BNF’s top tips for healthy, hassle free meals while staying at home
With the majority of adults and children across the UK now staying at home, we’re having all of our meals and snacks in the house instead of at work, school or out and about. Many of us might be feeling like we’re running out of ideas for what to prepare next, or may be worried about whether our favourite staples will be on the shelves next time we shop. To help take the stress out of meal planning in these unprecedented times, the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) is able to lend a hand in the kitchen, providing easily digestible tips and inspiration for making healthy meals
Sara Stanner, Science Director at the BNF, said: “As a society we are all trying our best to navigate through these unfamiliar times; taking care of our diet, health and mental wellbeing is just as important as ever. It is understandable that many of us, alongside trying to work and look after children who are at home, may be struggling to decide what to make or how to use that packet at the back of the cupboard. However, with a little creative thinking, we can adapt what we cook and eat in response to the current situation, as we have had to do with so many areas of our lives already.’’
The BNF’s six stay-at-home meal tips
Shop for variety. Having a variety and balance of foods is the foundation of a healthy diet. If you’re out shopping, look for a selection of foods across the main food groups: fruit and vegetables; starchy foods, like pasta and grains; protein foods, including beans and lentils; and dairy or plant-based alternatives. There may be items available that you don’t usually buy and now is a great time to give them a try.
Use up forgotten ingredients. Don’t forget what you may already have at the back of your kitchen cupboard! Now may finally be the time to utilise that pack of lentils or can of mackerel that you never got round to eating – you could even try doing an inventory of what you’ve got so you can look for recipes and make a plan. If you’ve got a few packets with just a little bit left of foods, like pasta or rice, think creatively to use them up – for example, using the last bit of rice to bulk out a homemade soup.
Substitute pasta, rice and grains. We all know that pasta and rice are popular staples and, as such, have sometimes been selling out far quicker than other products in the shops. Try using what is available, for example bulgur wheat, quinoa, barley, couscous and noodles. Prepared packs of grains may also be easier to find on the shelves and, although usually more expensive than their dried counterparts, can provide a quick and convenient meal option.
Looking up new recipes is a great way to be inspired in the kitchen, but for those wanting something familiar, it’s good to know pasta and rice can be swapped by these alternative ingredients. Good examples of this include combining couscous with a Bolognese sauce, or having quinoa or bulgur wheat with stir fried vegetables.
Canned fish and vegetables can be just as nutritious as fresh. Canned goods come in all varieties and, although some (such as sweetcorn and tuna) may sell out quickly, it is definitely worth considering other canned foods. Sardines, mackerel and salmon all count as oily fish and are rich in protein, omega-3 and vitamin D. Serve on top of salads or toast, or if you prefer something more subtle, they can be added to sauces or made into dips.
Canned peas, carrots and spinach are all nutritious and versatile, and why not try something new like heart of palm or artichokes if these are more readily available? Add canned vegetables straight into curries and stews to bulk out your meals. Canned pulses like kidney beans or chickpeas are also a quick, nutritious addition to things like pasta sauces or salads.
Go nuts. Nuts butters have a good source of micronutrients such as magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, vitamin E and B vitamins, and they are also high in fibre too. Add them to Asian inspired noodle dishes or curries, or just have them with fruit or wholemeal bread as a tasty snack.
Meal planning. Although a large portion of the UK is now spending time at home, this does not necessarily mean more spare time is available to them. With many people now juggling working from home, looking after relatives and home schooling, trying to find the time to prepare meals can be a challenge. Making a plan for what you’re going to have for each meal for the next few days, or for the week, could really help you work out how best to use the ingredients you’ve got, and what else you may need. If you’ve got the space to do so, cooking and freezing portions using the ingredients you have available to you is a great way of managing your meal preparation around whatever is going on in the house, while cutting down on waste too.
If you’re in need of some recipe inspiration, the BNF is sharing a series of recipes on its Twitter, @BNFevents, over the coming weeks. If you’ve created something you’re proud of, please share using the #BNFstorecupboardchallenge hashtag.
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About the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF)
Translating evidence-based nutrition science in engaging and actionable ways
BNF was established 50 years ago and exists to deliver authoritative evidence-based information on food and nutrition in the context of health and lifestyle. The Foundation’s work is conducted and communicated through a unique blend of nutrition science, education, and media activities. BNF’s strong governance is broad-based but weighted towards the academic community. BNF is a registered charity that attracts funding from a variety of sources, including contracts with the European Commission, natural government departments and agencies; food producers and manufacturers, retailers and food service companies; grant providing bodies, trusts and other charities. Further details about our work, governance and funding can be found on our website (www.nutrition.org.uk) and in our Annual Reports.’’
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Please note that advice provided on our website about nutrition and health is general in nature. We do not provide any personal advice on prevention, treatment and management for patients or their family members.