When it comes to healthy eating, a huge barrier for may people is actually cooking healthy meals themselves. Be it that food is expensive, having to consider the likes of the entire family, not having the best cooking skills or simply lack of time. No matter what it is, until you realise what your barrier is and how you can overcome it, you’ll have an unnecessarily hard time trying change your behaviour.
For me, it’s often a time issue. I love cooking and trying out new foods but some days if I’m home late or I’ve been to the gym and I’m just too tired to spend ages in the kitchen I could easily reach for the takeaway menu (and believe me I do). The only thing that stops me doing this is either having ingredients for a really quick meal (my go to dinner in this situation would be a basic omelette) or by simply taking something I’ve already made out of the freezer and sticking it in the microwave for 3 minutes.
This is where batch cooking comes in handy and my favourite thing to make in batch is a curry. All you need is one big pot to throw all your ingredients in and then some tubberware to freeze individual portions in. Another handy option is to keep some for the next days lunch – and if you don’t want to eat a big dinner in the middle of the day you can do like I’ve done here and make it into a lighter salad.
Curries nearly always taste better the next day as the spices have more time to infuse. They also store well – my mom often cooks huge pots of her mixed bean stew and then freezes it in individual portions and it always tastes amazing.
Chicken and Chickpea Balti with Wholegrain Rice (serves 2 with leftovers for lunch):
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 3 chicken breasts – cut into bitesize chunks
- 1 jar of Balti sauce (I used this one from Tesco)
- 1 can of chickpeas (drained)
- large handful of spinach
- About 1/4 cup sliced pickled gherkins (this is optional but I happened to have bought a jar the day I made this and wanted to make the dish a bit saltier without actually adding salt and I think this worked! Although apparently I used to snack on pickled gherkins and lemon wedges as a baby so I may have slightly strange tastebuds).
- Brown or wholegrain rice*
- Fry the onion in about two teaspoons of olive oil until they turn a golden brown colour.
- Add the diced chicken and cook for a few minutes until browned.
- Add the jar of Balti sauce and the drained chickpeas.
- Cook for about 10 minutes.
- Towards the end stir in the spinach and the sliced gherkins.
- Serve up with some brown or wholegrain rice (just watch your portion size*)
Chicken and Chickpea Salad with toasted Tortilla
Ingredients (for 2):
- Leftover curry
- 2 large handfuls of spinach
- Balsamic vinegar dressing
- 1 tortilla wrap
- Peanuts – optional (I happened to have some roasted peanuts in the house after all the Euro match celebrations so used these. They add a nice crunchy texture but aren’t essential and are high in salt – have a look at the nutritional info at the bottom of the page and you can see how much salt a small amount of these adds. Plain, unsalted peanuts are a much healthier cooking and snacking option).
- Heat the leftover curry in the microwave for about 2-3 minutes or until piping hot.
- Lay out some spinach leaves on a dish and dress with a bit of balsamic vinegar dressing.
- Add the curry on top.
- Sprinkle on some peanuts.
- Cut a tortilla wrap into quarters, toast and place two quarters on each plate.
*What’s the best type of rice to eat and how much can I eat?
Brown and wholegrain rice are healthier options than white rice as they are broken down slower during digestion so don’t raise blood sugar levels as fast. Also, watch your portion size, I was actually shocked to find out that one serving of rice is only 2 tablespoons – a lot less than I thought! You should aim to eat at least 6 servings of bread, rice, pasta, cereals and potato (i.e. carbohydrates) each day – sometimes more depending on your activity levels (as carbohydrates are the body’s equivalent to petrol – we need them for energy). However, a lot of us eat too much carbohydrates, i.e. too much energy and we store this EXCESS energy as fat (I’ve highlighted excess as you use up some for immediate energy and another portion gets stored as glycogen in your muscles – after all this, the rest is converted to and stored as fat. But, when you exercise and reduce your carbohydrate intake this fat can burned off as energy).
Even though the food pyramid says to eat a minimum of 6 servings of carbohydrates a day, most peoples idea of a serving size is way more than recommended. For example, a bagel is two servings, so if you had that for lunch along with a bowl of cereal for breakfast you may have already had four servings when you think you had two. Combine this with two potatoes for dinner and you’ve had 6 servings. So when people go on about cutting down on carbs, realistically they are probably just cutting down to the recommended serving sizes anyway! Have a look at this booklet for a guide to serving sizes.
There’s no need to cut out carbs completely if you’re looking to lose weight – just have look at your portion sizes. Generally a portion of rice should be the size of a tennis ball or disposable cup – check out this website for some more visual explanations of portion sizes.
Chicken and Chickpea Balti with 125g Brown Rice
Chicken and Chickpea Balti Tortilla:
I hope you guys are liking the nutritional info breakdown that I’ve started adding to my recipes. If you want me to explain anything in more depth then just leave a comment here or get in touch with me on social media. I’m more than happy to explain anything and it helps me with my dietetics course too so don’t be shy!