This special collection of tips from our experts, recipe writers and readers is designed to motivate and inspire – make this the summer when you get even healthier!
Planning and motivation
1. One of my favourite tips to clients is: Healthy eating takes planning. It does not just happen by itself. From what you buy and bring into the house, to planning your daily meals – without planning, it can all fall apart. (Fiona Lynch, dietitian)
2. If you are trying to manage your weight, understanding the reasons behind why you eat is as important as knowing what to eat. (Alison Martin, APD)
3. Keep an ‘essentials’ list in the pantry. Starting with fresh fruit and vegetables, list everything the household needs to get through the week. This is not what family members like, just what they need. Use this list when planning meals and shopping. (Sophie Gray, recipe writer)
4. When your week is looking busy, double your recipes and cook twice as much. Freeze the other half in containers for your own convenience meals. (Nicole Senior, APD)
5. Don’t underestimate the power of the buddy system! I joined a running group with friends and it’s made it so much easier to get out of bed in the morning to exercise – we motivate each other and celebrate our achievements together. (Sue Morony, HFG art director)
6. I photocopy recipes I want to try and keep them in a folder for inspiration! (Tessa Pearse, dietitian)
7. Don’t only think about the number on the scales when you’re trying to lose weight. Think about how your clothes fit and feel; how much energy you have; and how your skin is glowing from eating nutritious, healthy food. (Zoe Wilson, HFG dietitian)
8. When you focus on what you can have rather than what you can’t, you’re less likely to feel deprived and more likely to keep on track. (Melanie McGrice, Advanced APD)
9. Start planting a herb garden in the spring. Use it as motivation to experiment with different flavours and cut down on adding salt to meals. (Celeste Tan, APD)
10. Write your grocery list the day before you go shopping. The next day, go through it and delete what you can do without. There are usually some ‘wish’ purchases on there! (Clare Bielski, reader)
11. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Your health goals should be achievable, enjoyable and realistic – not impossible. (Robyn Brass, psychologist and weight loss counsellor)
12. When reading the labels on food products, look at the ingredient list. If salt, sugar or fat (unless it is an oil or spread) is mentioned in the first three ingredients, then put it back on the shelf! (Zoe Wilson, HFG dietitian)
13. If your child has a food allergy, make sure you have a plan for handling reactions. The plan should spell out what to do, who to contact, and which medicines to take. You could also put together a booklet for your child to carry, filled with pictures of foods that are not okay to eat and those that are. (Zoe Wilson, HFG dietitian)
14. When baking, you may need to add more raising agents, such as baking soda or baking powder (check the label for gluten-free varieties), when you’re using gluten-free flours. (Caitlin Reid, APD)
15. Read the ingredients on the food label EVERY time you purchase it, as manufacturers can change ingredients. (Dr Sue Shepherd, Advanced APD and HFG Editorial Advisory Board member)
16. Anyone on a vegan diet needs to take a vitamin B12 supplement. (Kate Marsh, APD)
17. If you need to follow a specialised diet, have it explained to you by an Accredited Practising Dietitian with experience in that particular area.
18. Even if you’re a vegetarian, you need to include protein at every meal. Try a tofu scramble for brekky, lentil salad for lunch and a bean curry with quinoa for dinner. (Zoe Wilson, HFG dietitian)
19. Join a support group – like the Coeliac Society of Australia – if you have coeliac disease. Support groups are a wealth of up-to-date information aimed at making living with your condition easier. (Dr Sue Shepherd, Advanced APD and HFG Editorial Advisory Board member)
20. Always have a ‘stash’ of suitable snacks close by, so you’re never caught out. Keep them in your handbag, your desk drawer at work, the glove box of your car (just don’t choose foods that need to be refrigerated or frozen!). (Dr Sue Shepherd, Advanced APD and HFG Editorial Advisory Board member)
21. Get kids involved in growing fruit, vegetables or herbs in your own garden (it doesn’t have to be big). I have found children to be more willing to try fresh herbs and vegetables if they have been involved with growing them. (Aneta Zurawski, reader)
22. Add grated vegies to any mince dish. Adding grated vegies to salads also really bulks up the dish. (Sally Parker, recipe writer)
23. Don’t use unhealthy food treats as a reward – this could set them up with unhealthy habits for life when it comes to emotional eating. Think of other treats – either healthy food choices (give them two healthy options for dinner and allow them to choose – they’ll love the power!) or non-food-related ones (seeing a movie; 15 extra minutes of play time in the park; etc). (Zoe Wilson, HFG dietitian)
24. Use up older vegies by adding them to wholemeal muffins – try carrot, sultanas and honey; capsicum, olives and feta; or zucchini and ricotta.
25. Make healthy eating a family affair. Try putting a chart on the fridge that has spaces for everyone to fill in how many serves of fruit, vegies and dairy and how much water they have had for the day. Turn it into a challenge with a special prize for the family member who reached their goals for each food group most often over the month. (Zoe Wilson, HFG dietitian)
26. Try ‘dressing up’ the names of healthy meals with gourmet words for adults and fun words for kids. So for adults, ‘steak and veg’ becomes ‘juicy rump steak with Italian-style roasted vegetables’ and for kids, broccoli becomes ‘dinosaur trees’! (Catherine Saxelby, APD and HFG Editorial Advisory Board member)
27. Presentation is everything. Kids love little portions, packets and parcels. Buy mandarins, cherries, grapes and cherry tomatoes. Cut healthy sandwiches into fancy shapes with cookie cutters, or serve dinner ‘artfully’ arranged (like using vegies to form a smiley face). (Sophie Gray, recipe writer)
28. If you can’t get your kids to eat wholegrain bread, fruit bread makes an interesting change and increases fibre. Kids often prefer white bread – so if they won’t budge, try a high-fibre variety. (Christine King, dietitian)
29. Don’t force your kids to eat if they’re not hungry (but also don’t give them dessert if they’ve said they’re not hungry for dinner). Kids are good at listening to their hunger signals – it’s when we get older we lose touch with them – and will let you know when it’s time for them to eat. Just make sure they have lots of healthy options available to choose from! (Zoe Wilson, HFG dietitian)
30. Eat in season. Seasonal produce is the cheapest, freshest and tastiest. (Sophie Gray, recipe writer)
31. Choose lower-fat milks. As a rule of thumb, these milks have less fat, fewer kJs and more calcium than regular milk – that’s a triple bonus. (Glenn Cardwell, APD and HFG Editorial Advisory Board member)
32. Fill half your plate with salad or vegetables first – this will make it easier to keep meat and carbohydrates to a quarter of your plate each. And eat your vegies first! You can also try using a smaller plate to reduce serving size – it’s very tempting to fill a big plate! (Zoe Wilson, HFG dietitian)
33. Make eating seconds straight after dinner inconvenient. Pack leftovers in the fridge before sitting down to eat, and leave serving dishes in the kitchen – the walk from the table deters overeating! (Rebecca Hadfield, HFG brand manager)
34. You can boost your fibre intake by sprinkling toasted pumpkin, sunflower or sesame seeds over salads. (Cath Conlon, reader)
35. If the portion you are served is too big, cut it down to size before you even start, and push the plate away when you have finished. (Angela Hook, behavioural psychologist)
36. Swap iceberg lettuce for watercress – watercress contains 25 times more vitamin C and 5 times more iron and calcium than iceberg lettuce.
37. Eat slower by chewing your food thoroughly and mindfully –which means blocking out distractions and focusing on the food. It’s a proven way to eat less before you feel full. (Dr Tim Crowe, APD and HFG Editorial Advisory Board member)
38. If you get bored of water or want a hot alternative, try green tea – it’s low in kilojoules and high in antioxidants. (Celeste Tan, APD)
39. Try using quinoa in place of rice (try it in fried rice, with curries or stir-fries) – it’s a complete vegetarian protein, and is low-GI. (Danielle Tibbles, HFG managing director)
40. Never upsize anything and always opt for smaller versions of everything. Say goodbye to jumbo packs and mega bars. Family packs are for families. Don’t kid yourself – you will not save some for later! (Angela Hook, behavioural psychologist)
41. Place a paper towel in the bottom of a plastic bag with your fresh lettuce, carrots, broccoli, etc before storing in the fridge. This will soak up any moisture and condensation and the vegies will last longer.
42. When out with the boys, if you find it hard to opt out of drinking, try buying yourself an on-tap light beer when it’s your round. No one will notice and you will end up drinking fewer kJ. (Andy Pedashenko, personal trainer)
43. Eat to hunger and satiety. The body actually tells you how much to eat and when to eat – we just need to listen. If we eat to hunger and satiety, then the body will stabilise at the right weight for you. (Dr Janet Franklin, APD and HFG Editorial Advisory Board member)
44. For breakfast, try oats soaked in skim milk served with two pieces of fruit (chopped up), 1/4 cup low-fat yoghurt and a sprinkle of LSA or walnuts – this is very filling and you can vary the fruits each day. In winter, cook the oats and milk to make porridge. (Sally Parker, recipe writer)
45. Swap toast with butter and Vegemite for toast with reduced-fat ricotta and tomato – it’s higher in fibre, lower-GI and you’ll get a serve of veg at breakfast.
46. Save kilojoules and fat by putting salad dressings into a spray bottle and misting it over salads.
47. Cut back on saturated fats, but make sure you still get the healthy fat your body needs each day – try to include a wholefood source of healthy fats at each meal. For example, some avocado, a handful of nuts or a sprinkle of seeds. Healthy fats are important for heart health, plus they help make you feel satisfied and have the added health bonus of fibre and plant phytochemicals. (Liz Munn, APD)
48. It is easy to judge fresh produce on its price per kilo. There will always be seasonal variation in price. When you judge them on nutrient and health attributes, they are always good value for your health now and way into the future. It’s not the price you pay now that matters, it’s the health cost you pay when you don’t eat enough fresh produce. (Glenn Cardwell, APD and HFG Editorial Advisory Board member)
49. Kilojoules rule! Fat, protein, carbohydrate, vegies and alcohol all have different amounts of kilojoules/gram. It’s easy to see that fat and alcohol can quickly add kJ to your day: fat 38kJ/g, alcohol 29kJ/g, protein 17kJ/g, carb 16kJ/g, most vegies 0–4kJ/g (excluding starchy vegies like potatoes and corn). (Zoe Wilson, HFG dietitian)
50. Instead of pastry on pies, try using wholegrain breadcrumbs, oats or potato slices. (Liz Macri, recipe writer)
51. Make quick dips to go with crackers or vegie sticks – they’ll be much healthier than store-bought ones! Try yoghurt and grated cucumber; blend chickpeas with yoghurt, cumin and lemon juice; or blend cannellini beans with a little garlic, lemon juice and fresh thyme leaves. (Liz Macri, recipe writer)
52. Use an ice-cream scoop when making meatballs to help save time and prevent messy hands! (Margie Allan, reader)
53. If you love whipped cream, reduce the fat and make it go further by choosing low-fat cream and mixing it with low-fat Greek or vanilla yoghurt.
54. Steam or microwave your vegies in as little water as possible to retain the nutrients. (Rose Carr, HFG nutritionist)
55. Chill casseroles and soups overnight, so you can skim any excess fat off the top before serving.
56. Up your vegie count by keeping frozen veg in the freezer and adding cupfuls to soups, casseroles, one-pot meals and braises. I like to add frozen peas in the last few minutes of making spaghetti bolognese – they add a burst of freshness and an extra serve of veg! (Nikki Wallman, HFG editor)
57. It’s easy to substitute wholegrain rice, breads and flour into your recipes to increase fibre; and most cake recipes will turn out well using reduced-fat table spread instead of butter. (Liz Macri, recipe writer)
58. I always use apple sauce as my wet ingredient in baking – it cuts out the butter and oil and tastes yummo! (Amanda Croft, reader)
59. Use a rack when roasting to lift your meat out of the pan and ensure the fat drips away, rather than being absorbed into the meat. Roast vegies separately so they don’t act as a sponge and absorb fat. (Rose Carr, HFG nutritionist)
60. My favourite trick is to add 1 tablespoon oatmeal and 1/2 tablespoon water to every 100g ground meat when preparing burgers or meatballs. It improves the texture and boosts the fibre content! (Amy Leung, reader)
61. Replace 1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese with 1 tablespoon of more strongly-flavoured grated parmesan in recipes to save 430kJ. (Jennifer Bowden, dietitian)
62. Toast whole seeds, like cumin, in a frying pan and then crush them with a pestle and mortar – that way you get so much more flavour. (Sally Parker, recipe writer)
63. Try not to buy anything you can realistically make yourself, like muffins, biscuits, pasta sauces and so on. (Sophie Gray, recipe writer)
64. Buy a good, mid-priced, heavy-based, non-stick frying pan. They make such a difference when cooking with small amounts of oil or cooking oil spray. (Sally Parker, recipe writer)
65. Still making vinaigrette with 2/3 oil and 1/3 vinegar? Change the ratio to 50:50 and save 170kJ in 2 tablespoons of dressing. (Jennifer Bowden, nutritionist)
66. Avoid over-cooking pasta. When it’s cooked al dente, it has a lower GI, which keeps blood sugar levels stable and helps to keep you fuller for longer.
67. Cannellini or butter beans make a great high-fibre alternative to mashed potato – rinse the canned beans, process with a drizzle of olive oil and chopped parsley, then heat before serving.
68. For quick (and healthier!) crisps, cut Mountain Bread or pita bread into small wedges. Lightly spray with oil, sprinkle with spices or herbs, then bake for a few minutes until golden and crisp. Set aside to cool and serve immediately with healthy dips or store in a snap-lock bag. (Liz Macri, recipe writer)
69. Consider seeing a dietitian as a first – rather than a last – resort. There’s no quick fix but professional help is a worthwhile investment. (Lisa Yates, Advanced APD)
70. An indulgence or treat should not be a daily event. For weight loss, I recommend one treat a week and for weight maintenance, three treats a week. If a treat happens daily, it’s no longer special and you start looking for new replacement ‘treats’. (Nikki Hart, nutritionist)
71. Writing down your food intake can make you aware of habits you didn’t even notice you had, like eating when you’re not even hungry. (Melanie McGrice, Advanced APD)
72. Move as much as you can during your day, even if this means standing up more often than sitting. Sedentary behaviour, in particular sitting still, seems to have its own physiological response that is not just the opposite to doing physical activity. (Dr Janet Franklin, APD and HFG Editorial Advisory Board member)
73. Think ‘health’, not ‘diet’. Give up on restrictions and aim to nourish your body with the essential nutrition it needs. This means a fresh peach or mango is suddenly a healthy food to enjoy, not a 'low-kJ diet snack'. (Catherine Saxelby, APD and HFG Editorial Advisory Board member)
74. Always carry a bottle of water with you – stay hydrated, save money, and prevent spending on those sugar kicks! (Jacki Evans, APD)
75. Every glass of wine takes 15 minutes of walking to burn off. If you don’t have time to exercise, don’t drink! (Lisa Yates, Advanced APD)
76. Try to avoid getting too hungry – it’s a 'let’s eat junk' trap. Eat regularly, and choose low-GI, high-fibre foods that will help keep you fuller for longer. (Rose Carr, HFG nutritionist)
77. Don’t ‘overhaul’ your diet. Big changes never last, but you can stick to small ones. Try cooking two new healthy recipes each week, or having two nights free of alcohol during the week. (Catherine Saxelby, APD and HFG Editorial Advisory Board member)
78. If you’re in a weight-loss rut, get back on track by giving yourself some realistic goals – such as setting a goal of losing 5kg, even if you have 25kg to lose. (Melanie McGrice, Advanced APD)
79. Schedule business meetings in the morning rather than over lunch so you can have a coffee, but don’t get sucked into a two- or three-course meal with drinks. (Zoe Wilson, HFG dietitian)
80. When sugar cravings hit in the evening – usually while watching TV and relaxing – I sip on a soothing hot chocolate made from skim milk... delicious! (Angela Walker, APD)
81. If you like to snack on cereal bars, make sure you check the nutrition information panel to ensure you pick a bar with less than 600kJ and 3g saturated fat per serve. (Zoe Wilson, HFG dietitian)
82. For a healthy snack, lightly toast soy & linseed bread. Top with a little extra-light cream cheese and some smoked salmon. It’s a tasty morsel complete with omega-3, calcium and fibre!
83. Plan ahead before going out to dinner or to a party. Have a small healthy meal or substantial snack before you leave home (try a tub of low-fat yoghurt or a handful of nuts) and make smart choices when out: steer clear of fried foods, pile on the salads and watch your alcohol intake (alternate a glass of mineral or tap water with every alcoholic drink you have). (Rachel Hanson, HFG sub editor)
84. Fruit bread is a great low-GI snack for sustained energy, just ask for the butter on the side if ordering at a café so you can choose how much you put on (if any). (Christine King, dietitian)
85. When preparing dinner, prepare your vegetables first and snack on them if you need to. (Cindy Williams, nutritionist)
86. Try these snack and light meal ideas: Beetroot hommous: process beetroot, tahini, chickpeas, garlic and lemon juice until smooth. Pizzas: spread Mountain Bread with canned tomatoes; then top with garlic, olives and mixed vegies like mushrooms, eggplant, sweet potato, cherry tomatoes and rocket. (Nadine Ominski, reader)
87. Serve snacks on a plate so you can see how much you are actually eating. (Cindy Williams, nutritionist)
88. Eating more fruit and vegetables is essential to good health: make yourself a mezze plate with carrot and celery sticks, broccoli, sun-dried tomato, olives and hommous for a delicious afternoon snack! (Amber Hutchison, APD)
89. For long car trips, pack healthy, non-messy snacks like reduced-salt popcorn, mixed raw nuts, vegie sticks or even home-made wholemeal fruit muffins – and avoid the temptation to buy junk in service stations when you stop for bathroom breaks! (Nikki Wallman, HFG editor)
90. I exercise in the morning, because I know I won’t feel like it at the end of a long work day! (Tessa Pearce, dietitian)
91. Don’t let technology make you less active – get up to change the channel, walk up the escalator instead of standing still or, at work, try walking over to talk to a colleague instead of sending them an email. (Zoe Wilson, HFG dietitian)
92. On holidays, walk as much as you can. You’ll see more and it counteracts the sitting one has to do on planes and trains. (Catherine Saxelby, APD and HFG Editorial Advisory Board member)
93. To help your muscles recover after a workout, opt for a meal containing both protein and carbs – ideally within two hours of your session. (Kathleen Alleaume, exercise physiologist and nutritionist)
94. Many people spend hours doing sit-ups, crunches, and other ab exercises in the hope of reducing that spare tyre. Sit-ups strengthen your abs and lower back, but they have no impact on the fat stored there. Aerobic or cardio exercise is the only way your body breaks down fat, including the fat around your internal organs. If you want to lose weight from your waist, you need to lose it all over. (Kathleen Alleaume, exercise physiologist and nutritionist)
95. Start a walking group at work. Meet either before work or at lunch to get active, get away from the computer and be social, too! (Jacki Evans, APD)
96. Get the family involved in exercise. Choose a time that everyone will go for a walk, bike ride or swim each weekend or choose a new sport to learn together. Not only will you all feel healthier, you’ll get to spend quality time together, too.
97. Invest in some light hand weights (or fill two drink bottles with water) and lift them up and down while you’re on your daily walk.
98. Park your car 10 minutes away from work – that’s 20 minutes of exercise there and back!
99. Increase your incidental exercise – every time you are at home and you stand up, do 10 squats. You can change it up by changing the exercise, increasing the amount you do or adding other exercises. (Alysha McKenna, APD)
100. To make your weights session more effective and reduce injury, try counting to four on the way down and counting to two on the way up while you’re doing exercises like bicep curls – and don’t forget to breathe! (Andy Pedashenko, personal trainer)
101. Map out the time you plan to exercise, and exactly what you will do in each session too. This will make you feel more committed to the task. (Caitlin Reid, APD)
Want to put some tips into action? We’ve made a list template for you – just print out the DOWNLOAD, select your favourite ideas and jot them down.