We spoke to Masterchef judge, George Calombaris, about some common mistakes made in the kitchen while trying to prepare a healthy meal.

Over 4 million Australians consider themselves to be a disaster in the kitchen and surprisingly, more women report to have experienced a cooking catastrophe than our male counterparts. When it comes to putting together a healthy mid-week meal, we asked chef, George Calombaris for some of his expert advice. He talked us through the mistakes we could be making in the kitchen while we try to create a nutritious and healthy dinner.

  1. Making healthy food swaps

We love a good, healthy substitute but when it comes to swapping traditional ingredients for nutritious, lower kJ alternatives, things can go wrong. “When you try to create a pasta dish using zucchini, that can be delicious, but zucchini overcooks in seconds,” says Calombaris. Zucchini only needs a little bit of time in hot water. He suggests combining your zucchini noodles with fresh ricotta, herbs and a drizzle of olive oil for an amazing dish.

Calombaris also mentions cauliflower alternatives. “Cauliflower makes a good couscous,” he says, but it doesn’t always turn out so well. A soggy cauliflower couscous is more like a “mushy mess”. He suggests we instead, “roast that head of cauliflower until golden brown, it will come out delicious”. The key message is to respect the ingredient. We’re all for creativity but Calombaris makes a good point.

  1. Being too fancy

When you don’t have much time, Calombaris’ advice is to keep it simple. You don’t have to be a Michelin starred chef to create something delicious, “take baby steps,” he says.

  1. Be prepared

Whipping up a yummy mid-weeker is a lot easier when you have a few of the ingredients prepared in the fridge. Calombaris says he prepares a lot of his food for the week on a Sunday afternoon. “Roast a whole sweet potato, wrap it in some tin foil and once it’s done, put it in the fridge for later,” he says. George likes to keep dried legumes and pulses on hand to go alongside a good cut of meat for an after work meal.

  1. Keep the pantry stocked

A pantry stocked with staples equates to a world of opportunity. Calombaris’ four most used ingredients are, good quality olive oil (“It’s an ancient superfood,” he says), sea salt, a pickle of some sort (“not necessarily just a gherkin”) and good quality meat. Keeping a collection of flavoursome herbs, spices and ingredients on hand will ensure your dinner is a masterpiece rather than a disaster.

  1. Don’t forget the little things

George tells us that on his journey to becoming healthier he changed some little things. He drinks more water, he eats more regularly throughout the day and he has cut down his sugar intake. When it comes to putting together a healthy meal, it’s only worthwhile if we’re remembering to do the little things right too.