How to compose a balanced single dish for lunch or dinner

How to compose a balanced single dish for lunch or dinner

Easy to prepare, it provides important nutrients for health and can help control body weight

We eat outside the home more and more often. A valid alternative to the comfortable sandwich is the single dish: healthy, genuine and cheap, it is the best alternative for a lunch break in the office or for a quick dinner suitable for the whole family.

Since this is a complete meal, it is however important that it is composed following rules that take into account not only the quantities of individual foods, but above all their nutritional qualities, i.e. the molecules of which the foods included in the preparation are made. A famous example of a single dish that is not balanced from a nutritional point of view is, in fact, the classic mixed salad which, from a very healthy dish, can be transformed into a concentrate of fats.


  • How a single dish is made up
    • Vegetables
    • Proteins
    • Carbohydrates
    • Lipids
  • Examples of unique dishes

How a single dish is made up

To be healthy and balanced, friend of body weight and health, a single dish must consist of:


They form the basis of the single dish and provide vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber and molecules with an antioxidant and alkalizing action. Both raw and cooked ones are good, such as lettuce, radicchio, valerian, tomatoes, cucumbers, rocket, green beans, Belgian endive, spinach …

According to the Guidelines for a healthy diet (Rev. 2018), the standard portion of vegetables (including green beans, naturally frozen ones and ready-to-eat natural ones), is 200 g, which corresponds to about 2-3 tomatoes, 3-4 carrots, 1 pepper, 1 fennel, 2 artichokes, 2-3 courgettes, 7-10 radishes, 1-2 onions, ½ plate of spinach or chard, broccoli or cauliflower or eggplant etc.


Deputy to the synthesis of hormones, enzymes and tissues, especially muscle ones, proteins contain amino acids, some of which are defined as “essential” as the body is unable to synthesize them at a sufficient speed to meet metabolic requirements and therefore must be introduced with food, in order to avoid specific nutritional deficiencies.

Protein foods of animal origin are eggs, milk and its derivatives, meat, fish and shellfish. In the single dishes, among the milk derivatives, fresh and soft cheeses, mozzarella, mature cheeses can be inserted; hard-boiled eggs; grilled chicken; fresh or canned salmon, octopus, tuna or mackerel; hard-boiled eggs; shrimps…

The ideal quantities? According to the most recent Guidelines for healthy eating, the reference portion of protein foods is 100 g of red meat, corresponding to 1 Swiss (hamburger), 1 slice of chicken or turkey breast, 1 small chicken leg; 150 g of fresh or frozen fish (including crustaceans and molluscs) or 50 g of preserved fish (1 small can of tuna or mackerel, 4-5 thin slices of smoked salmon); 1 medium egg. Instead, the dose of fresh cheeses with 25% fat (stracchino, mozzarella, provola, feta, fresh caciottina …) is 100 g, while for cheeses with more than 25% fat, a 50 g portion must be calculated.

Those who prefer to consume proteins of vegetable origin can add half a plate of cooked legumes (beans, chickpeas, peas …) corresponding to about 150 g of weight.


They have a fundamental role in human nutrition as they represent the main source of energy for the body and should never be missing in a complete meal.

In single dishes, pieces of toasted bread (50 g, corresponding to a medium slice of loaf), cold pasta (80 g) or cereals and legumes: rice, barley, spelled, quinoa (80 g) or chickpeas are perfect. peas, beans… (150 g cooked weight) satiate and make the dish appetizing.


In the single dish they are often represented by condiments. It is possible to use an emulsion of extra virgin olive oil (1 tablespoon) and lemon juice or a light dressing. If you add a food that contains fat, such as cheeses or avocado or dried fruit or olives to the main course, it would be advisable to reduce the amount of oil used for the dressing.

Making a complete meal is therefore very simple. A touch of fantasy and the right food combinations are enough.

Examples of unique dishes

  • Salad with lettuce, chickpeas, tomatoes, tuna and extra virgin olive oil
  • Red radicchio salad with grilled turkey strips, steamed potatoes and extra virgin olive oil
  • Fennel and carrot salad with mozzarella cubes, corn and extra virgin olive oil
  • Rocket salad with black rice, prawns, avocado and extra virgin olive oil
  • Quinoa salad with peas, boiled egg, chopped peppers, carrots, olives and extra virgin olive oil
  • Curly endive salad with spelled, cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, cucumbers, onions and extra virgin olive oil
  • Barley salad, sautéed courgettes, walnut flakes Parmesan cheese, dried tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh spinach salad, 1 boiled potato, half a portion of chickpeas, mackerel in oil and extra virgin olive oil
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