As a dietitian, I’ve heard many explanations related to why people can’t lose weight or how they struggle to eat healthy food. I also know the most common reason people give for not sticking to a healthy eating routine is a lack of time for meal preparation.
When people give me this excuse, I like to tell them about the benefits of using a slow cooker. Merriam-Webster defines “slow cooker” as an electric cooking pot that is used especially for cooking foods at a relatively low temperature over a long period of time. Familiar brand names for a slow cooker include Crock-Pot and Instant Pot. (Note: many Instant Pot models are multi-use products that include pressure cooking, slow cooking, etc.)
While many slow cookers still resemble the original Crock-Pot you may remember from childhood, modern versions incorporate technology and lots of options into their product. For example, modern slow cookers have removable inner pots that are dishwasher safe. They have timers and automatic turn-off capabilities. They have spoons and handles built in to the pot, and clear lids so nothing disrupts the cooking process. These features not only save time but make preparing a healthy and delicious meal easier than ever before.
Advantages of using a slow cooker
Maximize Healthy Meals
- It doesn’t need a babysitter. Put food in the pot, turn it on, and go do something else.
- Saves on energy consumption. The slow cooker does not take as much energy as the oven. This can lead to lower utility bills especially in the hot, summer months.
- Saves money. Inexpensive cuts of meat prepared in a slow cooker turn out tender and juicy. This alternative to more expensive cuts of meat saves money on the grocery bill.
- Offers a higher quality product. Cooking food at a lower temperature over a longer period of time allows the food to retain more vitamins and minerals than frying, broiling, etc.
- Tends to be lower in fat. Foods cook in their own juices reducing the need for added butter, oil, or other fats.
- Lots of recipe options. Recipes for the slow cooker are abundant. Look online, in a cookbook, or a magazine. You can find something to suit just about anyone’s diet, restrictions, or taste buds.
If you don’t have time to cook every night, use the slow cooker to make several meals at one time. That can be a large batch of something like soup, or a meat you can use in different ways throughout the week. The goal is to have healthy food that is quick and easy to use.
Chicken is a great example. Use the slow cooker to make your own rotisserie chicken. Use that chicken for a meal on the night you cook it and save the rest for later in the week.
Rotisserie chicken recipe: https://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=2309438
The possibilities of dishes to make with rotisserie chicken are endless, but here are few to get you started:
Another versatile main entrée that can be made in the crockpot is Zesty Italian Beef. The Italian beef goes perfectly with cooked baby carrots, red potatoes, and a fruit salad.
The leftover beef can be used to make this recipe for sandwiches: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/91597/original-homemade-italian-beef/
Complete the meal by topping the Italian beef with sautéed green peppers, onions, and provolone cheese. Wrap the sandwiches in aluminum foil, and place in an oven preheated to 350 degrees F. Heat the sandwich until the cheese melts. (NOTE: If using leftovers, the beef should be re-heated prior to assembling the sandwiches.)
Other ideas for using Italian beef:
For a healthier modification, substitute the ground beef with the leftover Italian beef. Also, leave out the salt and use lower sodium V-8 juice.
Lean ground beef is another handy option for quick meals. Just like the chicken, buy several pounds at one time, cook some and freeze some. Prepared beef can go a long way when making soups, stews, casseroles, and sandwiches.
– buy meat when it’s on sale and either freeze it immediately or put it in your slow cooker for several hours (with or without some kind of seasoning) then freeze it.
– Put your prepared meat in freezer bags. Label each bag with the intended recipe and the date you froze it.
When you use a slow cooker, eating a nutritious meal at your house becomes easier than stopping at a restaurant to get take-out or fast food. That’s one giant leap toward realizing your health and weight goals.