drylands rice grown just north of Lismore is higher in fibre and essential minerals than the refined white rice that lines our supermarket shelves.

For specific recommendations on balancing your whole diet for different life stages, visit – Healthy Active

If you would like free personalised information and coaching on how you can improve your diet please visit: NSW Health Get Healthy Information and Coaching Service –

How to do it: Ten tips to increase your intake of vegetables

Adding vegetables to dishes you can already cook is the easiest way to make your diet healthier.

  1. Take a good look at your dinner plate. Vegetables and whole grains should take up the largest portion of your plate. If they don’t, replace some of the meat, cheese, white pasta, or rice with vegies.
  2. Replace beef mince with cooked kidney beans in burritos, nachos and tacos.
  3. Add chopped broccoli, capsicum, carrots, celery, green beans and zucchini to your spaghetti bolognaise, lasagne, or other tomato-based pasta dishes.
  4. Grill vegetables like capsicum, egg plant, mushrooms, onions, potato, sweet potato, tomato, and zucchini with olive oil, a little salt and pepper and herbs at your next BBQ.
  5. Eat like the French and serve salad as first course.
  6. If kids are bugging you for food while you are cooking, feed them raw vegies and save yourself the trouble of cooking them!
  7. Serve steamed vegetables with satay sauce. Add some brown rice and you have a complete meal.
  8. Roast some vegies when you next put the oven on and store them in the fridge. Add them to lettuce, cucumber and capsicum for a great work lunch.
  9. Serve crudités (raw vegies such as carrots, capsicum, celery and cucumbers) with hummous as a starter or snack at your next party.
  10. In winter, make a big pot of veggie soup on the weekend for easy week night meals. Store it in the fridge and only reheat as much as you will need each night.

For ideas on how to get your children to eat more fruit and vegetables visit – School canteens

How to do it: Ten tips to eating healthy food on a budget

Healthier, local food isn’t necessarily more expensive. Reducing your consumption of highly processed ‘convenience’ foods can save a lot of money; frozen dinners, biscuits, instant desserts, ready mixed sauces, snack foods and packaged drinks can be very expensive.

Cooking from scratch, getting good value for money and minimising wastage are critical factors for eating healthy on a budget.  Useful tips include:

  1. If you can, shop at Farmers’ Markets and roadside stalls where food is fresh and great value.
  2. Plan your meals in advance and buy seasonal, local food that suits the recipes you’ve selected. Buy ripe and unripe fruits to last until the next shopping trip.
  3. Store food the right way
    • Any left-over canned fruit and vegetables must be stored in the fridge in an air-tight plastic container.  Don’t leave them in the can
    • Store fruit and vegetables in the fridge “crisper”
    • Refrigerate or freeze left-overs immediately.
  4. Don’t shop for food when you’re hungry.
  5. Eat vegetable rich meals and learn how to cook with peas, beans and lentils –
  6. Eat porridge in winter and muesli in summer. Oats contain soluble fibre which reduces cholesterol and triglyceride fats in the blood, reducing your risk of heart disease. A bag of rolled oats costs about a dollar and can be dressed up with local fruit to make the most impressive breakfast.
  7. Make your own marmalades, jams and preserves.
  8. Cook large quantities and freeze portions for later in the week or smaller portions for lunches. For example, if you plan well you can save time by making twice the quantity of pasta sauce and saving half for pizzas later in the week.
  9. Look to spend most of your money on healthy foods – fruits, vegies, breads and cereals, less on protein foods and the smallest amount on ‘sometimes’ foods such as biscuits, chips etc.
  10. Get some chooks for the food scraps you can’t always avoid and eat the eggs!

Choosing foods in their more natural state is generally better for your wallet and your body:

Less Healthy Foods Price/Kg Healthier Foods Price/Kg
Potato crisps $19.90 Popping corn $3.00
Banana Muffin $12.00 Banana $4.72
Rolled up fruit bar $25.80 Apple $4.29

Sourced from: The Real Cost Of Healthy Food Report Card. (accessed 3 March 2010).