Why opting for a healthy meal is easier when you're organised


This women's month dietitian Terry Harris will be sharing on how to nourish your body from the inside through smart food choices and healthy eating patterns. In this first edition Harris says "The best way to start, is to get organised".


Ever wish you had a nutrition expert on hand to help you make a fresh start with healthy eating habits - or at least to check whether you're heading in the right direction? Well now you do!

August is Women's Month, so each week we'll be empowering South African women with information and guidelines to help you make more informed decisions when it comes to nutrition. Throughout the month, Discovery Vitality dietitian Terry Harris will be sharing her tips and expert advice on how to nourish your body from the inside out through smart food choices and healthy eating patterns.

The best way to start, Harris says, is to get organised. "Having to make last-minute food choices often leads to unhealthy ones, and over the years, these everyday bad choices can compound dramatically to harm your long-term health. Being organised will save you time, money and that all-too-familiar 'what's for dinner?' fluster - so it's well worth spending some effort at the start to lay the groundwork for healthy eating habits.”

6 tips to readying yourself for a good-food diet

1. Stock your cupboards and freezer with long-lasting staples so you'll always have ingredients for healthy meals at hand
  • Buy tins in bulk such as canned beans, lentils and chickpeas (remember to rinse these before use to remove any excess salt). Canned legumes can be added to most dishes for added protein and fibre.
  • Tinned tomatoes without added salt or sugar is a good option for homemade pasta sauces or to use in soups or stews. Other tinned vegetables tend to be high in salt, so opt for frozen vegetables over canned vegetables.
  • Stock up on dried wholegrains such as brown rice, barley and popcorn kernels.
  • Buy olive, avocado or canola oil for preparing meals or dressings.
  • Keep a variety of dried herbs and salt-free spices, lemon juice and vinegars in your pantry for adding flavour to meals.
2. Save on time by opting for healthy convenience foods
  • Pre-cut frozen or fresh plain fruits and vegetables. Frozen chunks are ideal for adding to smoothies.
  • Semi-cooked grains (e.g. brown rice or barley) that only require a few minutes in the microwave.
  • Canned legumes or tuna, sardines, or salmon.
  • Rotisserie chicken without the skin for sandwich fillings or salads.
  • Hummus or cottage cheese which is also great for sandwiches or as a dip for vegetable crudités.
  • Plain yoghurt or unsalted nuts for a healthy, convenient snack.
3. Plan for the week ahead
  • Use the weekend to plan out your meals for the week ahead.
  • If you know what your schedule looks like for the coming week, plan to have healthy meals at hand for busier days.
  • Also plan for those times that you know you are usually prone to making unhealthy choices. For instance, if the mid-afternoon energy slump often causes you to reach for the office biscuits, make sure you have a healthy snack on hand you can reach for instead.
4. Shop smarter
  • Make a list of what you need and stick with it. It's easy to buy food you won't use or that are unhealthy if you don't have a plan when going grocery shopping. Making unhealthy choices are not without consequence - data from the Vitality HealthyFood Benefit shows that purchases of sugary drinks, convenience meals and snack foods high in sugar, and processed meats are all associated with a higher body mass index (BMI).
  • Give online shopping a go to save time. Some online stores even give you the option of creating a standing shopping list which saves the products that you regularly buy, making shopping much less tedious and time-consuming.
  • Save on time by buying all the canned or dried staples and frozen foods you'll need for the week over the weekend so you just have to buy a few fresh items during the week.
5. Make meals in advance
  • Cook a few different meals in one go over the weekend and freeze or refrigerate in portions for the week ahead. Buy a few clear containers for easy storage.
  • Opt for meals which can be cooked in one pot (stews and soups are a good example) to save on time spent washing dishes. Make these nutritionally balanced by including plenty of vegetables, lean protein (e.g. legumes or skinless chicken), and wholegrains (e.g. barley). Try this HealthyFood Studio recipe for a tasty and healthy Cannellini bean soup with spinach, tomato and chives soup you can make over the weekend and freeze in portions.
  • Save time on busy mornings by preparing breakfast the night before. Overnight oats is an easy-to-prepare and healthy choice – buy a few glass jars and add equal amounts of oats, plain milk and yoghurt. Add in fresh or sugar-free dried fruit and nuts, seeds, nut butters, and spices (e.g. cinnamon or cocoa powder). Leave overnight in the fridge and enjoy hot or cold in the morning. Prevent boredom by experimenting with different combinations.
  • Use a slow cooker if you have one - add all the ingredients in the morning to have a delicious meal by dinnertime.
  • Cut down on cooking time by preparing some of the ingredients beforehand. For instance, if you need chopped onions for more than one recipe during the week, chop them all in one go and store in the fridge for use during the rest of the week.
  • Revamp dinner leftovers for lunch the next day and prepare lunch for the following day while you are preparing dinner.
6. Use any convenience services available to you
  • If you enjoy cooking but don't want a fridge full of leftover ingredients you won't use, you can try meal kits such as UCOOK which only provide you with the right amount of ingredients you'll need for a particular meal.
  • If you don't like cooking but still want to eat healthily, meal delivery services, such as Daily Dietitian, could be an option for you. These services are sometimes subject to where you live

Harris concludes, "It's easy to have short, motivated bursts of healthy eating, but being systematic and planning ahead is key to actually sustaining those habits beyond a week or a month. The sooner you get your kitchen, pantry and nutrition priorities in order, the healthier your diet will inevitably become."

Feed your family good health with Vitality HealthyFood

Discovery Vitality's HealthyFood benefit, created by a team of nutrition and health experts, aims to promote good health and lower the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Vitality members can earn up to 25% cash back at Pick n Pay or Woolworths for their healthy food purchases.

Check the Pick n Pay and Woolworths HealthyFood catalogues to see which products qualify. Then SMS "Join" to 47751 to start getting rewarded for healthy choices with Vitality.

Related articles


10 ways to eat better every day

Finding it difficult to keep up a healthy diet? Try these 10 easy-to-remember hacks to help make healthy eating consistently achievable and fun!


Spring-clean your eating habits this September

One way to practice sustainable eating is to plan and eat meals according to the season. Doing so saves money, energy and lets you enjoy foods at the peak of their flavour. Here are 10 tips to get you eating more sustainably, plus a reminder of seasonal fruit and veg to buy this Spring.


5 reasons we buy what we do (and get fatter for it)

An obesogenic environment is one which is not conducive to weight loss, but rather one that promotes weight gain. The bad news is: we live in one. The good news is: we can fight it!

Log in

Please click here to login into Discovery Digital Id

Please click here to login into Discovery Digital Id