FOOD

What Health Experts Cook When They're Short On Time

Hint: it's not all about salads.

09/10/2017 7:53 AM AEDT | Updated 09/10/2017 8:01 AM AEDT
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You get home from work late, feeling exhausted, famished and ready to eat. Although you have healthy intentions, the thought of finding and spending an hour cooking a nutritious meal is enough to make you order takeaway or eat cereal for dinner. Sound familiar? You're not alone.

Cooking a healthy lunch or dinner when you're short on time might feel impossible, but these health experts have got it sorted. And it's not about bland salads.

Here are three tips to remember to help you make delicious, nutritious and quick meals.

1. Keep it simple

"Bringing together a healthy meal does not require a million ingredients and hours in the kitchen, with a few useful tips," Jessica Spendlove, athletic performance dietitian for GWS Giants, Cronulla Sharks and Giants Netball, told HuffPost Australia.

"Start with the basic elements such as a source of protein (meat, chicken, fish) and vegetables, but experiment with flavouring the food to make it taste delicious.

"Baking and roasting has been a revolution. Using a good quality extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and maybe some dried herbs of choice can really bring a meal to life."

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2. Stock your fridge and pantry with healthy staples

"Always have some staples on hand -- canned salmon, canned legumes, tahini, pasta, raw nuts and seeds, eggs -- all of which can be used to turn into a quick and satisfying meal," nutritionist and celebrity chef Zoe Bingley said.

Other handy options to keep in pantry and freezer include tinned tuna, microwavable rice and frozen veggies. Having these options readily available will make it easier for you when you're in a rush and tempted to opt for takeaway foods.

As nutritionist Fiona Tuck explained, "when your fridge is full of healthy food you are more likely to eat it".

3. Use the plate rule

To ensure your meals are always nutritionally balanced, remember this handy plate rule.

"Try and divide your plate into the three main components: half veggies, one-quarter good quality carbs and one-quarter protein. This will ensure that you are ticking all the nutritional boxes," Alexandra Parker, accredited practising dietitian of The Biting Truth, told HuffPost Australia.

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Keep the plate rule in mind when dishing out your meal.

Here's exactly what healthy, delicious meals health experts make when they're short on time.

Jessica Spendlove, athletic performance dietitian

I have a few go-tos when I am poor on time. It will generally be some sort of lean protein with a side of salad or roast vegetables.

Healthy chicken parmigiana is chicken breast topped with Napolitana sauce and grated mozzarella, with a side salad of lettuce, cucumber, carrot, tomatoes and topped with pepitas. I often dress the salad with extra virgin olive oil and lemon. The chicken takes about 15 minutes in the oven and then five minutes covered in aluminium foil to rest.

Fish in a bag is another popular one. I often do barramundi with lemon, salt and pepper wrapped in baking paper, and then sautéed Asian greens which take only a few minutes. I like to use soy sauce and sometimes oyster sauce to flavour the vegetables.

For a five-minute meal I make greens with haloumi: sautéed brussels sprouts, broccolini and chickpeas in a pan with garlic-infused extra virgin olive oil and nuts. I then cook some haloumi in the pan to put on top of the sautéed mixture and dress with lemon juice, salt and pepper.

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Alexandra Parker and Anna Debenham, dietitians

When we're short on time (most weeks), we 100 percent keep it simple. When you know you have a busy week ahead, planning is essential. We always like to keep meat and veggies in the freezer and legumes in the pantry, as these can form the basis of a variety of meals.

Some of our favourites include chicken or beef stir fry -- combine chicken or beef with a mixture of frozen veggies and serve with microwavable brown rice for a quick and healthy dinner.

Another dish is omelette packed with veggies. Eggs are a high-protein, simple food choice and really easy to throw together with whatever vegetables you have around. You can always throw in some spices if you're looking for more flavour.

Burritos are great too. We love a Mexican theme as it's super versatile and packs a powerful flavour punch. We like to use whole grain wraps, black beans, lots of avocado, lettuce, tomato and corn.

All of these meals contain a good balance of lean protein, good quality carbohydrate and vegetables. This means it will provide you with adequate energy and nutrients your body needs to perform at its maximum.

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Healthy wraps and burritos are delicious and quick to make.

Fiona Tuck, nutritionist

Large salads and stir fries are usually my go-to quick meals. Use a variety of different coloured chopped veggies, fresh herbs such as coriander and basil, and protein of choice (chicken, fish) for a quick and healthy meal.

I usually cook up a big tray of roast veggies to use in salads throughout the week when I am time-poor. Add roast veggies to greens such as rocket, add fresh herbs, fermented veggies, chickpeas and nuts and seeds for a super nutritious meal. Use tahini mixed with lemon juice and a splash of water for a calcium-rich dressing.

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Zoe Bingley-Pullin, nutritionist

I like to make herb, tomato and goat cheese scrambled eggs with leftover roasted root vegetables and a leafy green salad. A quick mushroom and tofu scramble with spinach and tomato on sourdough toast is another great choice.

Parcel-baked fish (topped with tomato, thinly sliced sweet potato, zucchini and homemade salsa verde) with salad is another favourite, as is homemade poke bowl using brown rice or quinoa, shaved cabbage, capsicum, herbs, avocado, tofu and nuts and seeds.

The above are simple and fresh meals which tick all the boxes nutrition-wise -- bright coloured veg, complex carbs, lean protein and healthy fats.

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Use herbs and spices to add lots of flavour to simple meals.

Ben Lucas, PT and founder of Flow Athetlic

When I'm short on time I like to fire up the barbecue. It's quick, healthy and I can get my whole meal ready in minutes.

Chicken, steak and fish on the grill is great, plus I also love to chargrill veggies in batches on the barbecue. Veggies such as capsicum, eggplant, sweet potatoes, zucchini, mushrooms and asparagus come up magic on the barbie.

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