Healthy Meals For Two In Under 30 Minutes
There’s a big difference between eating for a family and eating for just two.
The types of meals you cook and eat changes. Meals that could feed a small army, like chicken curry or chilli con carne, can be hard to adapt for smaller portions, leading to overeating when you are no longer chasing after the children and burning that extra food off. You may also find that a lot of the meals you’re used to cooking are very bland – you had to please everyone – so you snack on tastier treats and eat more. Finally, with the children gone you have more disposable income, so you order takeaway more often as a treat to yourselves as you look forward to retirement.
These are massive red flags when you’re keeping an eye on your fitness and health. Overeating is the fastest way to gain weight and it worsens other body conditions and illnesses such as digestive issues, joint pain, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. It also impacts your mental health as depression and confidence issues are common side effects of overeating. This can then be compounded by the feelings of loneliness and anxiety caused by empty nest syndrome, especially if your children have only recently left home.
However, times like these can be a great opportunity to start living a healthy lifestyle and with so many things changing, you might as well change them for the better. So, grab your husband, wife, partner or a close friend and tuck into these healthy meals for two. Not only can they be done in under 30-minutes, they’re also super tasty and fun to make together.
Quick Chicken Parmesan for Two (from eatingwell.com)
Total Time to Make: 30 Mins
- 1 250g boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed of fat
- Whole-wheat breadcrumbs
- 1 handful of whole-wheat spaghetti
- Parmesan, grated
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2 crushed garlic cloves
- 1 400g can of chopped tomatoes
- Italian herb seasoning
- Salt and ground pepper
- 1 mozzarella ball, shredded
- Freshly chopped basil or parsley (optional)
- Cut the chicken breast into two roughly equal parts then place between pieces of cling film and pound into a ¼ inch patty with a meat mallet or heavy saucepan. Sprinkle the chicken patties with a dash of ground pepper.
- Combine the breadcrumbs, parmesan and ½ tablespoon of oil into a small bowl and set aside.
- Preheat your oven grill to high.
- Heat a tablespoon of oil in a skillet or medium pan over medium-high heat. Add and cook the chicken for 2-3 minutes each side until golden brown. Set aside on a small plate.
- Cook the whole-wheat spaghetti as per package instructions. Drain and put aside.
- Add onion and garlic to the pan/skillet used to cook the chicken in and stir until softened. Remove the pan from the heat, add the chopped tomatoes, Italian herb seasoning, salt and pepper, then return to the heat for 2-3 minutes.
- Return the chicken to the skillet/pan and turn in the sauce to coat.
- Sprinkle the grated mozzarella over each piece of chicken then top with the breadcrumb mixture. Grill until the cheese is melted, keeping an eye not to burn it.
- Serve the chicken with your whole-wheat spaghetti, sauce, basil or parsley (optional) and a side salad if you wish to use less pasta.
To get this meal done quicker, ask your cooking partner to help prepare the ingredients and cook the spaghetti while you cook the chicken and sauce mixture. It may become a little crowded over the hob, but it allows you both to talk while cooking this tasty twist on an Italian favourite.
Coconut Fish Curry (from BBC Food)
Total Time To Make: 30 Mins
For the Spice Paste
- 1 green chilli, roughly chopped
- Dried chilli flakes, a pinch
- ½ tablespoon of vegetable oil
- 4 tablespoons of lemon juice
- Coriander (dried or fresh), a pinch
For the Curry
- Vegetable oil
- 1 onion, sliced
- 1 crushed garlic clove
- 1 large sweet potato, washed, peeled and chopped
- Curry powder
- Dried coriander, a pinch
- 150g of fresh or frozen cod or pollack fillet, skinned and roughly chopped
- ½ tin of coconut milk
- 1 handful of spinach leaves
- Lime juice
- Salt, for seasoning
- For the spice paste, bring all the ingredients together into either; a) a food processor and blend until smooth, b) a pestle and mortar and grind until smooth or c) a small bowl and your hands until smooth, just remember to wash your hands immediately afterwards.
- For the curry itself, heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a wok or large pan and fry the onion and garlic for 4-5 minutes or until soft.
- Add the sweet potato, 1 tablespoon each of curry powder and cumin and continue frying for 5-10 minutes or until the sweet potatoes have softened.
- Add the fish and two tablespoons of the spice paste, stirring to coat the fish in the spices before adding the coconut milk and bringing to a gentle simmer.
- Stir in the spinach leaves, 4 tablespoons of lime juice and season with salt to taste. Cook for a further 2-3 minutes then stir in the coriander.
- Serve on a plate or bowl either by itself, with whole-wheat rice or whole-wheat naan bread.
Much of this meal is done in one wok/large pan, so take turns watching the pan while the other prepares the next set of ingredients to be added. Taking on each other’s responsibilities will split the work more evenly. You could even add a level of mystery to the meal by not revealing to each other how much spice you’re going to add, though if you do this keep a pot of low-fat plain yogurt on stand-by just in case it turns out too hot.
Herbed Lemon Pork Chops (from tasteofhome.com) with Savoury Sweet Potato Fries (from wellnessmama.com)
Total Time to Make: 30 Mins
For the fries
- 2-3 large sweet potatoes
- 3 ½ tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- Spices of choice, though for this meal we recommend garlic powder, basil, salt and pepper
For the pork chops
- 2 lean/low fat pork loin chops
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Lemon juice
- 1 ½ teaspoons of garlic powder
- ½ teaspoons of dried basil, oregano and parsley
- ¼ teaspoon of salt and dried rosemary
- Start with the fries by preheating your oven to 220oc
- Mix the oil and fries spices together in a small bowl.
- Chop the sweet potatoes into fries, put them onto a tray with a baking sheet then drizzle on the spice mixture, making sure that they are all covered by tossing them in your hands.
- Bake for 20-25 or until slightly browned. After letting the fries bake for 10 minutes, begin making the pork chops.
- Mix the pork chop seasonings (garlic powder, dried basil, oregano, parsley, salt and dried rosemary) and rub directly onto the chops.
- Heat a teaspoon of oil in a skillet/large pan over high heat and add the pork, cooking for 5-8 minutes on both sides.
- Remove the pork chops and fries from the hob and oven, serve onto the plates and drizzle in lemon juice before leaving to stand covered in tin foil for 2-3 minutes, when they’ll be ready to eat.
This one takes a little bit of practice to time and may take over 30 minutes to cook on your first attempt. Help improve each-others timing so that if you need to cook this meal alone one night it will be easy to do and you’ll resist the temptation to order a takeaway.
With the recipes out of the way, why are we putting so much emphasis on cooking together?
Well it comes down how cooking together changes your attitude to cooking, and how it helps you maintain a healthy living lifestyle. First, it has a lot of effects on your mental health. You connect with your partner by creating fun memories and learning together, which stimulates the brain and combats diseases like depression by staying active. It also makes cooking feel easier for those who often treat it like a chore.
It also makes cooking healthy food more appealing. By working together, you cut down on preparation time and share responsibility, making you equal partners in this new lifestyle. It also helps you keep each other motivated. When relying on each other to cook, you may even be able to convince your partner to do other things together, like exercise or attend the gym.
Empty nest syndrome can make your life feel empty, but by remembering that you have each other or your friends you’ll be able to stay positive and make changes for the better.
Adapting to life without loved ones doesn’t have to be hard.
Just look forward to the future and what you can do for your family as you head towards retirement. One of the things that we recommend you do is prepare for the inevitable by getting Over 50s Cover.
You’re guaranteed to be accepted with no medical questions and your premiums will never change, even if you hit 90. Plus, as a bonus this January, you’ll receive three months free gym membership if you take out a policy with us before the end of the month. Interested? Then click the button below and come back on Friday when we’ll be giving exercise advice to those living with serious injuries.