For many athletes there comes a time when you’ll move out of home and away from the reliable home cooked meal. It can be a bit daunting, knowing you’re now solely in charge of preparing a diet to suit your training regime.
With a little guidance and preparation, first time out-of-home chefs can ensure they always have the basics done right to create healthy, balanced meals in their own kitchen.
Here are some essential areas for athletes to get their kitchen ready to prepare a range of healthy and balanced meals.
1. Equipment and Utensils
Having the basic equipment means you aren’t restricted to what you cook and prepare. The following is basic cooking equipment and utensils to set up a kitchen:
- Minimum 1 medium saucepan – or ideally set of 3 different sizes including one big pot.
- Non-stick frying pan
- Measuring jug and cups
- Serving spoons & wooden spoons
- Plastic or wood cutting boards
- Flat baking trays
- Sharp cutting knifes – 1 large, 1 small, 1 serrated
- Can opener, tongs, egg flip, potato masher & peeler
- Small, medium and large mixing bowls
- Microwave safe container
- Oven proof casserole dish & larger lasagna dish
- Tea towels, dish cloth, detergent, scorer, garbage bags
- Zip lock bags, bag ties, cling wrap & foil
2. Pantry Planning
Aim to have these basic staple ingredients in your kitchen at all times so there is food to call on and you can make a meal:
Mixed frozen vegetables – individual steam pack and large packets, bread, chicken breast (wrapped individually to use as you need them, option to have pre-marinated meats ready to defrost), diced/sliced/mince beef or pork, frozen fruit for smoothies (berries, mango, banana). With athletes often being quite time poor having some leftover bulk meals can be beneficial for emergencies.
Fresh fruit, fresh vegetables of a variety of colours, milk, cheese, yoghurt, eggs, lean meats (ham/turkey), olive oil margarine spread, jam, some condiments that add some flavour to your meal such as grainy mustard, tomato relish or mango chutney (easy add to curries).
- Canned foods – tuna, salmon, sardines, diced tomatoes, light coconut milk, baked beans/spaghetti, chickpeas, four bean mix, corn, beetroot, tinned fruit
- Dry ingredients – flours, rice, pasta, couscous, long life noodles, lentils, cereal, long life milk as a spare, grainy crispbread (vita-wheat, salada, ryvita, corn thins), nuts and seeds of choice
- Condiments – salt, pepper, herbs and spices, stock cubes, jar of minced garlic/ginger, bottled sauces soy/teriyaki/tomato/sweet chilli sauces, olive oil – liquid and spray, balsamic vinegar, spreads, pickles, peanut butter, vegemite.
3. Bug busting
- Put food away in the freezer or refrigerator as soon as possible after shopping or cooking.
- It is best to set aside a separate chopping board that is used for fresh vegetables, bread and other dry foods and a different board only for raw meat, poultry, and fish – and always wash thoroughly with hot soapy water after use.
- Make sure your kitchen benches, chopping boards and knives are clean before preparing food.
- Always wash your hands before and after you handle food, especially meats.
- Be cautious of the juices from raw meat, poultry and seafood and avoid contact with other foods, benches, fridge shelves, chopping boards or plates. If you are defrosting or storing meat in the fridge, don’t put meat directly onto the shelf or microwave plate without a plate or bowl underneath. Similarly, don’t leave meat directly on the bench.
- When your cutting boards become worn, stained or hard to clean throw it out and buy a new one.
- Rinse fruit and vegetables under warm running water to wash dirt and any contaminants away.
- Keep meat and perishable food in the fridge until use for a maximum for 5 days unless otherwise stated.
- If food has a pungent or different smell, or looks a different colour, don’t risk eating it.
- One of the most dangerous foods to eat after its use by is cooked rice! After 48 hours, throw it out!
4. Thawing foods
Buying meat in bulk and freezing it for later can be an economical and convenient way to have meat available. It just takes a little bit of work ahead of time to plan when you will use it to know how to store and when to defrost.
- Thaw meat by placing on a plate and thaw on the bottom shelf in the refrigerator 8-12 hours before you cook it.
- Thaw in the microwave – on a separate plate. Using the “defrost” setting, then cook the food immediately and make sure it is cooked through and not still frozen in the centre.
- You can cook meat when it is partially frozen but be sure it is cooked all the way through as it will take longer
- Don’t re-freeze thawed out raw meat; you can freeze it if it has been cooked and refrozen as a meal.
- The harmful bacteria on red meat is only on the outer surface which is why steak can be rarer if the outsides are sealed, chicken on the other hand has to be cooked right though – no transparent or pink parts.