Tips for healthier cooking

Healthy ingredient swaps

Swapping less healthy ingredients with healthier alternatives can improve the nutritional quality of your favourite recipes. By making some simple changes you can reduce the RED options on your menu and increase GREEN and AMBER foods and drinks at the same time. Use the tables below to help you make some healthy ingredient swaps.

Dairy products and dairy alternatives 

RED AMBER GREEN
  Milk (regular fat) Milk (reduced fat)
  Evaporated milk (regular fat) Evaporated milk (reduced fat)
  Yoghurt (regular fat) Yoghurt (reduced fat)
  Cheese (regular fat) Cheese (reduced fat)
  Long life cheese spread (from jar) Cottage cheese, ricotta, cream cheese (reduced fat)
  Custard (regular fat) Custard (reduced fat)
Cream (regular fat) Cream (reduced fat) Evaporated milk (reduced fat)
Sour cream (regular fat) Sour cream (reduced fat) Natural yoghurt (reduced fat)

Fats and oils

RED AMBER GREEN
Butter or dairy blend spread  Margarine Spread: avocado, ricotta or cottage cheese (reduced fat)
Baking: natural yoghurt (reduced fat)
Palm oil, coconut oil, ghee, lard, copha, shortening  Mono- or polyunsaturated oil
e.g. canola, olive, peanut, sesame, sunflower, safflower 
 
Coconut cream / coconut milk (regular fat)  Coconut milk  (reduced fat) Coconut flavoured evaporated milk (reduced fat)

Meat, poultry, fish and nuts

RED AMBER GREEN
Sausages, frankfurts, chorizo Meat or poultry (regular, with visible skin or fat) Meat or poultry (lean, skinless, without crumbs or coating)
Sausage mince Mince meat (regular)  Mince meat (lean)
Processed meats (regular fat, regular salt) e.g. bacon, ham, salami, Strasburg, Devon, kabana Processed meats (lean, reduced salt)* e.g. lean, reduced salt ham and pastrami Sliced cooked meat or poultry
e.g. roast beef, chicken/turkey breast
  Canned fish (in brine, oil or sauce) Canned fish (in spring water)
  Smoked salmon
Note: reduced salt smoked salmon is a healthier option than regular salt varieties
Canned salmon slices (in spring water) 
Chicken (deep-fried)
e.g. chicken nuggets
Chicken fillet (with skin) Chicken fillet (skinless)
Fish fillet (battered, deep-fried)  Fish fillet (commercial, crumbed, oven-baked or grilled)* Fish fillet (plain, steamed)
Fish fillet (coated on-site using minimal oil/salt, oven-baked or grilled)
Tofu (deep-fried) Tofu (marinated in sweet/salty sauce, pan-fried in mono- or polyunsaturated oil) Tofu (plain, pan-fried in mono- or polyunsaturated oil, steamed or stir-fried)
Tofu (plain, pan-fried in mono- or polyunsaturated oil, steamed or stir-fried) Meat or vegetable patties/balls (oven-baked or shallow-fried with extra oil/salt)* Meat or vegetable patties/balls (lean with  minimal oil/salt, grilled or oven-baked)
Nuts with sweet or savoury coating Nuts or seeds (roasted in oil and/or lightly salted without coating)  Nuts or seeds (raw or dry-roasted and unsalted)

* These examples are of a general nature only. To identify AMBER options, please refer to Table 2 in the Healthy choices: food and drink classification guide. 

Fruit and vegetables

RED AMBER GREEN
  Vegetables in oil or brine
e.g. sundried tomatoes, olives
Fresh vegetables
Frozen vegetables
Roasted vegetables (lightly sprayed with olive oil – add herbs for extra flavour)
Deep-fried hot potato chips, wedges, potato cakes, hash browns, gems  Oven-baked commercial hot potato chips, wedges, potato cakes, hash browns, gems* Hot potato chips and wedges prepared on-site from fresh potatoes and oven-baked with minimal oil/salt
  Canned fruit in syrup or jelly Canned fruit in natural juice
  Stewed fruit with added sugar Stewed fruit with no sugar added
  Dried fruit (plain) Dried fruit (plain)

* These examples are of a general nature only. To identify AMBER options, please refer to Table 2 in the Healthy choices: food and drink classification guide. 

Bread and pastry

RED AMBER GREEN
  Focaccia Turkish bread, wholemeal and wholegrain bread, rolls and wraps
Puff pastry (regular fat) or shortcrust pastry Puff pastry (reduced fat) Filo pastry

Sauces, dressings and seasonings 

RED AMBER GREEN
  Tomato sauce, BBQ sauce, Worcestershire sauce (regular salt/sugar) Tomato sauce, BBQ sauce, Worcestershire sauce (reduced salt/sugar)
Asian style sauces (regular salt/sugar) e.g. soy, satay, oyster, kecap manis,  sweet chilli  Asian style sauces (reduced salt/sugar) e.g. soy, satay, oyster, kecap manis,  sweet chilli  
Chutney, relish, cranberry sauce (regular sugar/salt) Chutney, relish, cranberry sauce (reduced sugar/salt)  
Pesto (regular fat/salt) Pesto (reduced fat/salt)  
  Tomato paste (regular salt) Tomato paste (reduced salt /no added salt)
Gravy (regular fat, regular salt) Gravy (reduced fat, reduced salt)  
Creamy sauce (regular fat)
e.g. mayonnaise, aioli, tartare
Creamy sauce (reduced fat)
e.g. mayonnaise, aioli, tartare
Natural yoghurt (reduced fat), mixed with garlic, herbs or lemon juice
Creamy salad dressing
e.g. Caesar or coleslaw dressing
Oil-based salad dressing
e.g. French dressing
Citrus or vinegar-based salad dressing e.g. Balsamic vinegar or lemon/orange juice
  Stock (regular salt) Stock (reduced salt)
Salt   Herbs and spices (no added salt/sugar)
Sugar Artificial sweetener  

Healthier cooking methods

Cooking methods can have a big impact on the healthiness of the meal. Where possible, avoid deep-frying as this adds unnecessary energy (kilojoules) to the meal. Boiling or braising food can cause the loss of valuable nutrients. To keep the meal as nutritious as possible, try the following healthy cooking methods:

  • grill
  • stir-fry
  • roast or bake with minimal oil (e.g. use spray or lightly brush with oil)
  • steam or blanch in boiling water
  • microwave.

Remember – all deep-fried foods and meals containing deep-fried ingredients are classified as RED.

Additional tips 

Swap this... for this
Baking trays greased with butter/oil  Baking trays lined with baking paper
Extra fat (butter or oil) to prevent food from sticking to cookware Non-stick cookware or a light spray of oil
Pastry cases for pies  Ramekins (individual crockery pie dishes) with a pastry lid for pies
Quiches (with pastry) Frittatas (without pastry)
Deep-frying commercial crumbed and coated products Deep-frying commercial crumbed and coated products
Large amounts of sugar, fat or salt in recipes Reduced amounts of sugar, fat and salt in recipes (use some of the healthier ingredient swaps in the section above for ideas) 
All white flour in recipes Half wholemeal flour and half white flour in recipes