Good food preparation guide

To sustainably reduce weight and keep it off, you simply need to be smarter about the choices you make when it comes to food and exercise. A little bit of education and organisation goes a long way when it comes to achieving your goals. Foods often contain a mixture of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and fibre, so it can be hard to choose the right combination.

The key is to eat a wide variety of food and everything in moderation. Each of the recipes on this website will provide you with a tasty way to eat the correct amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fats to achieve a sustainable healthy weight. Below you'll find information on various food groups and the preparation methods required, to help you make a more educated choice about the foods you eat every day.

Fruit and Veg

Nutrition

It is common knowledge that fruit and vegetables are very important in the diet, as they provide vital nutrients to the body. Many have shown to have antioxidant and anti-aging effects. Many of the vitamins and minerals essential to the body cannot be stored, meaning it's important to eat fruit and vegetables daily.

The carbohydrates in your diet should come predominantly from fruits and vegetables, instead of relying on starchy, highly processed, high-sugar fast foods such as white bread, mashed potatoes, cakes, burgers and fries.

The more you process or cook fruits and vegetables, the more nutrients are lost. Be mindful of this when selecting your preparation methods. The exception is the good old tomato, which has been shown to be more beneficial for your health once cooked or processed.

What to look for

When buying fruit and veg, fish or meat, we find the best produce and service is to be had at the local butcher, greengrocer or fishmonger.

When shopping for your fresh fruit and vegetables, look for bright, firm and unbruised produce. It will taste better, look a treat, and keep for longer. However, be aware that sometimes the perfect-looking fruits may have been grown with chemicals and don't hold much flavour. Try to buy organic if available, as we find these taste better and generally have higher nutritional value. Most importantly, try to buy fruit and vegetables that are in season, as those available out of season have usually been imported from overseas.

Preparation

Blanching

Blanching is a very simple way to cook vegetables. It simply involves dropping your vegetables into a pot of rapidly boiling salted water for a short amount of time until tender. Cooking vegetables in a short amount of time ensures that not too many of the nutrients are lost.

Refreshing

Most vegetables can be cooked halfway, then ‘refreshed’ before needed to save on time when serving the dish. Sometimes the most difficult part of putting a meal together is making sure that everything comes out hot at the same time! Refreshing the food is a handy way to eliminate this problem.

Refreshing is a process by which cooking is halted as fast as possible, then the food is reheated later. Even when you take food off the heat, it continues to cook. The best way to slow down this continual cooking is to lift the vegetables out of the boiling water and put them straight into a bowl of iced water. This also helps to keep the vegetables crisp and retain their bright colour. They should be removed from the iced water once they have cooled down. If you want to store them at this point, line a container with absorbent paper, seal the container and put it in the fridge. If the vegetables are to be used for that meal, just keep them to the side. They can be reheated in numerous ways – including grilling, blanching and sautéing – just before serving.

Washing herbs and lettuce

When washing what we call ‘fragile’ leaves, you need to be very gentle when picking them from the stems. If you are rough they will bruise. This is especially so for soft herbs (for example, basil, coriander), and all lettuces.

When washing, you should put the picked leaves into a container of cold water and let them sit for about 5 minutes, then lift them out of the water with your hands and into a salad spinner – a handy tool that allows you to drain the water from delicate leaves without bruising. Don’t drain them using a colander, as this can both bruise your leaves and put back the dirt you’ve just washed off.

Washed leaves can be kept for up to four days if they’re stored in the fridge in a sealed container lined with absorbent paper.

Meat and poultry

Nutrition

Meat and poultry are very good sources of protein, as are fish, soybeans and eggs. Protein is necessary in the diet for a wide range of bodily functions and regulations, including muscle maintenance, enzyme and hormone production and immune function. Protein is made up of smaller amino acids, some of which are produced by the body, while others, just as vital to bodily functions, are not. The full range of amino acids can only be obtained by eating a variety of protein foods. This emphasises the importance of protein in the diet, not only for energy and weight management purposes.

When choosing meat or poultry, consider white poultry meat like chicken, as it is an excellent source of lean protein. The skin, however, is laden with saturated fat, so remove it before cooking. Dark meat like lean beef or lamb is also a good choice and is an exceptional source of vitamin B12, iron and zinc.

From the chef: What to look for

Unless you’re a vegetarian, your butcher should be your best friend. Even if you’re not sure what’s good and what’s not, your butcher will. You need to look for bright meat with marbling and\ a fresh smell. Nowadays there are many different grades of meat. Tell your butcher what you are cooking and they can assist you in selecting the right cuts of meat, trimming the fat, or ‘butterflying’ the meat. If you’re not confident, show them the recipe and they will usually be happy to help.

Preparation

Preparing meat for cooking is easy if you have a good butcher who will make the necessary cuts to the meat. Sometimes they may charge for this, but not very often. The method of ‘butterflying’ meat is described in the stuffed lamb backstrap recipe, and this can be done to all meats and poultry.

Sealing

Sealing the meat at the beginning of cooking ensures that the juices are locked inside, which results in a tender piece of meat. This can be achieved by placing the meat in a hot pan and turning, once brown, to seal the other sides.

Resting

When meat is cooked, the fibres in the meat tighten up – the longer you cook the meat, the tighter the fibres become. That’s why chefs ‘rest’ their meat – to relax the fibres and avoid a tough piece of meat. First cook the meat until just under your liking (for example, medium-rare). Take note of how long it has taken to cook. Then lift the meat off the cooking surface and place it on a cooling rack (the same as you would use for cooling cakes). Place a tray underneath, as the meat will drip. Rest it for half the cooking time, then reheat in the oven for another 2 minutes. When cooking meat and poultry, remember that chicken and pork need to be cooked through. Be careful not to overcook, however, as they can become dry. Duck, quail and liver are safe to serve medium.

Some of the recipes on our website require an ovenproof pan. If you don’t have one, then meat can be sealed in a pan and moved to a baking tray to put in the oven. However, a non-stick pan with a metal handle is a good investment. It saves on cooking time and cuts down on washing up. Make sure you use a thick, dry tea towel when getting the pan in and out of the oven.

Fish

Nutrition

Seafood is one of the best sources of protein due to its low calorie and saturated fat content. Fish and other seafood also provide numerous benefits to the body, such as essential fatty acids (that can’t be produced by the body) like omega-3. Omega-3 has beneficial effects in a range of conditions.

Fish such as salmon and tuna contain high levels of omega-3. Seafood products also contain iodine, selenium, fluoride, iron, zinc, magnesium, and coenzyme Q10 antioxidants, vital for bodily functions. Please note, shellfish and raw seafood are not usually recommended during pregnancy: consult your healthcare professional first.

From the chef: What to look for

I love going to the fish section of the market. When you see all the produce, the mind starts racing with ideas and combinations. That nice fresh seafood smell is a must when buying your fish. With tuna and other oily-fleshed fish, look for bright colours and an oily rainbow tinge in the light. Whole fish should have clear eyes and red gills. Crustaceans should be undamaged and smell good.

Preparation

In my opinion, unless you’re pregnant, most fish should be served medium, and some fish can be served raw. The more you cook fish, the drier it gets. So, when cooking a meal with fillets of fish, everything else should be prepared first and the fish started last. It has a really quick cooking time and most people don’t realise how delicate seafood is. Unlike meat, fish should be eaten straight away. Make sure you ask your fishmonger to clean the fish (if whole) to remove the scales and guts.

Drygoods, vinegars and oils

Nutrition

Herbs and spices

Herbs and spices are generally added to dishes in fairly small quantities and don’t have an essential function in the body. However, they can produce small changes in the body that can be beneficial for weight loss. Chilli, for example, can help to speed up metabolism, while parsley aids digestion and freshens the breath – great after garlic! Basil can also assist in digestion and help to fight bad bacteria in the stomach.

Oils

Your choice of oil is vital when cooking, as it will be absorbed into the food to some extent. When choosing a cooking oil, consider something like canola or sunflower oil. These are low in trans and saturated fats, which have health implications in conditions like heart disease. Canola oil has a good proportion of omega-6 and omega-3. Sunflower oil contains a high proportion of omega-6 and also contains other essential fatty acids and vitamin E. When dressing salads or meals, olive oil is a great choice, as it has a really rich flavour and a low saturated fat content. Its health benefits have been widely reported.

Legumes

Legumes such as chickpeas and lentils are very nutritionally balanced. They are high in protein, high in fibre, moderate in carbohydrate and have a low glycaemic index. They are also an excellent source of other nutrients such as calcium, magnesium and potassium.

From the chef: What to look for

The quality and taste of dried goods really depends on their preparation. If you know what you are eating tomorrow or the next day, you can prepare things like dried beans in advance by soaking them overnight to get the best flavour. If you don’t have the time for this, however, you can buy canned chickpeas, white beans, and so on. Having a well-stocked pantry is a must, from extra virgin olive oil to soy and fish sauce, and everything in between. This will give you a huge variety of options to add different flavours to your meals.

For example, I love using different vinegars in different dishes, as each has a different level of sweetness and sharpness. It’s a good idea to keep something in the pantry other than standard vinegar. Consider using white wine vinegar, balsamic or apple cider vinegar. Specialty food shops and gourmet delis are good good places to find Australian, Asian, and European varieties. Every kitchen should also have at least two varieties of oils – one for cooking, like canola, and one for salads, like extra virgin olive oil.

Olive oil can be used for cooking, as it will add a rich flavour to the meal, however it burns quickly at high temperatures. Canola oil, on the other hand, is much better to cook with at high temperatures, but doesn’t add much flavour. Alternatively, you can blend the two to get the best of both worlds! There are some really good Australian olive oils that, again, you can find in specialised food shops and gourmet delis.

When it comes to herbs and spices, fresh is always best, as you achieve a fresher flavour in the dish. However, dried herbs can also make an appearance in the pantry, and are more convenient than fresh. A good peppermill is another must.

1 Reviews

Darnika

Mon Dec 21, 2015 at 10:32 am