5 Secrets to Making Quick, Healthy Meals at Home
Eating away from home is exceptionally convenient. As busy women always on the go, the luxury of just grabbing take-out—or even a quick bite at a restaurant—is a constant temptation.
The problem is, this convenience often comes at the expense of our health. Fast food has been shown to be a major contributor to food-related diseases in the U.S. because it tends to be high in sugar, fat, and calorie content and low in overall nutritional value. On the other hand, when you eat at home, you have control over your ingredients and portion sizes, plus you can boost your intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, which are often lacking in restaurants.
I know—you just don’t think you have enough hours in the day. But while it can be challenging to find the time to make healthy meals for yourself, there are also great tricks out there that can help you fit it into your schedule. Read on for some easy ways to make cooking at home fast, convenient, and even a little fun.
1. Plan Once, Shop Once
If you’re not thinking about food until you’re hungry, you’re much more likely to rely on fast food and take-out then to make a nutritious meal at home. So, plan ahead: Take a little time over the weekend or at the beginning of the week to plan out your lunches and dinners, and then go shopping for everything you’ll need for the whole week.
To prevent getting overwhelmed (or overbuying) at the store, pick a few simple, healthy recipes before you go and write out a grocery list with all the ingredients. Check out Whole Living magazine or my recipes page to get started with some healthy and delicious recipes that use everyday ingredients.
2. Find Quick Cooking Tactics
Many of us avoid cooking because of the time it takes. But, there are actually many small things you can do to expedite the process of whipping up a good meal.
For example, buy containers of pre-chopped veggies, like carrots, onions, celery, peeled garlic, or a seeded and cut butternut squash. Sure, it’ll be few extra cents, but, like anything, some expenses are worth it for the convenience.
Another option? Try using a crock-pot or slow cooker. Just pick a healthy recipe like Eating Well's Greek Chicken and Vegetable Ragout or Eggplant and Chickpea Stew, throw the ingredients in the pot in the morning, and come home to a wonderful meal in the evening. No standing over the stove required!
3. Cook Once, Eat All Week
Making a different gourmet meal every night of the week doesn’t necessarily ring “fast food at home.” So instead, just cook once—doubling or tripling the ingredients in a recipe—and enjoy the extras for tomorrow’s lunch and the next day’s dinner. This works especially well when you’re making soups, stews, and casseroles, because you can use one big pot or dish and simply reheat what you need the next day.
If you get bored of eating the same meal over and over, try switching the type of protein or grain with something new. For instance, make a curry vegetable stew and serve it over quinoa one night, then as a side dish with chicken and brown rice the next.
4. Double it, Time it, and Freeze it
Here’s a secret to cooking: You actually don’t have to be working the whole time! For example, put a batch of whole grains—rice, quinoa, oats, farro—or beans on the stove, set the timer (most take 30-60 minutes), and then use that down time to do something else.
Plus, these foods freeze well. So to save even more time, double or triple the amount a recipe calls for, and freeze individual-sized portions in separate containers. Without taking any extra time, you’ve just prepared several side dishes you can pull out of the freezer and defrost whenever you need them. That’s even faster than delivery.
5. Plan a Potluck Party
Chances are, your friends struggle with cooking at home as much as you do! So make everyone’s life easier by hosting a potluck dinner.
Ask each person to bring a large, delicious, and healthy dish to be shared by the group. Then (after you enjoy a taste of everything, of course), pack everyone to-go containers of leftovers of each item. You’ll get quality time with your friends, plus a week’s worth of tasty meals!
Eating well at home isn’t difficult—it just takes a little thought and planning. Try one of these changes each week, and see what works for you!
Photo courtesy of fschroiff.
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