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The scoop on a healthy kitchen # 1

Emma Stirling

Emma Stirling APD

If you’ve made resolutions around healthy eating and home cooking for 2011, give yourself a big pat on the back. But before you can take charge of new health goals, you really need to get your house in order. Well, more importantly, your kitchen and its setup for good nutrition. Let’s kick off 2011 with the scoop on a healthy kitchen and a look at our top equipment picks.

In a spin: A multicoloured, vibrant salad is one of the best ways to boost your health and help meet your vegetable serves each day. But nothing spoils a salad more than unwashed, gritty rocket or spinach or soggy leaves that are not spun dry. So invest in a salad spinner and aim for at least five different veggies in your salads. You can also toss in some low GI chickpeas or three bean mix for a fibre boost.

Back to basics: It’s not a long list, but good knives, heat resistant silicon spatulas, wooden spoons, separate cutting boards for meat and produce, a colander, a heavy based saucepan or Dutch oven and non-stick fry pan are on my list of essentials.

The added touch: A long hand held fine grater, called a microplane, allows you to artfully but quickly add a little parmesan to the top of pasta, lime zest or fresh ginger to fruit salad or fresh, whole cinnamon or nutmeg to Bircher muesli. Remember it’s that little touch of spice or garnish, that turns healthy fare nice and boosts the flavour without added fat, salt or sugar. And don’t discount the old box grater. Hand grating, instead of using a food processor, is a great way to burn off kilojoules and give your arms a workout as you cook.

Measure up: It’s so easy to measure and weigh ingredients and check portion sizes when you have stainless steel measuring spoons, a set of cups, glass jugs for liquids and digital scales.

Under pressure: Pressure cookers also help cut down cooking time, trap in flavours and retain nutrients. They are perfect for speeding up cooking time of those healthy low GI chickpeas and other legumes.

Take it slowly: Electric slow cookers allow you to prep a curry or bolognaise sauce and leave it on low, slow heat all day (while you’re away) without the risk of burning or bubbling over. Slow cooking is also one of the best ways to tenderise cheaper cuts of meat.

With a twist: you can use a coffee grinder for spices, a cast iron grill pan for pressing toasted sandwiches, a fruit dehydrator for drying fresh herbs, and a wok for dry roasting nuts and seeds.

On hand: You don’t need to spend the price of a small car on the top of the range food processor, especially if you’re just getting going. Many people find an inexpensive hand held blender just the ticket to healthy fare. You can keep it ready on your bench top to immerse directly into soups, whip up a smoothie or use the mini chopper for a quick and healthy dip, salsa or marinade.

Emma Stirling is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and health writer with over ten years experience writing for major publications. She is editor of The Scoop on Nutrition – a blog by expert dietitians. Check it out for hot news bites.