How "deconstructed meals" can benefit your health

"Deconstructed meals" are a fairly new trend appearing in cafés and restaurants around the country. As Bupa dietitian Gemma Cosgriff explains, they bring with them a great opportunity to shake up your diet – for the better.

You may have heard about deconstructed cheesecake, or even lasagne. And now we’re even seeing deconstructed coffees being served!

Sometimes that means the ingredients or elements to the dish are pulled apart and served separately. Other times they’re re-arranged and served in a different way all together. 

While you might find it intriguing or you might just find the concept excessive and unnecessary, it can be a great way to identify what actually makes up a meal, which can allow us to more easily assess the nutritional quality. 

And yes, “deconstructed” recipes are now available for you to try too!

So here are some of our favourite meals which you can try a little diff – while adding a little more of the good and a little less of the bad.
Deconstructed Asian style meal - Blue Room - Bupa

The pub favourite parma

Typical ingredients:

  • Crumbed chicken schnitzel
  • Napoli sauce
  • Ham (sometimes without)
  • Topped with oily, melted cheese
  • And a side of thick, thrice-cooked chips, or fries
  • There’s the potential to enjoy a token salad or coleslaw on the side
When you read this, it doesn’t really scream ‘healthy’, but we know it’s a favourite and one we’ll likely be ordering for many generations to come.

Tips to deconstruct:

Find a pub which offers a deconstructed, more gourmet variety, or make your own for that Friday parma and beer night. Think pan-fried chicken, with or without your own version of crumbing, dice up some fresh tomatoes, mix with some red onion and tomato paste and toss in the pan, and grab some Persian fetta and crumble on top. Include some fresh basil and a bed of spinach leaves to increase the vegetable count and voila – a light variety of your oily fave! If you love your chips, grab some potatoes or sweet potato, spray will oil and place on a tray lined with baking paper and oven bake your own version which tastes delicious and reduces the deep-fried impact of thrice-cooked chips out.

My disclaimer – I have had this dish out before, and it’s delicious. However, if you’re really craving that parma in its traditional style, perhaps don’t go down this track. Wait until you’re happy to give it a go so you don’t get angry at the concept and never opt for a healthier alternative again!

The old school dietitian’s example of your chicken Caesar salad

Typical ingredients:
  • Lettuce
  • Caesar dressing
  • Boiled eggs
  • Fried bacon pieces
  • Deep fried, oil-soaked crispy croutons
  • Pan fried chunks of chicken
  • Anchovies (optional extra)
When you separate out all the ingredients, you will find that the lettuce, boiled eggs and chicken are the best and healthiest components to the meal. What makes it a lot more ‘enjoyable’ as an entire meal, is the addition of creamy, crunchy, oily additions.
Tips to deconstruct:
Make your own dressing, so you know what you’re actually putting in, controlling for excessive sugar, salt or other unnecessary additions. Oven bake your croutons using a spray oil and use less bacon, or pieces of shredded ham. They’re suggestions, but you get the gist of the types of opportunities there are to build a healthier version!

Creamy traditional cheesecake

These traditional no-bake desserts are delicious and creamy. But when you look at all the cream in the ingredients list, in all varieties, it’s easy to see why.

Typical ingredients:
  • Biscuit crumbs
  • Butter, sugar, and eggs
  • Cream cheese and thick double cream
  • Sometimes even sour cream too
Tips to deconstruct:
Cheesecake looks fantastic out of the tin, with slick edges and beautiful layers. But serving up a deconstructed version can look very posh and degustation-esque! 
You’ll still be opting for some butter with the crushed biscuits, but you can reduce the quantity of everything as the shape doesn’t need to hold as firm. Opt for crushed biscuit and much less butter (or spray with oil), oven bake, and sprinkle on your plate. Beat low fat cream cheese with a little sugar and vanilla and some lemon zest and don’t add too much cream, if any at all. Scatter spooned dollops over the plate with crumbs and dot some beautiful colours throughout with strawberries, blueberries and raspberries and some fresh mint leaves for some extra visual joy. 
I recommend giving some of your old favourites a deconstructed make-over, use some of the tips we’ve provided to replace less nutritional components with some nutrient-rich replacements… and enjoy!
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