The formula for preparing a healthy meal


3 minutes

06 October 2020

Preparing a healthy meal

If cooking doesn’t come naturally, throwing together a nutritious meal can be an overwhelming task.

If you’ve ever struggled to plate a truly nutritious meal, we’ve got good news for you – there’s a trick to it.

Kate Bennison, Dietitian and Health Coach at HBF, has shared with us her simple hack to building a nutritious meal. "When I set out to make a meal, I think about it like a formula," she says.

Kate’s formula

  1. Vegetables (two parts)

    Any vegetables are great, and a variety of vegetables is even better. Aim for mostly low starch vegetables; this is pretty much any vegetables other than potato, sweet potato or corn.

  2. Wholegrains/starchy vegetables (one part)

    Aim for wholegrains such as brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, barley and cracked wheat.

  3. Protein (one part)

    Try to vary your protein sources, including meat (i.e. chicken or fish) and/or plant-based proteins (i.e. beans, lentils, nuts).

  4. Flavours & healthy fats (as appropriate)

    Fresh herbs, dried spices, mustard, different kinds of vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, can all help to add depth and flavour to your dish.

Kate’s formula in action

If you need a little help getting started, here is Kate’s go-to salad recipe that follows the above formula.

healthy meal


  • 1/4 of a small butternut pumpkin
  • 1/4 of cauliflower
  • 2 small beetroots (or 1 large)
  • 2 large handfuls of spinach - any type (I used silverbeet & rainbow chard)
  • 1/4 cup of quinoa (or replace with Freekeh, wild rice or brown rice if you prefer)
  • Dry spices as desired- turmeric, cumin, chilli
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (for the dressing)
  • 2-3 tablespoons of nuts/seeds such as pepitas, sunflower seeds and almonds


  1. Roughly chop the pumpkin, cauliflower and beetroot. The smaller you chop, the quicker they will roast. Beetroot will take longer to cook, so I recommend chopping the beetroot at least half the size, so you don't need to stagger the cooking time.
  2. Pour the olive oil over the veggies and a generous dusting of spices (only use as much chilli as you can tolerate). Place in the oven to roast for 20-30 minutes at 180 degrees for a fan-forced oven.
  3. Toast the nuts & seeds in a dry frypan. Keep a close eye on these and shake the pan occasionally. Once you start to smell them, and there are a few crackling sounds, they are done. Cool on a plate.
  4. To cook the quinoa place into a small pan with boiling water. Boil for 10-15 minutes and test before draining.
  5. Mix the olive oil, mustard and vinegar in a large salad bowl. Slice washed spinach and add to the salad bowl and toss to coat in dressing. For tougher greens like silverbeet and kale, I'd suggested rubbing the dressing into the leaves which will make them more tender.
  6. Once the vegetables are cooked mix together with the quinoa, nuts/seeds and the spinach
  7. Serve with a source of protein. 60-120g per person of fish/lean steak/Haloumi/chickpeas cooked to your liking.

Preparing a nutritious meal can be easy if you apply Kates formula, set aside some time to prepare and have fun while you’re doing it.



This article contains general information only and does not take into account the health, personal situation or needs of any person. In conjunction with your GP or treating health care professional, please consider whether the information is suitable for you and your personal circumstances.