Making the daily home dining table healthier

06.09.2023 Annely Püttsepp

With today’s fast pace of life, healthy eating can seem difficult and time-consuming. This is the reason why a large number of people decide to take the path of least resistance and make unhealthy choices, for example when buying ready-made and/or semi-fabricated food at the grocery store (we call semi-fabricated foods pre-processed ready-made products that we can easily cook or reheat at home. As a rule, they contain a lot of saturated fat, salt, sugar and a lot of preservatives).

In fact, eating healthy is not difficult at all, nor is it necessarily expensive. You only have to follow the basic rules, and the food table becomes more importantly health-friendly.

There should be five meals a day. Three main meals and two snacks. At each major meal, you should eat up to 200 g of vegetables. It doesn’t always work out, and as a rule, you don’t eat raw salad with breakfast porridge. On a large scale, vegetables could make up at least half of our daily meal (up to 700 g per day).
To make it easier to follow this simple rule, make sure that vegetables (including fresh salad) always make up half of the food. This assumes that there is always material in the fridge to make a fresh salad. For example, lettuce, arugula, cucumber, tomato, paprika, avocado and fresh herbs such as dill, parsley, basil, etc. To prepare a fresh salad, you should always have high-quality cold-pressed olive oil and lemon juice at home.

When talking about a healthy diet, fruits and berries always have an important place. They should be selected according to the season and eaten about 200 g per day. Fruits and berries are an ideal snack along with nuts and seeds. Nuts and seeds are high in healthy fats and thus help balance the fructose in fruit. This means that if we eat nuts and seeds with fruit as a snack, blood sugar will not rise as quickly and will remain stable throughout the day. This, in turn, eliminates any cravings that lead us to reach for a cookie or candy.
When consuming nuts and seeds, preference should always be given to unsalted, unsweetened and unroasted seeds/nuts.

If we talk about dried fruits (raisins, dates, dried bananas, etc.), then they should be eaten rather rarely and in small quantities. The same goes for mouth-watering, freshly squeezed juices. They contain high amounts of fructose, and whole fruits should always be preferred.

The menu should reduce the consumption of refined grains (white rice, white flour pasta, white wheat flour) and increase whole grain products and legumes. Wholegrain bread and wholegrain white bread, wholegrain oatmeal, wholegrain rice and pasta products made from wholegrain flour should always be preferred. Quinoa, amaranth, millet and buckwheat could also be added to the menu.
Legumes are not very popular, as they cause various ailments for many people, but ideally, some legumes, such as broad beans, peas, beans and lentils, should also be on the menu every day. Legumes are very easy to add to various dishes because they are also available in canned form. When using a can, always rinse the legumes under cold running water.

A typical problem in people’s diet is excessive consumption of meat and dairy products. If possible, less fatty beef and poultry should be preferred. Red meat (pork and beef) should be consumed less often and in smaller quantities. Various sausages, wieners and other processed meat products should be rarely and in small quantities on our diet.

Dairy products are also of animal origin and should not be overused. In the case of dairy products, it should be remembered that milk is not a drink next to a meal, but a separate snack. Clean water should be drunk with food. If we consume yogurt and curd, always choose the unsweetened version and flavor it yourself with berries, seeds, nuts and, for example, cinnamon. If possible, prefer fermented or acidified milk products such as kefir, acidified unflavored yogurt, sour milk, etc. Fermented milk products are healthier because fermentation breaks down complex milk proteins and makes them more digestible. Probiotic bacteria in acidified milk products have a positive effect on both immunity and metabolism and improve digestion.

Fish and other seafood could be on our menu three times a week. If possible, you should consume as many different types of seafood as possible, as well as fish that we consume with bones (e.g. sprats). The importance of fish lies in the abundance of omega-3 fatty acids. Fish also contains complete protein and is a good source of vitamin D.

When it comes to making the table healthier, the preparation of the food is also a very important part. The best methods of cooking are steaming, baking, wok-ing and boiling (if we are making soup). Frying and grilling should be used less often, because compounds harmful to our body are easily formed when preparing food in this way.

In fact, it is very easy to prepare such familiar and classic foods in a healthier and figure-friendly way. Most people prepare food at home the way they saw their mothers or grandmothers as children. Mashed potatoes still had to be prepared with plenty of butter and milk. The minced meat sauce was thickened with wheat flour and a hearty beet salad with mayonnaise was prepared on the side. A healthier option would be mashed potatoes with a little butter and milk (vegetable milk), you can grate a carrot into the minced meat sauce and make it with vegetable cream instead, and make a beet salad with olive oil and freshly chopped herbs (parsley, dill, etc.) instead of mayonnaise.

If you make cutlets at home, instead of breadcrumbs, add plenty of grated vegetables and chopped herbs to the cutlet dough. Instead of frying, cook the patties in the oven.

The classic potato, macaroni and rice salad is also relatively hearty and rather an unhealthy choice. However, if you make a salad from healthy ingredients, the result is tasty and nutritious food. For pasta and rice salad, always choose wholegrains. Add plenty of vegetables and legumes to the salad. Instead of heavy sour cream and mayonnaise, use light sour cream, Greek yogurt, vegetable sour cream, light mayonnaise or vegetable mayonnaise.

In conclusion, a healthy diet is not difficult, time-consuming, or expensive. You have to change your habits a little and learn to read packaging. Today we have many healthier alternatives to what we are used to eating. If all this seems difficult, a nutritional therapist can help you and together we will move towards a healthier lifestyle.

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