A warming lunch

Tuscan bean and vegetable stew

Our dietitian suggests healthy hot lunches that you can use to entertain friends or freeze for later.

With darker evenings you may not be as keen to go out at night, preferring to cosy up inside with the curtains closed. But that’s no excuse to let your social life slide – invite friends at lunchtime instead of in the evening.

Slow cooking lends itself to the winter when you aren’t out and about so much and is a great way of cooking for friends. Casseroles baked in the oven and stovetop stews are lovely warming dishes to enjoy together. It’s easy to bulk them up and make them stretch further by adding extra onions, tinned tomatoes, root vegetables (carrots or parsnips), beans and lentils – all of which will add to your 5-a-day. Have a look at our Tuscan bean and vegetable stew recipe (pictured above) for inspiration.

"By cooking in bulk you can freeze what you don’t eat in portions to have at a later date"

This also means you can use smaller amounts of meat and still get a filling dish with lots of meaty flavour. But remember, if you are using cheaper cuts of meat, they can come with more saturated fat so you should try to remove as much as you can before cooking.

However, cheaper cuts of meat also often require longer cooking times to make them tender, and this can be a good thing as it means there is time to let excess fat rise to the surface of the dish where it can be skimmed off. Alternatively, make your dish in advance. As it cools, not only will the flavours develop but it will also be easier to take the fat off the top as it will thicken or solidify.

Even if you’re not cooking for others, it’s worth cooking in bulk so you can keep extra portions in the freezer to eat later. When you don’t feel like cooking, it’ll be a relief to have some tasty dishes in the freezer that you can serve with dried pasta or rice and some extra fresh or frozen vegetables. This has the advantage over ready meals in that you’ll know exactly what has gone into it and you can be in control of the salt content.

Read our tips for a healthy breakfast

Find out about healthy dinners for winter time and store-cupboard tips

Read our dietitian's tips for eating healthily through the cold winter days and nights

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