The Natural Kitchen in Newcastle and Salamander Bay offers healthy food options aimed at time-poor people

Good Food: Natalie Sharpe offers nutritious food that is "quick, convenient and tasty”. Picture: Simone De Peak
Good Food: Natalie Sharpe offers nutritious food that is "quick, convenient and tasty”. Picture: Simone De Peak

A Hunter dietitian has devised a way to deal with the problem of “what to have for dinner”.

Natalie Sharpe wanted a solution to this perennial question, which she often faced when working long hours in professional jobs.

“Meal planning and preparation is time-consuming,” Ms Sharpe said.

“Healthy foods are often overlooked for the usual unhealthy convenience foods.”

She said it was hard to make informed decisions about food “as we rush through supermarket aisles”.

This problem was made more difficult when people were faced with “fancy packaging and misleading messages of apparent health foods”.

Ms Sharpe concedes that controversy tends to surround the subject of nutrition.

“One point seems to be less contentious – we need to keep it simple and eat real food,” she said.

She was also aware that people tend to go for the easy option. 

Seeking to follow this idea as well as earn a living, she and husband Tim Sharpe recently opened The Natural Kitchen in Hunter Street in Newcastle.

This added to a store they opened in Salamander Bay last year.

She dubbed the food they sell as “grab-and-go healthy meal options”.

It’s focused on plant-based wholefoods, with the option of animal protein. 

The food is free of additives and preservatives. Basically, it’s fast food that’s healthy.

Ms Sharpe does not believe in fad diets.

“Food should be seen as a way to nourish our bodies and be embraced, not feared. More focus needs to be put on wellness rather than waistline,” she said.

She said it was important to “treat ourselves on occasion”.

“Much of our social lives are about interacting with and being around food. We should enjoy these moments and the memories they create,” she said.

As for the contentious subject of sugar, she said it was a “refined food providing no vitamins, minerals or fibre”. 

“About 70 percent of supermarket-packaged food contains added sugar, making it difficult to avoid and easy to over-consume,” she said.

Too much sugar can lead to being overweight or obese, which “causes health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers”.

Salad dressings, sauces and soups with added thickeners and artificial ingredients are also in her sights.

She urged people to use herbs, spices and lemon to add flavour to meals, rather than packaged sauces which can contain “up to four teaspoons of sugar per serve”.

“The food we eat on a regular basis can have a significant impact on our short- and long-term health.”