You know that old saying, “you are what you eat”? Well…it’s true! A healthy diet is the basis of a well-functioning body. Food is the source of energy for all of our bodily functions and has a direct impact on mood, weight, health and our overall quality of life.
Having said that, while feeding our families a healthy, varied and nutritious diet is at the top of our list, many of us feel overwhelmed when strolling down the supermarket aisles and don’t know where to start.
To help you out, we’ve made a list of the foods every family should have on their shopping list, for healthy every day eating!
Fresh vegetables + fruit
As children, we were told to eat our fruit and veggies, and while some of us may have pushed our peas around the plate or thrown our half-eaten apples in the bin when no one was looking, the truth is fruit and veg are the cornerstone of a healthy diet, so it’s time to grow up and get fresh!
Nutritionist and chef Zoe Bingley-Pullin said vegetables are a natural source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre.
“Eating more fruit and vegetables has been shown to increase happiness and life satisfaction. Increased vegetable intake is also linked to decreased chronic disease risk,” she said.
Zoe’s picks for the best vegetables are those richest in antioxidants including capsicum, tomato, carrots, beetroot and spinach. Our Everyday dietitian Jacqui Plozza adds that carotenoids, a type of antioxidant that gives vegetables such as these their bright colours, are also better absorbed in Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO).
In addition, many of the dark green leafy vegetables (broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and kale) that tend to be quite bitter but also high in a powerful plant nutrient called glucosinolates taste better cooked in EVOO. What’s more, glucosinolates have been shown to protect against cancer, but are better preserved in fat. So cooking in AEVOO improves the taste and the health benefits.
Another great item to add to your shopping list are mushrooms. While mushrooms aren’t a fruit or a vegetable – they’re actually a fungus – they still count towards your recommended daily goal of “two fruit and five veg”. Mushrooms are one of the highest antioxidant containing foods in the world and are a rich source of various B vitamins.
Now onto the sweet stuff. While we recommend all fruits for a balanced diet, strawberries, bananas, avocados (yes, they’re a fruit) and apples are not only good for you, they’re perfect for every day eating, ideal for lunchboxes or to take to work as a 3pm snack. Strawberries contain a very small amount of sugar, while apples have serious disease-fighting powers. Bananas are packed with natural carbohydrates, vitamin B6 and potassium, and avocados are rich in vitamin C and E, folate and fibre, plus they’re delicious! What’s not to love?
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are high in fibre, minerals, healthy fats and protein. Having some fat in our diet is important to provide the body with essential fatty acids, help regulate cholesterol production, and provide fat soluble vitamins, stored energy and insulation.
The Healthy Chef, Teresa Cutter, said just one handful of nuts will satisfy your hunger and keep blood sugars stable for hours.
One of her favourite nuts is the almond, as they’re an anti-inflammatory for the body and high in vitamin E. Almonds are also a great source of potassium – a mineral necessary for the contraction of all muscles, including the heart, and for nerve transmission.
Dietitian Sharon Natoli, director of Food and Nutrition Australia said a controlled intake of lean meat as part of a balanced diet can help maintain health.
“We support eating a variety of protein sources because we get different nutrients from different sources. Legumes are a good source of iron, zinc and fibre. But it’s easier to get your nutritional requirements if you include meat in your diet,” Sharon said.
And when it comes to lean red meat, Australia’s own Kangaroo meat gets a big tick. It’s a terrific source of high-quality protein, low in fat and saturated fat, and a source of heart-friendly omega-3s. It’s also one of the most affordable cuts of meat and is sustainably and ethically sourced.
For general health benefits, you should also include fish in your weekly shop. Medical writer Peter Lavelle said fish is not only a good source of protein, and low in fat overall, it’s high in a form of good fat – omega-3 fatty acids – thought to act as natural anti-inflammatory agents.
Dietitians also say that oily fish such as mackerel and sardines help to fight against cardiovascular disease, prostate cancer, age-related vision loss and dementia. Mackerel also has a sustainable status – so it’s not only good for you, it’s also good for the environment.
Beans and legumes are inexpensive, high in fibre, calcium and iron. Combined with high protein whole grains like brown rice, millet and quinoa, legumes and beans provide the full complement of essential amino acids.
When you’re planning your next shopping trip make sure milk, yoghurt and cheese are on the list.
The Australian Government’s ‘eat for health’ website says these foods provide calcium in a readily absorbable and convenient form.
They also have various health benefits and are a good source of nutrients, including: calcium, protein, iodine, vitamin A and D, riboflavin, vitamin B12 and zinc.
Accredited practicing dietitian Denise Griffiths from the Dietitians Association of Australia said as core foods, dairy foods could be part of a healthy, balanced diet.
“Three serves a day is a good aim for most people, and everyone over the age of two years should eat the lower fat varieties of dairy foods,” she said.
Dairy is easy to incorporate in your meals throughout the day – milk in your morning coffee, yoghurt for a mid-morning snack and cheese in your sandwich or salad for lunch.
Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil (AEVOO)
It’s the secret ingredient in every Australian kitchen. Australian EVOO is the best oil to cook meat and fish in, and to roast your high antioxidant veggies – such as beetroot and carrots – with. It’s also the perfect base for an incredibly delicious and nutritious veggie-packed pasta sauce with tomatoes and capsicum, and can be used to create a delicious yoghurt dressing for your salads – with Greek yoghurt, a good splash of AEVOO, crushed garlic, lemon juice, chili and honey. It’s your best friend in the kitchen, and it’s oh, so, good for you!
AEVOO is free of trans fat, cholesterol and salt, rich in vitamins, packed full of antioxidants, and proven to minimise the risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes and lower levels of blood cholesterol, and blood pressure.
We all know that the oil aisle at the supermarket can be daunting, so to find the brands that will bring the ultimate health benefits, check out our simple shopping guide for all of the wonderful certified Australian EVOO producers out there!
Now you can head to the supermarket with confidence, knowing you’re putting the healthiest products on your plate, every day!