Healthy Cooking

Factors affecting food choices

General cooking tips

  • Rather than frying foods try: grilling, stewing, poaching, steaming, boiling, dry roasting, stir-frying, dry frying, micro-waving or baking in the oven, instead.
  • Try using non-stick cookware to reduce the fat needed
  • If you have to use oil in cooking, measure it onto a spoon (rather than pouring it from the bottle) to help reduce the amount that you use. For a healthy heart use olive oil, rapeseed oil or canola oil.

Cooking with meat


Grill meat on a rack so that the fat drips away.

Brown meat and mince without adding fat or oil

Choose lean meat and mince, trim the visible fat off the meat and the skin off poultry before cooking

Cooking with dairy products


Use reduced-fat and low-fat dairy products (such as skimmed milk, semi-skimmed milk or reduced-fat cheese) whenever possible

Use a small amount of strong cheese for flavouring and grate it rather than slice it (it looks like you have a lot more)

Choose a low-fat spread rather than butter (for a healthy heart, choose a spread based on olive oil or rapeseed oil) but still use these sparingly.

Replace cream in recipes with low fat natural yogurt, low fat fromage frais or reduced fat crème fraiche

Sauces and flavourings

Salad dressings, mayonnaise, cream and rich sauces are all high in fat so choose low fat versions (whatever spread you use, use it sparingly)


Use stock cubes, stock and corn flour or a little gravy powder to make gravy rather than fatty juices from the meat

In casseroles and stews use less meat and add more beans, pulses or vegetables

Choose tomato or vegetable based pasta sauces rather than cheesy or creamy ones

Spices, herbs, lemon juice and vinegar are a low fat, tasty way of flavouring foods. Also try using soya sauce, Worcestershire sauce, fresh chillies, fresh ginger or garlic to add flavour

  • Add chopped fresh or dried fruit to breakfast cereal
  • Have a bowl of fresh fruit salad for breakfast
  • Have fruit as a between-meal snack
  • Substitute fruit for other snacks and desserts
  • Have a bowl of salad with a meal
  • Have a vegetable based meal instead of a meat-based one
  • Eat a bowl of home-made soup
  • Experiment and treat yourself to more exotic fruits such as kiwi or mango, instead of sweets
  • Add root vegetables such as carrots, leeks and parsnips to casseroles, stews or soups, or eat them as part of a meal
  • Add chopped vegetables (e.g. onions, peppers, courgettes, sweetcorn and mushrooms)
Pea Pod

Use less spreading fat (including butter and margarine)

Use a low fat spread instead of a full fat one or butter, but still use it sparingly

If you're using a moist sandwich filling, don't use spreading fats

Use a minimum of fat or oil in cooking

Drain off excess fat or oil after cooking

Eat baked potatoes without any butter or margarine

Eat cooked vegetables without added butter or margarine

Try not to add fat to chapattis either before or after cooking

Choose healthier snacks (see below)


Include servings from this group at every meal

Eat more bread with less spread (or none). Chapattis and Pitta bread are also good choices

Cut thicker slices of bread

Cover more of your plate with baked, boiled or mashed potatoes

Use sweet potatoes, cassava, green bananas, and plantains as well as potatoes

Add pasta or rice to salads to make them more interesting

Use granary bread or multigrain bread instead of white bread


Have a glass of milk to drink

Have a pot of low fat yogurt as a dessert or snack

Use natural yogurt or fromage frais as a dip for vegetable sticks

Add small amounts of low fat cheeses to salads, sandwiches or pizzas

Snacks such as chocolate bars, crisps and biscuits are very high in fat and calories. If you are trying to lose weight you should try to reduce the amount that you eat of these foods. It will be difficult to cut them out completely, so initially try to reduce the amount that you are eating, for example if you eat 2 bags of crisps per day, start by cutting down to 1 bag per day.

You should not deny yourself the foods that you enjoy, this will just make you want to eat them even more. You should learn that no food is forbidden, just be careful about the amount you eat. The best way is to enjoy a small amount of something that you like, rather than completely avoiding it and bingeing on a large amount later.

You should also think about healthier snacks that are lower in calories and are more likely to satisfy your hunger.

Did you know?

A mars bar, a packet of crisps and a can of coke provides you with almost half your daily calorie requirement (if you are a woman), and that is before you have even eaten any meals or had any other drinks.

Comparisons of high calorie snack foods and healthier alternatives

Nutrient content per item Mars Bar (regular size) Small packet of raisins
Calories (kcal) 305 42.5
Fat (g) 11.8 0
Sugar (g) 46.9 10
Nutrient content per item Packet of salt and vinegar crisps 1 medium size banana
Calories (kcal) 181 95
Fat (g) 11.4 0.3
Sugar (g) 0.2 0.5
Nutrient content per item Jam Doughnut Plain Currant bun
Calories (kcal) 252 178
Fat (g) 11.2 4.5
Sugar (g) 14.1 9.0
currant bun
  • Fruit bun (no icing)
  • Currant bun
  • Scone (use low-fat spread or eat plain)
  • Bowl of breakfast cereal
  • Plain popcorn
  • Breadsticks
  • Oatcakes or rice cakes
  • Vegetable sticks (carrots, celery) - dipped in low fat yogurt
  • Fresh fruit
currant bun
  • Home-made fruit smoothie
  • Dried fruit (such as a small packet of raisins or 4-5 ready to eat dried apricots)
  • Low fat yogurt or fromage frais
  • Small slice of malt loaf
  • Pretzels
currant bun
  • Crackers with low fat cream cheese
  • Crumpet with marmite
  • Cup of low calorie soup
  • Mini cans of fruit
  • Sugar free jelly

We all lead very hectic lives and may often rely on a ready meal for those evenings when we don't feel like cooking. Ready meals are generally high in salt and fat (Link) however many food manufacturers have altered the ingredients to lower the fat and calories. Choose the supermarkets healthy eating range of ready meals, but remember they may still be high in fat and calories.

When buying a ready meal look for less than 10g fat and 350 calories (kcals) per portion.

The majority of ranges produced by the supermarkets fall within these levels. So you will have a wide variety of healthier ready meals to choose from.

Serve extra vegetables or a side salad with the ready meal (to make it more filling).

Try to avoid ready meals with cheesy or creamy sauces.

Comparison of Ready Meals

Nutritional values per pack Standard Supermarket Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni
(pack size 450g)
Healthy eating option Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni
(pack size 300g)
Calories (kcal) 662 296
Fat (g) 34.7 5.1
Protein (g) 29.7 14.7
Carbohydrate (g) 80.1 47
Salt (g) 4.5 2.4
Sodium (g) 1.8 0.9

What differences can you spot from the comparison above?

  • The standard supermarket meal is larger; this amount could probably feed two people as a meal. The healthy eating option is a better portion size for an individual. You could also serve the meal with a side salad or vegetables to add bulk to the meal
  • The standard meal contains very high amounts of fat, sugar, and salt. These have been reduced in the healthy eating option
  • The amount of fat and calories in the healthy eating option are within the Weight Concern recommended levels.
  • The salt content of the healthy eating option is still very high.