Nichola Ludlam-Raine, Specialist Dietitian | 24/06/2021
Nichola Ludlam-Raine, Specialist Dietitian | 24/06/2021
When it comes to meal planning, it can be all too easy to get stuck in the same routine - whether it’s pasta bolognese, fajitas or fish and chips, however - mid-week evening meals don’t have to be boring! There are so many delicious and healthy balanced recipes that are equally as simple to make and won’t take up all your hours in the evening preparing.
As a rule of thumb (the majority of the time!) it’s advised to ensure you’re always including a good proportion of vegetables (⅓ of the plate), a source of lean protein such as chicken, turkey, fish, beans, lentils or eggs (⅓ of the plate) and a portion of carbohydrates for energy. Try to opt for a higher fibre choice such as wholewheat pasta or wholegrain rice the majority of the time which will provide a slower release of energy, helping to regulate your blood glucose levels and prevent them from rising too high after a meal.
The more variety you can get within your diet, the better - especially for your gut health. Try to ensure you have plenty of different colours with your vegetables, all of which provide a unique set of nutrients that we need for good health. These recipes also offer a variety of choices to suit your dietary preferences with two vegan options, two meat and one fish but they can of course be swapped and changed to suit you.
This recipe is a perfect balanced recipe for all the family as it contains a good source of fibre from the wholewheat pasta, a source of lean protein from the tuna and some of your 5-a-day from the chopped tomatoes, broccoli and sweetcorn too! The low fat soft cheese creates a creamy texture but with a reduced amount of saturated fat for a heart healthy choice!
Ingredients (Serves 4)
200g wholewheat pasta
2 tins of tuna
1 head of broccoli, chopped into small florets
1 tin of sweetcorn, drained
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato purée
80g low fat soft cheese
30g cheddar, grated
2 tsp mixed herbs
2 tbsp breadcrumbs (homemade or bought!)
1️. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Then boil the pasta in a large pan of boiling salted water for around 7 minutes (the pasta should be just under cooked). Drain the pasta reserving a little of the liquid (a couple of tbsp).
2️. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato purée, herbs and soft cheese to the pasta and stir through until combined, seasoning with some pepper.
3️. Meanwhile, steam the broccoli in a pan or place in the microwave for 2 minutes to cook through, then add to the pasta along with the tuna chunks and tin of sweetcorn.
4️. Pour into a large ovenproof dish, and then sprinkle the breadcrumbs and grated cheddar over the top.
5️. Cook in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the cheese is golden and crispy on top!
Traybakes are a fantastic option for a healthy evening meal as you can swap and change the ingredients to suit your dietary preferences or to whatever you have left in the fridge! Simply flavour with herbs and spices or your choice.
Ingredients (Serves 2)
200g new potatoes, halved
2 chicken breasts*
1 pepper, cut into chunks (I used ½ yellow and ½ green!)
2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes
2 handfuls of button mushrooms
½ a tin of chickpeas, drained & rinsed
1 red onion, cut into chunks
*can be swapped for halloumi or mixed beans!
1 tbsp olive oil
Juice of ½ a lemon
1 tsp honey
1 tsp mustard
1️. Firstly, preheat your oven to 180°C and prepare your vegetables, potatoes and chickpeas, adding them into a medium sized roasting tin.
2. Add the dressing ingredients to a small bowl and stir to combine, or add to a jar and shake it all about!
3. Place the chicken breasts on top of the veg and then pour the dressing over the vegetables and chicken. Season with a little salt & pepper.
4. Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until the chicken & potatoes are fully cooked and serve!
Being realistic with meal planning is something that should always be encouraged - for example our food preferences may be slightly different on a Friday evening in comparison to a Monday night dinner, after a long week! Fakeaway style recipes are a great way to feel like you’re having a little treat without the cost and the (often) high levels of saturated fat, salt or sugar included. If tofu is not your thing, this would also work well with prawns or chicken!
Ingredients (serves 2-3)
1 pack of wholegrain microwave rice
200g mixed frozen vegetables
200g tofu, diced or crumbled
80g mango, diced
2 tbsp pomegranate seeds (optional)
1 small onion, diced
2 tsp sesame oil
1 handful of coriander, diced
1 clove of garlic, diced
1 thumb sized piece of ginger, grated
1 tbsp low salt soy sauce
1 tsp honey
½ tsp chilli flakes
½ tsp white wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
1️. Firstly, add the cashew nuts to a dry, small frying pan and heat on medium to toast for approximately 5 minutes - but keep an eye on them not to burn! Once toasted to your liking, take off the heat and leave to one side.
2️. Add the sesame oil to a large frying pan/wok and heat on medium. Add the diced onion and stir until turning translucent, then add the tofu and stir again for a couple of minutes until it starts to harden slightly.
3️. Add the mixed veg to the pan and stir for a further couple of minutes. Meanwhile, in a small jug/bowl, combine the soy sauce, honey, lime, white wine vinegar, ginger, garlic and chilli flakes to create the flavour! Pour into the pan, and mix to coat the ingredients. Heat for a couple more minutes until the vegetables are done.
4️. Heat the rice in the microwave according to the instructions, and then add to the pan and stir through. Add the mango and pomegranate and mix again. Scatter with the coriander and toasted cashews, then serve!
Whether you’re trying out a meat-free Monday or simply trying to cut down on your meat consumption, stuffed peppers are a great choice to increase the variety of plant-based foods within your diet. Lentils are a cost-effective way to boost your fibre and plant-based protein intake but this would also work well with quorn mince!
4 bell peppers
250g microwaveable pack of wholegrain rice
1 tin of cooked lentils (any kind)
1 courgette, diced
½ punnet of plum tomatoes, chopped
1 red onion, diced
1 garlic clove, diced
2 tsp tomato puree
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
1 tsp dried oregano
½ cup of water
1 tsp olive oil
1️. Preheat the oven to 180°C and gently heat the olive oil in a frying pan on a medium heat. Add the onion & garlic and fry for 2 minutes.
2. Add the courgette & tomato and cook for a further five minutes until softened.
3. Lastly, add the tomato puree, herbs, water to loosen and a pinch of salt & pepper to season, stir to combine and heat for another minute.
4️. In the meantime, heat the rice in the microwave according to packet instructions and pour into a large bowl when cooked.
5️. Open & drain the tinned lentils and add to the bowl. Add the cooked vegetable mixture to the bowl and mix through.
6️. Slice the tops from the peppers (put these to one side) and scoop out the seeds. Place the peppers in an ovenproof dish to cook for 10 minutes.
7️. When time is up, remove from the oven and fill the peppers with the mixture - you may have some leftover so feel free to overflow (or save to use another time!) and then put the tops back on the peppers.
8. Place back in the oven for 20 minutes until the peppers have softened and blistered slightly on top. Remove from the oven and serve!
Much like a traybake, casseroles are a great ‘go to’ for a quick & easy to prepare meal for all the family. The addition of wholemeal bread and chopped walnuts to provide the breadcrumb mixture creates a delicious crunch on top of a flavoursome meal!
6 low fat pork or vegetarian sausages
1 large red onion, sliced
½ a pack of mushrooms (approx 150g), chopped
1 can of butter beans
60ml balsamic vinegar (1/4 cup)
1 punnet of plum tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 slices of wholemeal bread
2 tsp mixed herbs
Salt & pepper to season
1️. Add the onions, mushrooms and tomatoes to a casserole dish, followed by the sausages, butter beans, balsamic vinegar and a sprinkling of salt & pepper.
2️. Place into a preheated oven (200 degrees or 190 degrees fan) for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and turn the sausages over.
3️. Add the bread and walnuts into a blender, along with the mixed herbs & blend into breadcrumbs.
4️. Pour the breadcrumbs over the sausage dish and return to the oven for 20 more minutes.
5️. Meanwhile, cook your favourite veg/potatoes to have alongside, serve & enjoy!