Lunches and dinners, whether eaten at home or packed to take to work, should meet the requirements of a balanced meal on a plate. Always consider the balanced meal on a plate and keep to these portions, no matter where you are eating.
BALANCED LUNCHES AND DINNERS
Half-fill your plate with colour from nature’s colour palette in the form of fruit or vegetables such as roasted vegetables, cooked vegetables or salad vegetables.
Choose one fistful of starch in the form of low-GI cooked starches (rice, baby potatoes, sweet potatoes, mealies, corn, and so on) in the case of dinner, and perhaps low-GI breads or rolls, or cold cooked starches for packed lunches.
Choose one portion (the size of the palm of your hand) of low-fat dairy or lean protein such as low-fat cheese, boiled egg, tuna or chicken breast.
Have a small portion of healthy fat such as one teaspoon of olive oil in salad dressings, a small handful of nuts or seeds, two tablespoons of peanut butter, or a quarter of an avocado. Alternatively, a small amount of good quality oil could be used to prepare the protein of the meal.
GUIDELINES FOR ASSEMBLING BALANCED, HEALTHY MEALS
- Dry groceries can be bought on a monthly basis but fresh foods need to be purchased twice a week. Plan two short shopping trips every week, even if you pop into the shops on your way home from work. Ordering online is another convenient option.
- Pre-prepared vegetables are useful but should be used within two days in order to retain the nutritional value.
- Home-made vegetable soups are a smart way to add generous amounts of vegetables to a meal. Make vegetable soup in bulk and freeze in smaller batches.
- Roasting vegetables in larger quantities and keeping them chilled for a few days makes for quick reheating and adding to meals, or for instant use in salads.
- Fruit can be kept in the fridge for up to a week.
- Cooked starches such as rice, pasta, barley and mealies can be cooked in larger quantities and stored in the fridge for up to a week and frozen for up to a month.
- Chicken fillets and hard-boiled eggs can also be prepared in larger quantities and stored in the fridge for up to a week.
- When cooking savoury mince, make more than is needed. Freeze in smaller portions, about half a cup (125ml). Ready-cooked mince can be added to cooked sweet potatoe or tinned chickpeas, or piled on top of seed loaf toast or into a mini pita pocket with lots of salad vegetables.
- Meal leftovers can be stored in microwave-safe containers for quick and easy balanced meals on the run.
- Ready-made sauces such as curry , korma, mushroom, tomato-basil, lemon and herb, sweet and sour, olive and sun-dried tomato, relish, and so on should have a fat content of 3g or less per 100g to ensure that you do not add appreciable amount of fat to the meal. In addition, use only half the amount of sauce per serving. This means that you would use twice the amount of meat, fish, chicken or vegetables and recommended on the product so that you end up using half the amount of sauces advised. Any leftovers can be chilled or frozen for another meal.
- Ready-made higher fat ingredients such as low-oil mayonnaise, curry pastes, atchar, pesto, olive tapenade and hummus should be added with discretion and in very small amounts to avoid adding too much fat to your meal.
- Sweet-chilli sauce, chutney, relishes, fruit preserves such as green fig preserve, onion marmalade, and so on may be fat free but have very high sugar content. Use no more than two tablespoons per person, to keep within the sugar recommendation of no more than 10g sugar per meal.
- Keep a variety of plastic containers, resealable plastic bags, small cooler boxes, ice bricks, water bottles, mini sauce containers with tight-fitting lids and wipes on hand.
- If you have access to a fridge at work, start each week by taking along a container with assembled lunch basics. Include salad vegetables such as cherry tomatoes, small cucumbers, sweet peppers and other crudites. Add cottage cheese, cheese wedges, hard-boiled eggs, tuna in brine, small tins of bakes beans, high fibre crackers, yogurts, etc. Assembling your own lunch from your supply of basics will be faster than fighting the canteen queues or walking across the road to a local takeaway. Your assembled lunch will also be healthier and sustain your energy throughout the afternoon.
GUIDELINES FOR READY-MADE MEALS
- Ready-made meals single meal portions are often too big. Choose those that are no larger than 250g per serving.
- Ready-made meals usually provide only the starch and meat (protein) of the meal. To balance the ready-made meal, at least as much salad or vegetables should be added.
- Salad bars and deli counter salads are usually high in fat due to the dressings used. Make sure you choose salads without mayonnaise or oily dressings. For example, beetroot salad, mixed lettuce-type salads, carrot salad, or pickled vegetables (gherkins, Peppadews, cabbage, mushrooms, etc.). The amount of undressed salads on your plate should be at least as much as the ready-made meal serving.
- When choosing ready-cooked vegetables at a deli-counter, choose a variety of colours and ensure that these make up at least half of your meal.
- Avoid those vegetables prepared with oil and cream, such as creamed spinach, oily roast vegetables, fried aubergine and other fried vegetables.
- Roast potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin fritters and dumplings are starches and not vegetables.
- When choosing sandwiches, hamburgers and wraps choose those with lost of lettuce, tomato, cucumber, grated carrot and other salad vegetables in order to get as much colour as possible.
- If a nutritional analysis is provided:
- Check the energy (kcal) and fat content per serving. Be careful to look at the “per serving” values and not the “per 100g”.
- Calories should be between 350kcal – 450kcal for women, and between 450kcal – 550kcal for men. The fat should be no more than 15g per serving for both men and women.
- If the calories and fat are within these recommendations, the carbohydrate and protein will more than likely be within suitable limits; protein about 25g and carbohydrate about 40g per serving.
- For added benefit the fibre content should be about 5g or more, per serving.
All the meal suggestions below are amounts for one adult women. Men would eat 1.5 times these amounts. This means the vegetables also need to be increased, not only the starch and protein!
Smoked salmon light meal
Calories 300kcal; carbohydrate 30g; fibre 8g; protein 15g; fat 12g
- Thread 2 thin slices of smoked salmon (40g) onto a kebab skewer, alternating with a peeled and quartered kiwi fruit.
- Spread 1 tablespoon flavoured cream cheese onto a slice of low-GI seed loaf.
- Serve with generous amounts of rocket and mixed lettuce leaves, a few halved baby tomatoes and some cucumber.
- Sprinkle with fresh lemon juice to serve.
Assembling tip: Smoked trout fillets or smoked beef can be used instead of the smoked salmon.
Food fact: Although flavoured cream cheese is high in fat, using only one tablespoon on a slice of bread instead of margarine or butter, not only adds depth of flavour, but also does not push the fat content of the meal up too much.
Beetroot, pear and biltong (jerky) salad
Calories 400kcal; carbohydrate 43g; fibre 11g; protein 22; fat 13g
- Toss together 5 quartered precooked baby beetroot (150g), a handful of cherry tomatoes, a handful of baby mushrooms and 1 peeled and cubed pear.
- Top with 2 tablespoons shredded lean biltong.
- Crumble 1/4 of a round of feta cheese on top.
- Drizzle with 1 tablespoon prepared blue cheese salad dressing.
Assembling tip: Bottled baby beetroot is a reasonable substitute for fresh precooked beetroot.
Food facts: For a vegetarian meal, leave out the biltong and use half a round of feta cheese. Lean biltong provides a good source of protein for meals. Ostrich and venison biltong are the leaner choices, although lean beef biltong is also acceptable. The fibre content of meals can easily be increased by adding a piece of fresh fruit to the meal, incorporated into the meal or added as a “dessert”.
Tangy Chickpea Salad
Calories 335kcal; carbohydrate 42g; fibre 11g; protein 11g; fat 12g
- Place 2 generous handfuls of mixed salad leaves and fresh herbs into a salad bowl.
- Add half a red pepper, sliced into strips, and a few red onion rings.
- Add half a tin of drained chickpeas. If you don’t like chickpeas, serve with one slice of seed loaf.
- Toss in one handful of fresh berries of your choice.
- Top with 4 anchovies.
- Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons honey and mustard dressing.
Assembling tip: Store leftover chickpeas in a sealed container (not in the opened tin) in the fridge for up to a week or make into hummus for another assembled meal.
Food facts: To make a meal of a salad, ensure that there is at least one starch and some protein in the salad. However, salads served as starters should not contain the starch and protein, as these are both provided by the main meal. In this salad, most of the protein is provided by the chickpeas and not the anchovies. The strong flavour of the anchovies limits the amount that can be used. Most of the fat in this salad comes from the dressing as most ready-made salad dressings contain 30% fat.
Roast vegetable and couscous salad
Calories 330kcal; carbohydrate 32g; fibre 16g; protein 14g; fat 16g
- Place 3 tablespoons couscous in a heatproof bowl that you can use for serving the salad. Add a shake of herb salt. Pour over 4 tablespoons of boiling water and leave for about 5 minutes to hydrate. Fluff up the couscous using a fork.
- Add 1.5 cups roasted vegetables (either prepared at home or bought from a deli counter). Suitable vegetables for roasting include butternut, courgettes, patty pans, cherry tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, onion, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and leeks.
- Stir in chopped mint and coriander leaves.
- Top with half a round of herbed feta cheese, crumbled or cubed.
Assembling tips: This salad can be served warm in winter to provide a hot meal. To save time and energy fill your largest baking tray with the vegetables to be roasted. When cool, freeze the leftovers (for up to a month), or refrigerate (for up to one week) in 1 and a half cup (375ml) labelled containers.
Food facts: Couscous is one of the most concentrated starches. The 3 tablespoons uncooked couscous in this salad provide a whole starch portion. The fibre in the vegetables gives this meal its exceptionally high fibre content.
Calories 360kcal; carbohydrate 43g; fibre 8g; protein 10g; fat 15g
- Cube 3 thick slices of cucumber and mix with 1 chopped green apple and 1 tablespoon fruit juice of your choice.
- Add 1 small chopped pear and 1 stick of chopped celery.
- Cube 1 matchbox of fat-reduced cheese and sprinkle over the salad.
- Top with 3 pecan or walnut halves.
- Mix 1 tablespoon low-oil mayonnaise with 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar and use this as the dressing for the salad.
Food fact: The fruit in this salad provides the “starch” for this meal. Regular Waldorf salad is a high-fat meal because of the cheese, nuts and salad dressing. With this salad it is important to adhere to the amounts given for the ingredients, in order to keep the fat content withing the recommendations.
Italian Pesto Toast with Salad
Calories 340kcal; carbohydrate 35g; fibre 7g; protein 24g; fat 13g
- Toast 1 slice rye bread and spread with 2 tablespoons ready-made pesto.
- Layer with 1 thinly sliced tomato, overlapping the slices to fill the slice of bread.
- Scrunch a generous amount (65g) of shaved lean turkey or chicken on top of the leaves.
- Top with 1 matchbox of grated mozzarella cheese. Season to taste and place under a hot grill until the cheese just melts.
- Serve with a large tossed salad splashed with balsamic vinegar.
Food fact: Shaved cold meats are all very lean and because they are sliced so thinly, generous amounts (half a 125g pack per person) can be used as the protein in meals.
Crudites on the Run
Calories 395kcal; carbohydrate 42g; fibre 16g; protein 19g; fat 15g
- Fill a dinner plate or lunchbox with a variety of easy-to-eat finger veggies such as cherry tomatoes, snap peas or mange touts, baby carrots, baby corn, mushrooms, broccoli florets, cauliflower florets and gherkins (2-3 handfuls or cups)
- Add 6 tablespoons of lower fat hummus and half a cup tzatziki (grated cucumber and plain yogurt) and use as a dip for the vegetables.
- For men, add 3-4 Provitas.
Assembling tip: Although hummus, including lower fat hummus, is readily available in supermarkets, it is quick and easy to make at home.
Hummus recipe: Drain 1 tin of chickpeas and pour into a liquidiser or food processor. Add 4 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon (or more) crushed garlic, 4 tablespoons tahini or peanut butter and seasoning of your choice. Blend until smooth and serve. Hummus can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week.
Food fact: Most of the fat in this meal comes from the controlled portion of the lower fat hummus. Regular hummus contains at least double the fat of the lower fat version because of the added oil, so be sure to always choose the lower fat hummus or make your own, without any added oil.
Tricolor Sweetcorn Salad
Calories 280kcal; carbohydrate 29g; fibre 10g; protein 13g; fat 12g
- Chop 2 cups of the following together: spring onions, cucumber, tomato, red and yellow peppers.
- Add half a tin whole-kernel sweetcorn, drained.
- Add 3 sliced calamata olives.
- Chop up 1 hard-boiled egg and add to the salad.
- Mix 1 tablespoon low-oil mayonnaise with 1 teaspoon lemon juice to make a dressing. Add a little water if the dressing is too thick.
Assembling tip: Bloiled eggs keep for at least a week in the fridge and are easy to add as a protein to any meal. To save energy, boil six eggs at a time.
Sweet Potato Spud
Calories 400kcal; carbohydrate 57g; fibre 9g; protein 18g; fat 10g
- Place 1 medium sweet potato in the microwave and cook for a few minutes until soft.
- While the sweet potato is cooking, mix half cup of chunky cottage cheese with half cup of finely chopped salad vegetables such as peppers, celery, tomato, cucumber and grated carrot
- Add 1 teaspoon Dijon or wholegrain mustard.
- Cut open the sweet potato and fill with the chunky cottage cheese mixture.
- Serve with a small tossed salad dressed with 1 tablespoon low-oil mayonnaise thinned out with lemon juice or vinegar.
Assembling tip: Mix the whole tub of cottage cheese with double the amount of finely chopped vegetables. Use half for this meal and keep the other half for another quick light meal. Pile the prepared cottage cheese mixture on a slice of low-GI bread and serve with a salad.
Warm Mixed Vegetable & Tuna Salad
Calories 350kcal; carbohydrate 40g; fibre 10g; protein 29g; fat 7g
- Place 1 cup of mixed frozen or tinned vegetables (corn, peas and carrots) in a microwavable bowl.
- Drain 1 tin of tuna in brine (175g) and add half to the vegetables.
- Microwave on high for 3 minutes until warmed through.
- Stir in 2 tablespoons low-oil mayonnaise and 2 tablespoons sweet-chilli sauce.
- Season to taste with salt, pepper and herbs of your choice.
Assembling tip: Store the leftover tuna in a sealed container in the fridge for up to three days and then use to make this quick and easy meal again.
Food fact: Tuna and chicken are more concentrated sources of lean protein than red meat or eggs. For this reason, a small portion of chicken or fish is enough to provide the protein for a balanced meal.
Mexican Tortilla Meal
Calories 420kcal; carbohydrate 39g; fibre 7g; protein 22g; fat 18g
- Sprinkle 1 tortilla with a little water and warm in a tea towel in the microwave for 20 seconds on high. Alternatively, warm the dampened tortilla in a frying pan.
- Heat 1 cup ready-made salsa.
- While the salsa is heating, place the warm tortilla on a plate and spread mixed lettuce leaves, coriander leaves and thin cucumber slices on top.
- Place a chunkily chopped hard-boiled egg and 1/4 sliced avocado pear in the middle.
- Thin out 4 tablespoons fat-free smooth cottage cheese with a little water or skimmed milk and drizzle over the filling.
- Top with the warm salsa and roll up the tortilla.
Food fact: Regular tortilla meals are high in fat because of the sour cream, Cheddar cheese and guacamole (avocado). In this version, all of these have been controlled or changed. Despite this, the fat content is still slightly over the recommend fat content for a healthy meal.
Polenta and Tomato Grill
Calories 360kcal; carbohydrate 51g; fibre 1.7g; protein 13g; fat 11g
- Cube 1 thin slice of ready-cooked polenta (finger thickness or 55g) and place on a dinner plate.
- Spoon over 1 cup of ready-made herbed tomato sauce (bottled or tinned).
- Top with 1 matchbox grated mozzarella and 1 teaspoon grated Parmesan cheese.
- Place under the grill until hot and bubbling.
- Serve with a salad to fill your dinner plate generously and drizzle with oil-free dressing.
Food fact: Parmesan cheese may be higher in fat but the strong flavour allows you to use just a little for maximum flavour enhancement. Grated Parmesan keeps for months in the refrigerator.
Halloumi Cheese on Toast
Calories 431kcal; carbohydrate 44g; fibre 8.5g; protein 22g; fat 15g
- Microwave half cup broccoli florets for 3 minutes on high. Set aside.
- Toast 1 slice of seed loaf.
- Heat 1 tablespoon soya sauce with 2 tablespoons sweet-chilli sauce in a frying pan until bubbly.
- Add 3 finger slices of halloumi cheese (2 matchboxes) and fry gently for 1 minute on each side.
- Place the “fried” halloumi slices on the toast.
- Serve with half cup ready-made beetroot salad and the broccoli florets.
Assembling tip: As an alternative to the beetroot salad and broccoli, add a large tossed salad.
Food fact: Soya sauce and halloumi cheese are both high in sodium, which means that those who have high blood pressure should use as little soya sauce as possible.
Calories 385kcal; carbohydrate 40g; fibre 6g; protein 14g; fat 14g
- Cut 2 large tomatoes in half and slice away the round sides so that the 4 halves can rest on a plate.
- Top each tomato half with 1 tablespoon ready-made pesto and half teaspoon tapenade or 2 chopped olives for all 4 tomato halves.
- Place a thin slice of mozzarella or brie cheese on top of the pesto and olives (use only 1 matchbox of cheese for all 4 tomato halves).
- Grill the tomatoes until the cheese bubbles.
- Serve on a bed of baby spinach mixed with rocket leaves and 3 mini pita pockets (heated under the grill). Season with black pepper.
Food fact: This (lacto) vegetarian meal contains enough protein, thanks to the cheese. Traditionally, vegetarian meals are thought to be lacking in protein. However, it is vitamin B12 and iron that are lacking more often than protein.
Roast Vegetable and Feta Pita
Calories 430kcal; carbohydrate 26g; fibre 11g; protein 42g; fat 12g
- Cook 3 baby potatoes or 2 mini corn on the cob in the microwave (pricked and microwaved for 2 minutes on high, covered).
- Microwave or cook 2 cups frozen or fresh vegetable medley (broccoli, butternut, sweet peppers, onion, courgettes, patty pans, etc.).
- Place the cooked vegetables and potatoes on a dinner plate. Add prepared roast chicken pieces that are the size of the palm of your hand. Remove the skin.
- Pour 2 tablespoons low-fat ready-made cheese sauce over the vegetables.
- Cover and reheat the chicken dinner in the microwave for 30-60 seconds.
Food fact: Chicken is a very concentrated source of lean protein. A portion the size of the palm of your hand therefore contains more than enough protein for any meal.
Spicy Grilled Chicken with Roast Veg & Sweet Potato
Calories 405kcal; carbohydrate 26g; fibre 8g; protein 39g; fat 15g
- Cook 1/3 ready-peeled and cubed sweet potato or 3 baby potatoes until soft.
- Lightly cook 1 cup fresh or frozen prepared vegetables until just tender. Your vegetable mix should include a lot of colour: broccoli, carrots, courgettes, onion, butternut, cauliflower, green, yellow and red peppers, mushrooms, leeks.
- Generously sprinkle your favourite spice over 4 chicken breasts (thaw first if frozen).
- Place the chicken in a large ovenproof dish and add the cooked sweet potato and vegetables. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil.
- Cover and bake or microwave until the chicken is cooked.
- Serve only 1 chicken breast drizzled with 2 tablespoons ready-made cheese sauce, all the potato and the veggies. Use the rest of the chicken in other meals.
Calories 450kcal; carbohydrate 46g; fibre 11g; protein 31g; fat 14g
- Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large frying pan or wok.
- Add 1/4 chopped onion and 1 teaspoon crushed garlic and 1 teaspoon crushed ginger. Gently stir-fry and then add 3 matchboxes lean steak strips.
- Stir-fry until just cooked and then add 3 cups fresh or frozen prepared vegetables (bean sprouts, broccoli florets, shredded cabbage, mushrooms, mange touts/snap peas, sliced peppers, chopped spinach, sliced courgettes).
- Add half cup frozen or tinned sweetcorn, and mix.
- While the stir-fry is cooking, combine the following in a cup: 1 teaspoon brown sugar, 1 teaspoon soya sauce, 2 teaspoons lemon juice and enough water to fill a cup. Pour over the stir-fry and heat through.
- Serve without adding any other starch.
Food facts: Restaurant stir-fries are usually high in fat because of the amount of oil used. When making stir-fries at home, use only 1 teaspoon oil to stir-fry the vegetables. The sauce of a stir-fry adds starch because of the sugar it contains.
Calories 380kcal; carbohydrate 41g; fibre 7.5g; protein 19g; fat 15g
- Reheat 2 slices of leftover pizza.
- Serve with a generous tossed salad drizzled with 1 tablespoon low-oil dressing or balsamic vinegar.
Assembling tips: Pizzas are high in fat, so choose one with several vegetables toppings (mushrooms, peppers, asparagus, onion, spinach, etc.) and only one protein topping (sausage, bacon, salami, ham, seafood, etc.). The best way to reheat pizza is under a (table-top) grill. Microwaving tends to make the pizza tough.
Fish & Chips
Calories 416kcal; carbohydrate 37g; fibre 7g; protein 37g; fat 13g
- Place one fistful (10 chips or 100g) oven-ready frozen chips on a baking tray. There is no need to add any oil. Bake according to the instructions on the packet.
- Ten minutes before the chips are done, place 2 frozen flavoured or spiced (not crumbed) fish pieces on the same baking tray as the chips and bake until done.
- Serve with a large tossed green salad drizzled with 2 tablespoons low-oil salad dressing and tomato sauce (optional) for the chips.
Food facts: Chips are a high-fat food. Even oven chips baked without any extra oil, contain approximately 2 teaspoons fat per 100g, which is only 10 chips! Restaurant and takeaway chips are not only high in fat, but also contains harmful trans fats. For this reason it is better to enjoy a small portion of oven chips prepared at home.