By Jackie Crews, registered dietitian for MultiCare Health System
Often people joke that if they had a personal chef who planned and cooked each meal, eating healthy would be a piece of cake. However, we don’t all have that option, so we need to come up with easy-cook, quick-cook and no-cook tricks that fit into our busy schedules and don’t involve hours in the kitchen — especially when cooking is not our favorite thing to spend time doing.
Easy-cook trick: Batch cooking
If you don’t have time or energy to be cooking every day or even every other day, consider batch cooking. This involves setting aside time once a week to plan, prep and cook for the week so you don’t need to spend every day doing so.
A helpful resource is Eat This Much, which will create menu plans and shopping lists for you. When you have the recipes you want to make, go the store to stock up on the ingredients, then do your batch cooking. I often choose Sunday to prep a couple of quick, easy meals that make large amounts I can portion out and pop into the freezer or refrigerator for my week.
Quick-cook methods to save time
Feel like when you do cook, you’ll end up with multiple pots, pans and dishes to clean? Stressed by the effort it takes to come up with a protein to roast and at least two sides to prepare separately that all come together as a cohesive dish? Try one of these methods instead.
Crock-pot meals: What’s better than tossing a bunch of ingredients into a slow cooker and letting all the flavors meld together while you go the gym, meditate, go for a walk or enjoy a hobby? Try this crock-pot chili.
Quick tips and no-cook ideas
• Purchase pre-cut produce.
• Use frozen produce: throw a bag of chopped, mixed vegetables into a stir-fry or microwave a bag of vegetable steamers as a side.
• Use canned beans instead of dried in a dish or to top a salad with — they’re a great source of fiber and protein. Rinse well in strainer to remove the liquid, which contains excess sodium.
• Use canned tuna, salmon or chicken. Put these on a salad with some tasty vinaigrette for a quick and satisfying meal.
• Use rotisserie chicken (pre-shredded or whole). Add it to a lettuce wrap with some cheese, healthy condiments and other vegetables for a simple lunch option.
• Cook a protein in a crock-pot to use in different dishes throughout the week. Mix it with some low-sodium taco seasoning (or make your own), guacamole, cheese, low-fat sour cream, beans, vegetables and salsa, and wrap it all in a whole grain tortilla to make a burrito.
• Buy hard-boiled eggs for a quick breakfast or snack.
• Purchase grains already partially or fully cooked such as Uncle Ben’s boil-in-bag brown rice or Seeds of Change from Costco.
MultiCare Health System is a not-for-profit health care organization with more than 18,000 employees, providers and volunteers.