'I'm a 20yo who never learnt how to cook. Here are the 4 things I learnt when I saw a dietitian.'

Hi, I'm Emma and I love food. 

I mean, I really love food.

If I could rank my top three joys of life they'd be ABBA, my mum's two dogs, and a good meal. 

Side note: Here are the 5 best foods to cure a hangover. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia

But the inevitable problem that comes with my love for food is that I've also always found it very confusing. 

Thinking about how I will need to feed myself approximately three times a day for the rest of my life has kept me up at night on more than one occasion. 

I mean, there are only so many recipes I know how to cook! (Four... There are four recipes. And two of them are mince meat based.)

So, as many 20-somethings do, I spent far too much time delaying an appointment with a ~professional~ who would undoubtedly change my life (and energy levels!), by living off of air fryer potato gems and two-minute noodles. 

Then one day, probably with a bowl of popcorn in hand while watching re-runs of Junior Masterchef, I decided enough was enough. I mean, if this ten-year-old can create a four-course Indian feast how hard could it really be for me to make a simple curry?

In a stroke of genius, I booked myself in to a dietician who I hoped could answer the growing list of questions I have about nutrition. 

Namely: How does one feed themselves well?

You see, my "food goals" aren't based on changing my weight or finding a substitute for carbs. Oh no.

I want to understand food. I want to enjoy food. I want to get these increased focus and energy levels people always tell me about.

Because I never quite got the hang of meal-planning and before I knew it, I moved out of home and spent six months fumbling my way through cheap, nutritionally-lacking feeds.

It's a 20-something rite of passage... right?

Regardless, I've been missing fresh, homemade meals. So here are the four best things I learnt when I saw a dietician.


You probably need more vegetables in your diet.

As my motivation for going to a dietician was first and foremost education, we started my session by going through the recommended daily food intakes for an average adult woman.

It might sound like common sense, but if you fit into the 19-50-year-old woman bracket like me, Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend you eat: 

  • 5 serves of veg
  • 2 serves of fruit
  • 6 serves of grains (or carbs... yay!)
  • 2.5 serves of protein
  • 2.5 serves of dairy

... Per day. 

The dietician and I then went through each food group to see where I was getting a good fix, and where I was lacking.

Grains are an easy fit into my diet, but FIVE serves of veggies? Not so much. 

I'm also not a huge consumer of dairy or fruit, so we came up with a few easy meals to bring those groups up.

For veggies: I've added cucumber and carrot sticks with dip to my snack repertoire, learnt the beauty of a veggie loaded chilli for dinner, and the importance of a side salad to compliment any meal. *chefs kiss*

I've always been hopeless at breakfast-making as I'm pretty time-poor in the morning. 

But the dietician and I decided that would be the perfect time to inject some dairy and fruit into my day. 

We came up with yogurt and fresh (or frozen) berries as a quick and easy brekkie, or bagels with cream cheese and berries if I'm feeling a little more fancy!

No one ever told me breakfast could be this good.


Nutritious eating doesn't have to be expensive.

I learnt about beans. Yes, beans. 

They're so... versatile. And usually under $1 a tin. 

If you're anything like me, you might've been a little skeptical about beans, but let me put you onto something. 

Not only is a can of kidney beans cheap and filling, it also ticks both the protein and vegetable box as they are legumes! 

For a quick, cheap meal with plenty of leftovers, my new favourite recipe is a tin of kidney beans, a tin of crushed tomatoes, some chopped carrots, celery, capsicum and a dash of Mexican seasoning.

Pair this with some garlic rice and you've got yourself a meal that ~probably~ comes in at less than $4 a serve... you can thank me later. 

Bon Appetite! 

To save more money on your weekly shop, be sure to purchase fruit that's in season - or frozen for all the fruity goodness at half the price. 

Meal planning is always a good idea.

If anything, for the convenience!

As mentioned, the idea of feeding myself for the rest of my life often gives me head spins. 

So it made a whole lot of sense when the dietician suggested I stop making that decision several times a day, and plan ahead.

... Revolutionary, I know. 

So, I've made a ritual of Sunday meal prepping for the week ahead. Often there're a few gaps, but it's the thought that counts, right?

It looks a bit like this. 


There are a few sneaky ways to extend your food's freshness.

As our session was wrapping up, the dietician asked me if I had any final questions and yes - tell me about keeping food fresh, please!

A part of me believed that everyone who did a weekly grocery shop was ordering takeaway towards the end of the week because there was no way their fresh fruit, veg and bread was staying fresh.

Well, apparently crispers really do serve a purpose. The airflow provides optimal conditions for fruit and vegetables which just never clicked with me before, but in hindsight, made a lot of sense. 

Once I shifted my produce to the fridge drawer, things lasted that little bit longer. (That being said, my fridge is a $50 second-hand one from Marketplace, but hey!)

She also suggested I pop my bread in the freezer and defrost it when I'm keen to have some, which is much more economical than eating a few slices and letting the rest go mouldy.

And of course, if any fresh produce is nearing unuseable, that can go in the freezer too. 

... This is going to save me so much money.

Do you have any food tips? I'd love to hear them! Let me know in the comments below, or send me a DM on Instagram @emma.gillman.

If this post brought up any issues for you, contact the Butterfly Foundation‘s National Support line and online service on 1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673) or email [email protected] 

You can also visit their website, here.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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