How to make healthier meals at home
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

How to make healthier meals at home

Cooking at home is often healthier than eating out.

Key takeaways

  • Cooking at home can be healthier than eating out 
  • Being organised and planning your meals makes healthy eating easier 
  • Buying and cooking in batches can save time 
  • Learn some simple heart-healthy food swaps. 
3 min read

It puts you in control of what goes into your food and body. Making healthy home-cooked food doesn’t have to be hard. Small changes can have a big impact on your heart health. Over time these changes will become easier and fit in with your regular routine. 

Plan ahead 

You don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen to make a healthy meal. Planning your meals is a simple way to save on time and effort. 

Start with a plan 

Think about what you could prepare ahead of time. You can cut vegetables the night before and store them in the refrigerator or cook something for use the next night (e.g. pasta sauce).   

Involve the whole family 

Getting your family involved in meal planning and preparation can help. Ask them to choose their favourite meals from our heart healthy recipes.  

Shop with a list 

Make sure healthy ingredients are always on hand at home by shopping with a list. Being focused on what you need can also save time in the supermarket. Older kids can help by writing down the ingredients from the recipes they have chosen. 

Batch cook 

Making a big batch of one dish is more efficient than cooking every single night. Choose a meal that can be packaged separately and frozen. Our freezer-friendly recipes are great options to pull out when time is tight. 

Meal plan on a budget 

There are plenty of recipes with inexpensive ingredients. You can also find what you need for less, by: 

  • Buying in-season fruit and vegetables (perhaps try your local farmer’s markets) 
  • Shopping in bulk 
  • Looking out for sales.  

Build a heart-healthy pantry 

Eating at home allows you to make small changes, which together make a big difference. Having these foods in your pantry, fridge, or freezer means you have everything you need for healthy meals at home. 

 PantryFridge Freezer 
Fruit and veg 
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Tinned fruit (not in syrup) 
  • Tinned vegetables (no added salt)
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables 
  • Frozen vegetables – peas, corn, mixed vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower 
  • Frozen fruit – berries, passionfruit, mango pieces etc. 
Wholegrains 
  • Rolled oats 
  • Wholegrain breakfast cereals 
  • Wholegrain bread 
  • Brown rice  
  • Wholemeal pasta 
  • Couscous 
  • Quinoa 
  • Polenta 
  • Soba noodles 
  • Wholemeal flour 
  • Fresh noodles 
  • Fresh pasta 
 
Protein 
  • Canned legumes varieties (no added salt) 
  • Canned fish in olive oil or water – tuna, salmon, sardines 
  • Lentils (no added salt)
  • Fresh fish 
  • Fresh meats 
  • Tofu 
  • Tempeh 
  • Eggs
  • Frozen fish fillets – tuna, salmon, sardines 
  • Frozen poultry and meats
Dairy
  • Powdered milk 
  • Long life (UHT) milk 
  • Fresh milk 
  • Fresh cheese 
  • Fresh yoghurt
 
Fats
  • Healthy oils – olive, canola, peanut, sunflower oil 
  • Nut butters (no added salt) 
  • Unsalted nuts and seeds 
  • Margarine 
  • Avocado 
  • Olives
 
Flavour 
  • Dried herbs and spices 
  • Pepper 
  • Chilli
  • Garlic 
  • Ginger 
  • Vinegars
  • Lemon juice 
  • Lime juice 
  • Fresh herbs
 

Heart healthy food swaps 

Try some of our food swaps to find heart-healthy alternatives. 

Swap thisFor this
Flavoured milk and yoghurt Unflavoured milk and yoghurt varieties 
CreamRicotta cheese whipped with a little icing sugar
Sour creamNatural Greek yoghurt
Grated cheddarGrated parmesan – the more intense flavour means you can use less 
Butter as a spreadAvocado, tahini, hummus, nut butter or margarine spreads made from canola, sunflower or olive oils.
Butter in bakingSpreads made from canola, sunflower or olive oil
Coconut cream/coconut milk Add a little coconut essence to evaporated milk
White grain ingredients like pasta, bread, flour and rice Wholegrain bread, brown rice, brown pasta, quinoa or wholemeal flour
Shortcrust or puff pastryFilo pastry – brush every 3-4 layers with olive oil, egg white or yoghurt
Processed meatsRoasted or grilled lean meats, legumes or eggs

Healthy cooking methods 

The way you cook your food matters. The cooking methods below are the healthiest options: 

Steaming  

Steaming is one of the easiest ways to cook vegetables. Place a steam basket over a saucepan of boiling water then fill the steam basket with fresh or frozen vegetables. Cover with a lid and let your vegetables steam for a few minutes until tender.  

Poaching  

Poach delicate foods like eggs, fish or fruit by submerging them into gentle simmering liquid (e.g. water, vegetables and spices). Poaching is not the same as boiling, so be sure to maintain a low heat.  

Stir-frying/sautéing  

Stir-fry plenty of vegetables in a frying pan on high heat using a small portion of olive, canola, sunflower, soybean or peanut oil. Top it up with a splash of water as you cook.  

Roasting  

Put lean meats in a baking dish with a rack. Add 1 to 2 cm water and some herbs to the bottom of the pan for extra flavour. Substitute deep-frying with roasting in the oven on a lined tray or grill tray.  

Casserole/stewing  

This is a convenient method of cooking meats at a low temperature, generally for a longer period of time. Take the time to trim the fat off of the meat before putting it in a casserole dish with some vegetables and legumes.  

For more simple meal ideas check out our heart healthy recipes.

Heart healthy recipes

You might also be interested in

Five foods to help lower blood pressure

Five foods to help lower blood pressure

Five foods to help lower blood pressure

One the easiest steps you can take to prevent high blood pressure is choosing healthy foods....

Heart Healthy Dinner Plan

Heart Healthy Dinner Plan

Heart Healthy Dinner Plan

Sign up now and discover delicious, easy to follow dinner recipes. Plus shopping lists, tips and other helpful information to make healthy eating easy. ...

10 ways to get the right balance of fats 

10 ways to get the right balance of fats 

10 ways to get the right balance of fats 

Getting the right balance of fats in your diet can improve your heart health....

Heart Foundation recipes

Heart Foundation recipes

Heart Foundation recipes

Search all of our heart healthy recipes ...

Key healthy eating messages for heart attack recovery 

Key healthy eating messages for heart attack recovery 

Key healthy eating messages for heart attack recovery 

Eating healthy foods can help you recover and reduce your risk of more heart problems. ...

Five ways to lower cholesterol

Five ways to lower cholesterol

Five ways to lower cholesterol

Lower your cholesterol, whether you're eating breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert or even a snack....

Nutrition action plan

Nutrition action plan

Dairy and your heart health

Dairy and your heart health

Dairy and your heart health

Not all dairy products are equal. Discover different types of dairy foods and their impact on heart health....

Heart Foundation recipes

Heart Foundation recipes

Heart Foundation recipes

Check out our recipe categories to find your next heart healthy meal....

Nutrition after a heart attack

Nutrition after a heart attack

Nutrition after a heart attack

Discover key information on heart-healthy eating and drinking....

How can I beat the barriers and get active for a healthy heart?

How can I beat the barriers and get active for a healthy heart?

How can I beat the barriers and get active for a healthy heart?

Sodium and salt converter

Sodium and salt converter

Convert the sodium listed on food products into grams of salt or vice versa. ...

Fats, oils and heart health

Fats, oils and heart health

Fats, oils and heart health

Get the right balance of healthy fats in your diet ...

How can I set and achieve goals to improve my heart health?

How can I set and achieve goals to improve my heart health?

How can I set and achieve goals to improve my heart health?

Question of the month blog...

Reading food labels

Reading food labels

Reading food labels

Nutrition information panels and ingredients lists are a good way of comparing similar foods so you can choose the healthiest option....

New diet recommendations matter to your heart

New diet recommendations matter to your heart

New diet recommendations matter to your heart

Heart-healthy eating is not about one specific food or nutrient; it’s about regularly eating a variety of healthy foods over time....

Fruit, vegetables and heart health

Fruit, vegetables and heart health

Fruit, vegetables and heart health

How to boost your fruit and vegetable intake to help protect your heart. ...

Should you be cooking with coconut oil?

Should you be cooking with coconut oil?

Should you be cooking with coconut oil?

25 June 2018...

What is a healthy body weight?

What is a healthy body weight?

What is a healthy body weight?

Find out what a healthy body weight is and the steps you can take to achieve it. ...

Sorting fat from fiction

Sorting fat from fiction

Sorting fat from fiction

It seems when healthy eating is the subject, everyone wants to talk about fat. It can be a confusing and polarising topic....

Healthy eating to protect your heart

Healthy eating to protect your heart

Healthy eating to protect your heart

What does a heart-friendly diet look like?...

Spring back to heart-healthy eating with these delicious tips

Spring back to heart-healthy eating with these delicious tips

Spring back to heart-healthy eating with these delicious tips

With spring sprung, now is the time to get back to heart-healthy eating. ...

9 food and heart health myths, busted

9 food and heart health myths, busted

9 food and heart health myths, busted

Let’s dive into nine common food and health myths and the facts behind them....

Why are you playing this game? It’s putting your heart at risk.

Why are you playing this game? It’s putting your heart at risk.

Why are you playing this game? It’s putting your heart at risk.

The game is “hide and seek”. You play it without even realising. The shock is that when you play this game, you could be placing your heart health at risk....

Heart-healthy drinks

Heart-healthy drinks

Heart-healthy drinks

While water is clearly the most heart-healthy drink, there are ther drinks that can be enjoyed in moderation. ...

You’ll love our heart-healthy winter recipes

You’ll love our heart-healthy winter recipes

You’ll love our heart-healthy winter recipes

Protein and heart health

Protein and heart health

Protein and heart health

What are the best sources of protein when it come to your heart health...

Is salt bad for your heart?

Is salt bad for your heart?

Is salt bad for your heart?

Most Australians are eating more than the recommended amounts and this can cause health problems....

What waist measurements mean for your heart

What waist measurements mean for your heart

What waist measurements mean for your heart

How your waist measurement contributes to your heart health...

Wholegrains and heart health

Wholegrains and heart health

Wholegrains and heart health

All you need to know about wholegrains to put you on the right track...

Heart Foundation Recovery Support and Resources

Heart Foundation Recovery Support and Resources

Heart Foundation Recovery Support and Resources

Heart Foundation programs and resources to support your recovery....

Are you at risk of heart disease?

Are you at risk of heart disease?

Are you at risk of heart disease?

There is no single cause for any one heart condition, but there are risk factors that increase your chance of developing one. ...

How we fought heart disease in 2020

How we fought heart disease in 2020

How we fought heart disease in 2020

Everything we do is possible thanks to the generosity of our supporters. ...

Aboriginal heart health

Aboriginal heart health

Aboriginal heart health

Visit the St Vincents Hospital NSW and Heart Foundation Aboriginal heart health website for more information...

Support us and help save Australian hearts

Support us and help save Australian hearts

Support us and help save Australian hearts

Join the fight against Australia’s biggest killer by supporting the Heart Foundation.  ...

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Join our community of fundraisers who are committed to taking action to fight heart disease....

Healthy Active by Design

Healthy Active by Design

Healthy Active by Design

Improving the design of our cities, towns, streets and buildings makes it easier for Australians to lead heart-healthy lives....

For professionals: Heart Health Checks

For professionals: Heart Health Checks

Heart Health Checks have been supported by Medicare since April 2019....

Sorting out your finances after a heart attack

Sorting out your finances after a heart attack

Sorting out your finances after a heart attack

Explore how to manage your financial concerns after a heart attack. ...

How a pacemaker at 34 saved my life

How a pacemaker at 34 saved my life

How a pacemaker at 34 saved my life

Kim shares the emotional and physical upheaval experienced on her journey to diagnosis and recovery....

Physical activity and your heart health

Physical activity and your heart health

Physical activity and your heart health

Physical activity and exercise can benefit your heart, body and mind....

Sodium and salt converter

Sodium and salt converter

Convert the sodium listed on food products into grams of salt or vice versa. ...

Get started with more physical activity

Get started with more physical activity

Get started with more physical activity

Finding time for physical activity is one of the best things you can do for your heart...

Returning to work after a heart attack

Returning to work after a heart attack

Returning to work after a heart attack

Discover how to plan for your return to work....

Blood pressure and your heart

Blood pressure and your heart

Blood pressure and your heart

Understand blood pressure and how it can impact your heart health....

Heart Foundation delivers $17.2 million for cutting-edge heart research in a challenging year

Heart Foundation delivers $17.2 million for cutting-edge heart research in a challenging year

Heart Foundation delivers $17.2 million for cutting-edge heart research in a challenging year

Media Release 20 October 2020...

Key Statistics: Risk Factors For Cardiovascular Disease

Key Statistics: Risk Factors For Cardiovascular Disease

Relationships and sex after a heart attack

Relationships and sex after a heart attack

Relationships and sex after a heart attack

Explore some useful things to know about intimacy after a heart attack....

How can I set and achieve goals to improve my heart health?

How can I set and achieve goals to improve my heart health?

How can I set and achieve goals to improve my heart health?

Question of the month blog...

Cyril credits cardiac rehab for getting his life back

Cyril credits cardiac rehab for getting his life back

Cyril credits cardiac rehab for getting his life back

Cyril suffered a heart attack in 2015. Cardiac rehab helped get his life back on track. ...

Managing your funding

Managing your funding

Managing your funding

Resources to help manage your grant, scholarship or fellowship....

WEBINAR | Heart Health Checks: the critical role of the practice nurse

WEBINAR | Heart Health Checks: the critical role of the practice nurse

WEBINAR | Heart Health Checks: the critical role of the practice nurse

This webinar discusses the role of practice nurses in conducting heart health checks...

Kylie defied the heart attack stereotypes

Kylie defied the heart attack stereotypes

Kylie defied the heart attack stereotypes

Cardiac rehabilitation was a turning point for Kylie and essential to her heart failure recovery....

Blood tests for heart disease

Blood tests for heart disease

Blood tests can measure the levels of substances such as blood fat to show if, and how much of, your heart has been damaged....

Building physical activity into urban planning and design

Building physical activity into urban planning and design

Building physical activity into urban planning and design

Resources available for built environment professionals to help guide in the development of active outdoor and indoor spaces....

WEBINAR | CVD & COVID-19

WEBINAR | CVD & COVID-19

WEBINAR | CVD & COVID-19

Ask the experts: caring for people with CVD during COVID-19...

10 ways to get the right balance of fats 

10 ways to get the right balance of fats 

10 ways to get the right balance of fats 

Getting the right balance of fats in your diet can improve your heart health....

Getting active at school

Getting active at school

Getting active at school

Physical activity resources for school staff....

Kids recipes

Kids recipes

Kids recipes

Find heart healthy kids recipes...