How to Build a Healthy and Delicious 30-Minute Meal in 5 Easy Steps

We all love the idea of sitting down to a delicious home-cooked meal, but who’s got time to spend hours in the kitchen? Between leaving work and getting to bed at a reasonable hour, we have a million things to get done.

Sticking to a healthy eating plan doesn’t have to be difficult. Follow the steps below, and you’ll see how easy it is to whip up a super tasty and nutritious meal in a short space of time. No recipe required.

STEP 1: WEEKEND MEAL PREP

30-minute meals

The first step in your weekend meal prep routine is to go shopping. I prefer stocking up on staples (rice, quinoa, canned beans, sauces, spices, etc.) on a monthly basis, and then I do a weekly shop for fresh produce.

Choose a variety of leafy greens and colourful veggies. It’s important to eat what’s in season, rather than buying anything that’s imported. It’s better for your body and the environment.

I’m not a huge fan of preparing meals in advance, so I’ve reached a compromise. I prepare the basics ahead of time and make the rest of the dish on the day.

Having a batch or two of cooked grains (rice, quinoa, etc.) in the fridge, along with some sauces, dressings, hummus and marinades is key to your 30-minute meal strategy. Readymade is perfectly fine, just make sure you check the label.

STEP 2: CHOOSE YOUR BASE

Okay, it’s Monday night and you’re hungry. Start by grabbing the rice (or whatever grain you opted to make on the weekend), and set it on the counter, ready to add to your bowl or plate. If you’re in the mood for couscous you can easily make it on the day, since all you have to do is soak it in boiling water. Easy peasy.

STEP 2A: BEEF UP YOUR BASE (NO BEEF REQUIRED)

30-minute meals

While optional, this step has become a firm favorite in our house. It’s so easy there’s really no reason to skip it. Plus, it’ll take your meal from great to really great in a matter of minutes.

Stir fried rice doesn’t have to be a complicated affair. Start by frying a few handfuls of chopped leafy greens (spinach, chard, pak choi) in little oil and tamari or soy sauce. When they’re almost done, throw in your grains and cook until they’re heated through.

Mushrooms and tomatoes also make great additions to your grain, but it’s really up to you. The important thing is to pick a vegetable that cooks quickly. It’s all about timing, remember.

STEP 3: GO CRAZY WITH THE VEG

30-minute meals

When it comes to vegetables, the simpler the cooking method, the better the result. My “weapon” of choice in the kitchen is my trusty steamer. If you don’t own one, it’s a good idea to invest in a bamboo steamer. They cost hardly anything and work amazingly well.

The great thing about steaming is that it’s quick and healthy. A lot of folks find it a little bland, but I’m all about dressing up my vegetables after they’re done. Unless I’m making aubergines, then I use this recipe from The Happy Pear.

Chop up the veggies you chose (e.g. broccoli, string beans, courgettes), and leave them to steam for about five minutes. I prefer my veggies to have a little crunch to them, but see what works for you.

STEP 4: ADD SOME BEANS AND/OR OTHER PLANT-BASED PROTEIN

30-minute meals

According to longevity researcher Dan Buettner, eating a daily dose of beans is the cornerstone of living a long and healthy life. High in quality protein and fiber, a cup of beans a day will keep old age at bay.

Again, remember to check the label. You’ll want to avoid anything with sugar, salt or chemicals. If you can get organic, even better. I like heating half a can with some sriracha sauce for added flavor.

For protein, nothing beats tempeh. There’s a lot you can do with it, but by far the easiest option is to marinate it in some tamari. All it takes is a couple of minutes for the flavor to seep through. Best of all, you don’t even have to cook it.

Of course, if the mood takes you, you could always toss the tempeh in when you beef up your base. The result is super delicious and doesn’t require any extra effort on your part.

STEP 5: FINISH OFF WITH SOME TOPPINGS

30-minute meals

Toppings are what make a meal. Try adding a generous dollop of hummus and kimchi or add a splash (or three) of hot sauce and a liberal sprinkle of toasted seeds. Avocado and sprouts also make excellent topping additions.

GO AND HAVE SOME FUN

There you have it. Five simple steps to a hearty, healthy and super delicious 30-minute meal. The important thing is to make sure you have all the necessary components on hand. Remember what I said earlier: readymade is fine.

What we’re aiming for here is a balance between healthy and doable. As aspirational as “from scratch” is, it’s simply not possible when you’re short on time and long on hunger.

One other thing to keep in mind. Creating a 30-minute meal does require a little multitasking. If you’re a kitchen newbie, it might take you a little longer in the beginning. Don’t despair. You’ll improve as you go, and before you know it you’ll be knocking together Instagram-worthy 30-minute meals like you’ve been doing it your whole life.

Then, your biggest problem will be who to invite for dinner.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

70 comments

Sarah A
Sarah A6 days ago

thanks for posting

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Daniel N
Daniel N11 days ago

tyfs

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Thomas M
Thomas M12 days ago

thank you

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Elinor D
Elinor Dorrian14 days ago

I like this.

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heather g
heather g14 days ago

A mixture of quinoa and one of the smaller types of beans makes a good base and saves a lot of hassle.

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Bill Eagle
Bill Eagle15 days ago

Good tips and yummy food.

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Richard B
Richard B15 days ago

Thank you for posting

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Alina Kanaski
Alina Kanaski15 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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hELEN hEARFIELD
hELEN hEARFIELD15 days ago

tyfs

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Louise A
Lara A16 days ago

Thanks

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