Seven healthy (and cheap) food cupboard staples
Healthy eating needn’t be expensive. Here are seven easy-to-find ingredients that can help you achieve a balanced diet.
An oily fish that’s a good source of vitamin D, protein and omega-3 fatty acids, mackerel may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease if eaten two to three times a week. Choose mackerel in spring water or unsaturated oil, and mix it with some onion lightly fried in olive oil, cooked rice and peas. You can add curry powder and some chopped boiled eggs for a simple and healthy kedgeree.
Tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene, a potent antioxidant that helps protect against cancer and boosts the immune system. It’s better absorbed when consumed in the form of cooked tomatoes or processed products, such as tomato puree or ketchup. So for a healthy boost, add a dollop of puree to casseroles and homemade soups.
Oats are rich in fibre and great at reducing low density lipoprotein (bad) cholesterol, and are a great addition to your diet. “Porridge is a fantastic source of slow-release carbohydrate, which will keep you feeling full through the morning (or afternoon or evening),” says Alana MacDonald, registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the British Dietetic Association. Porridge can be eaten all year round, not just in winter. In summer, soak grains and grated fruit overnight in fruit juice and milk, and pop in the fridge. By the morning, you’ll have a cooling porridge-like mixture to which you can add your favourite toppings.
Low in fat, high in fibre, by weight lentils contain more iron than steak or chicken (although their iron is more difficult to absorb). As a legume, they also count as one of your five-a-day, and adding lentils to a meal will help you feel fuller and less inclined to snack later. Boil a batch for 20 minutes until they feel creamy when pinched between the fingers. Once cooked, you can add to dishes such as homemade tomato pasta sauce for an extra fibre boost.
While it’s more expensive than wholegrain rice, quinoa is a so-called 'super-grain' because it is high in fibre, contains iron and magnesium, and is one of the most protein-rich foods you can eat. Quinoa is also a low glycaemic-index (GI) food, which means it’s beneficial to diabetics, as it won’t cause a sugar spike. Either use it as a substitute for rice or cook following the package instructions then add freshly chopped parsley, dry-roasted pumpkin seeds, lemon juice and a dash of extra virgin olive oil for a delicious side dish.
Sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds
Packed with nutrients and bursting with energy, these seeds contain high levels of essential fatty acids, as well as vitamins A, B, C and E and calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, potassium, selenium and manganese. Pick a seed, dry roast a small handful and sprinkle on salads or roasted vegetables for a nutty taste and nutritious boost.
Adding a lovely sweet and sour taste to casseroles or tagines, dried apricots are also a health snack. They are high in fibre and contain good levels of potassium, which can help to protect against high blood pressure. The yellow-orange variety can be high in sulphur dioxide, which is added to prevent mould developing on the fruit, while organic dried apricots tend to be brown, as they are sun dried.