Whether you’re a student struggling with finals, a high-power executive racing to make deals, or a busy parent juggling four different schedules, there never seems to be enough time in the day.
On those days where it seems like you don’t have time to even stop and breathe, it can be hard to think about eating healthy. It’s far too easy to simply pull out a takeout menu and pick up the phone. We don’t blame you. But by following a few simple concepts we’ll help you create healthy meals that won’t take hours out of your day.
Before you begin any meal, save some time by prepping when you have a spare moment. Do you need to dice veggies for dinner? Chop them in the morning while your coffee is brewing and toss them in the fridge for later. Maximize your downtime, and you’ll be less rushed when it comes time to cook.
Then when you begin cooking, gather everything before you start. This practice is called “mise en place” by professional chefs and is a calming ritual that will make your cooking go smoother.
Once everything is in place, use these four principles and healthy recipes to create delicious, guilt-free meals that won’t suck your time away!
Tip 1: Use your crockpot
The crockpot is truly a lifesaver for any busy home cook. Create rich, warm, and healthy meals by breaking out your crockpot and leaving it at home while you’re at work or running errands.
When cooking dinners in a crockpot, make sure to preheat your crockpot and not overload it with food. Most importantly, bring your ingredients to room temperature to ensure they don’t end up at a dangerous lukewarm temperature in the crockpot.
Chili is a winter favorite and the perfect slow cooker dish. For a healthy, vegetarian option, choose this pumpkin red lentil chili that cooks in 8 hours while you go about your day. You’ll be getting fiber, potassium, and vitamin C from the pumpkin and cholesterol lowering effects from red lentils!
Tip 2: Transform your leftovers
“Waste not, want not” is a helpful motto that applies perfectly to the kitchen. One of your biggest time-saving assets is sitting in your fridge right now: leftovers! Using up your leftovers not only saves money, it also saves time.
Instead of just heating up leftovers, look for a way to transform them. Try adding a whole grain starch such as rice, or noodles. Take a cue from post-Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches, and add bread or tortillas for portable leftovers. Creativity is your only limit!
Rice is one of the most versatile and yummy staples. When you have a pot of rice stuck in the back of your fridge, revive it with this yellow rice recipe that’s ready in less than 15 minutes. It’s packed full of supercharged spices to give you an antioxidant boost. Add an egg or some leftover meat for extra protein.
Tip 3: Embrace one-pot meals
One of the biggest downsides of cooking is the cleanup. Some recipes require enough pots, pans, and utensils to fill an entire dishwasher! Cut down on cleaning time with one pot meals.
Like the name says, these meals cook and combine all ingredients in one pot. They are one of the best ways to use a cast iron skillet, as the skillet can be popped in the oven to complete the dish.
This baked pesto chicken recipe combines the stovetop and oven for a mouthwatering meal that’s just 300 calories per serving and only takes 30 minutes to complete. If you’re craving Italian but avoiding carb-laden pasta, this is the dinner for you!
Tip 4: Sheet pan dinners
This concept is similar to the one pot meal, except all cooking is done on a baking sheet. Some of the best healthy recipes involve this method of cooking since roasting vegetables is one of the healthiest ways to cook them. Plus, this method is hands-free because you don’t have to watch a hot pot– simply pop it in the oven and wait!
The most important thing to remember with sheet pan meals is that some foods cook much faster than others in the oven. The last thing you want is overdone salmon and hard potatoes! Add your ingredients to the oven carefully, always adding the fast-cooking ingredients last.
This fresh, lemony salmon recipe is perfect for a sophisticated summer night or family gathering. Plus, the recipe is super healthy, with omega-3 fatty acids from the salmon and fiber from the asparagus. Best of all, it only takes 45 minutes!
Next time you’re short on time in the kitchen, look to these four quick cooking principles and healthy recipes. Whether you have 15 or 45 minutes to cook, there’s a recipe for you. Your wallet, waistline, and palate will thank you!