The Healthy Food Guide team believe that making small diet and lifestyle changes brings the best long-term gains. We look at the science behind the headlines and promote a balanced way of eating.

Add instant protein and fibre to a meal with puy lentils. By them in a ready-to-eat pouch, tinned or dried if you have more time

Lentils are low in fat and add soluble fibre to our diets – the type that keeps us feeling full and balances blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

1. Super salad

Mix a 250g pouch of cooked puy lentils with steamed tenderstem broccoli, cooked (not pickled) beetroot wedges and a scattering of crumbled reduced-fat feta and pumpkin seeds. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and lightly mix.

2. Speedy pilaf

Cook a chopped onion in a little olive oil until softened. Add 250g lean lamb leg steaks, cut into cubes, and cook for 5 min. Stir in ½tsp ground cumin, ½tsp ground coriander and 1 crushed garlic clove. Empty a pouch of cooked puy lentils and a pouch of microwavable basmati rice into the pan with 100ml reduced-salt lamb stock and heat through. Stir in 1 grated carrot, season with black pepper, then scatter with chopped coriander.

3. Stuffed aubergine

Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas 6. Halve 2 aubergines lengthways, criss-cross the cut surface with a knife and brush with olive oil. Roast for 20 min. While the aubergines are roasting, cook 1 chopped onion with 2 crushed garlic cloves and 1 chopped red chilli in a little oil, then stir in a pouch of cooked puy lentils. Scoop out the roasted soft aubergine, add to the pan, season with black pepper and mix. Add 150g chopped halloumi and some chopped fresh mint. Spoon the mixture into the aubergine shells and bake for 10 min.

4. Curry in a hurry

Heat 3tbsp balti curry paste in a pan, add 1 small cauliflower, cut into florets, 1 crushed garlic clove and 1tbsp tomato purée and cook for 1 min. Pour in 200ml reduced-fat coconut milk and 100ml reduced-salt vegetable stock and simmer for 5 min or until the cauliflower is just tender. Add a pouch of cooked puy lentils and 2 chopped tomatoes and heat through. Add a couple of handfuls of baby spinach leaves and stir until wilted. Top with a few fresh coriander leaves and a spoonful of low-fat natural yogurt and serve with naan bread.

5. Veggie roast

Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas 6. Put wedges of peeled butternut squash and red onion in a roasting tin, drizzle with a little olive oil and add a few sprigs of thyme, then roast for 20 min or until tender. Add a squeeze of lemon juice, a pouch of cooked puy lentils and 150g cubed goat’s cheese. Toss together, then return to the oven for 5 min or until the lentils are hot and the cheese has melted.

6. Skinny dip

Empty a pouch of cooked puy lentils into a blender. Add a 250g tub ricotta, 3 sun-dried tomatoes, 1tsp chilli sauce and the juice of 1 lemon and blend until smooth. Season with black pepper, then serve with raw vegetable sticks for dipping, or as a pâté, with wholemeal toast.

7. Satisfying soup

Heat a tin of chopped tomatoes with 175g drained roasted red peppers from a jar and 150ml reduced-salt vegetable stock. Add 1tbsp sun-dried tomato pesto and simmer for 5 min. Blend until smooth, then stir in a pouch of cooked puy lentils. Reheat and serve sprinkled with black pepper.

8. 10-minute casserole

Cook 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped red pepper, 1 chopped courgette and 1 crushed garlic clove in a little olive oil until soft. Add 150g diced chorizo and cook for 1 min, then add 1tsp smoked sweet paprika, a 400g tin of chopped tomatoes and a pouch of cooked puy lentils and heat.

9. Cottage bake

Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas 6. Cook 2 chopped carrots, 1 chopped leek, 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped celery stick and 200g chopped mushrooms in a pan with a little olive oil until softened. Add 300ml reduced-salt vegetable stock, a pouch of cooked puy lentils and 2tsp Worcestershire sauce. Simmer for 10 min, then tip into a baking dish and top with mash. Bake for 20 min.

10. Lentil kedgeree<

Poach 250g undyed smoked haddock in just enough water to cover for 5 min. Remove the skin and flake the fish. Reserve 4tbsp of the poaching liquid and mix with 1tsp curry powder and a pouch of cooked puy lentils. Heat, then stir in the fish flakes with 100g peeled cooked prawns. Heat until hot, then stir in 2 chopped spring onions, 2tbsp chopped parsley and 2 chopped hard-boiled eggs.

Oestrogen boost

Lentils give us plant oestrogens, supernutrients that mimic the role of human oestrogen in our bodies. Research suggests when we eat them regularly, these may help to ease some of the symptoms of menopause, when human oestrogen is in decline.

Veg quota

A 3tbsp serving of lentils counts as one of your five-a-day – but never more than one, no matter how much you eat (because they contain different nutrients from fruit and vegetables).