Quick guide to healthy meals

Ensuring we make healthy meals for ourselves or our families is central to improving wellbeing, along with weight loss and getting a little fitter. After all, these meals are the main intake of food during a day.

Healthy meals don’t have to be complicated or boring. You simply need to ensure you have variety in your diet so you get all the nutrients you need.

Our 5 fundamentals of a health diet article introduces you to core food groups. Ensuring you eat healthy meals is about a balance of these groups. It’s about not eating too much saturated fat, sugar and salt, while eating plenty of fibrous carbs and protein.

Let’s start with light meals. Remember to keep your carb and protein levels high (60:40 ratio) and don’t pig out on simple sugars or high fat meals such as fast foods or fried breakfasts.

5 examples of light healthy meals

  1. Baked potatoes. Fill them with beans, sweet corn or chilli – a little cheese is ok and remember eat the skins, it’s the healthiest bit! It provides fibre that helps maintain our blood sugar levels.
  2. Pasta meals or bakes. Go light on the cheese and, unless you’re planning to swim the channel, there’s no need to pile in too much starchy pasta. Instead throw in plenty of vegetables – tuna is also a great protein source.
  3. Beans on toast. They may be the signature of a student’s staple diet but they’re actually really good for you – there’s lots of protein in the beans and wholemeal toast provides your complex carbohydrates ready for a workout or a swim. Remember to go for low-sugar beans or, healthier still, buy some mixed beans and make your own version!
  4. The humble egg. If beans aren’t your thing, eggs will do a similar job of providing protein on toast.
  5. Chilli con carne. Great for light healthy meals. Kidney beans, lean ground mince, and brown rice – all should set you up perfectly for exercise in a few hours. Cheap, fatty, greasy mince, white rice and salty tortilla chips will not.

Ideas for healthy main meals

Planning is the key to ensuring healthy main meals make up a part of your day. Plan your main meals at the beginning of the week so you can get the food in and you don’t have to resort to takeaways or microwavable food in the evenings.

  1. Vegetables. There isn’t a single meal that doesn’t ‘go’ with vegetables so throw plenty in. It’s not like there’s not loads of options to choose from, they’re really healthy and you can eat unlimited amounts!
  2. Water retention. The best way to eat vegetables is raw before they’ve lost any of their nutrients from cooking. But if you’re going to cook them make sure you keep the water because it contains the nutrients, vitamins/antioxidants they have lost in the boiling/steaming process. You can then use this for stock, gravy, or anything you like!
  3. Micro matters. Research shows that microwaving fresh vegetables is one of the healthiest ways to cook them and retain the maximum amounts of vitamins/antioxidants. Don’t fry vegetables. There’s no better way to destroy nutrients and minerals than with superheated fat your body will struggle to digest.
  4. Meat. When it comes to meat anything fishy will do as a first choice, as long as it’s not covered in batter. White meats are also good. If you choose red meats go for the lean options and cut off the excess fat.
  5. Lean red meats. Great lean meats to try are Bison (high in vitamin B-12, niacin, B-6, selenium, zinc and phosphorus), Ostrich (high in monounsaturated fat), and Venison.
  6. Fibrous Carbs. We’ve said it before but ensure you choose fibrous carbohydrates over the starchy ones to finish off your dish. These are all the fresh vegetables: Cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, cabbage, brussels sprouts, peas, carrots, courgettes etc are all great fibrous carbs.
  7. Don’t be starchy. Try to cut down a little on starchy carbs. These are: pastas, rices, noodles, couscous, white potatoes. We all tend to over-eat on these so keep portion sizes limited.

There are so many options, you can be as creative as you like and still manage to keep your meal healthy and your diet balanced.