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    How a Multi-Cooker Can Improve Your Diet

    Debbie Pfeiffer, MS, RD Deaconess Weight Loss Solutions 01/16/2020
    If social media and sales figures are correct, many of you bought or received a multi-cooker over the holidays. While the advertising pitch for using these appliances focuses on saving time in the kitchen, I’d like to tell you how effective they can be when used as part of a weight loss and/or healthier eating plan.
    But before we get to that… what’s a multi-cooker?
    The term multi-cooker describes an electric cooking appliance that combines multiple features of other small appliances (pressure cooker, slow cooker, air fryer, rice cooker, etc.) into one piece of equipment. Some of the most common brand names for multi-cookers include Instant Pot; Crock-Pot Express Crock Multi-Cooker; and Ninja Foodi Pressure Cooker, Steamer & Air Fryer.
    How can the multi-cooker help improve your diet?
    • Provides variety and choice
    • Fits easily into busy schedules
    • Retains food’s vitamins and nutrients
    Variety and choice
    One of the biggest roadblocks to improving your diet is food boredom. You can only eat a plain chicken breast for dinner every day for so long before you’re burned out on chicken! The multi-cooker allows you to prepare food in multiple ways so you have variety in your diet. Pressure cook lean meat with vegetables one day, then use it to make a slow-cooker soup the next. Mix up your meal plans to prevent boredom from ruining your healthier diet. If you need a place to start, check out the recipes at the end of this post.
    Fits easily into busy schedules
    Finding and using the best tool for the job goes a long way toward success. In this case, choosing a multi-cooker that meets the needs of your family can play a huge role in changing their eating habits for the better. If a homemade meal that normally takes an hour can come together in 20 minutes, and you don’t have to stay in the kitchen to babysit it, making a nutritious dinner just became more appealing. For the days you won’t be home until late, bypass the drive-thru and use the automated cooking features to cook a satisfying meal and keep it warm until you get there. And don’t forget there are fewer dishes to wash because dinner in the multi-cooker generally involves a pot, a lid, and your cutting board.
    Retains food’s vitamins and nutrients
    Quick and easy is good, but let’s not forget the importance of nutrition. Your body needs vitamins and minerals from food to reach optimal health. When operating your multi-cooker on the pressure cooking setting, it uses steam to cook food quickly and evenly, preserving up to 90 percent of water-soluble vitamins. Traditional methods of boiling and steaming allow water-soluble vitamins to leak out of food during the cooking process.
    Making and sticking with lifestyle changes is tough. So when you feel like giving up on your multi-cooker, remember:
    • Using a new piece of kitchen equipment is like starting any new habit, doing it successfully takes time and practice.
    • To get the most out of your multi-cooker, read the instructions.
    • Meal planning keeps you on track. Make it a priority to choose recipes and buy food that you will actually eat.
    • Look at the calendar and plan the day you want to prepare the recipe. A solid plan makes the healthy choice the easy choice.
    Now that you know how a multi-cooker can help improve your diet, find some interesting recipes and start cooking! This could be the kick-start you need to form healthier habits and stick to them!
    *Note:  Appliances operate differently. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when operating your multi-cooker.


    Instant Pot (Pressure Cooker) Easy Salsa Shredded Chicken

    One pound fresh OR frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts – about (3) 8 oz. breasts
    *Be sure frozen chicken breasts are separated.  They chicken will not cook evenly if they are frozen together.
    1/4 tsp Kosher salt
    ¾ tsp cumin
    Black pepper (to taste)
    Pinch oregano
    1 cup chunky salsa
    Season chicken on both sides with spices
    Place into the Instant Pot and cover with salsa

    *See cooking instructions below for using frozen chicken breasts or fresh chicken breasts (not frozen.) 
    For this salsa recipe, you do NOT  need to add any additional seasonings or liquid.

    The salsa chicken can be used many ways such as in tacos, enchiladas, or over rice.

    Source:  Adapted from
    How to Cook Frozen Chicken Breasts
    Prep time: 5 minutes
    Cook time: 12 minutes
    Ready in:    37 minutes
    Yield:  4 servings
    1 pound frozen boneless, skinless chicken breast
    2/3 cup low sodium chicken broth or water   (not needed for the Salsa recipe above)
    salt & pepper
    Other seasonings as desired, such as garlic powder, dried oregano or paprika

    1.  Place the frozen chicken breasts in the Instant Pot.  Pour in the broth.  Sprinkle chicken with salt, pepper and seasonings as desired.
    2. Close the Instant Pot lid & lock.  Turn the steam release valve to the “sealing” position.
    3. Set the appropriate cooking time and use the “pressure Cook” button and cook at high pressure according to manufacturer’s instructions.
      1. 11-12 minutes for 6-8 ounces chicken breasts
      2. 13-14 minutes for 9-10 ounce chicken breasts
      3. 16 minutes for 12 ounce chicken breasts
    4. When the cook time ends, the Instant Pot will beep a few times.  Allow the pressure to release naturally for 10 minutes, by leaving the Instant Pot alone.   After 10 minutes of natural steam release, carefully turn the steam release valve to the “venting” position.  Wait for any remaining steam to escape (there may be none).  Check that the float valve (pin) has dropped down and then carefully take off the lid.
    5. Use an instant read thermometer to check that the temperature of the chicken has reached at least 165 degrees.
    6. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before slicing or shredding.
    Note:  To cook fresh (not frozen) chicken breasts, use the same cook times listed above, but do a quick pressure release instead of a natural release.
    *Be sure to read the instruction manual for your pressure cooker or Instant Pot.

    Instant Pot Chicken Pot Pie (Crustless and Gluten-Free)
    Prep time: 20 minutes
    Cook time: 25 minutes
    Ready in:    55  minutes
    1 ½ pounds chicken tenders, cubed
    1 ½ cups lower-sodium or no added salt chicken broth
    1 ½ cups diced carrots
    1 ½ cups diced celery
    1 cup corn kernels
    1 large onion, diced
    1 tsp salt
    1 tsp garlic powder
    1 tsp onion powder
    1 tsp ground black pepper
    1 tsp poultry seasoning
    ½ tsp dried thyme
    1 cup fat-free evaporated milk OR 2% milk
    ½ cup frozen peas
    1.  Combine chicken, broth, carrots, celery, corn, onion, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, poultry seasoning, and thyme in a multi-functional pressure cooker (such as Instant Pot).  Close and lock the lid.  Select high pressure according to manufacturer’s instructions; set timer for 10 minutes.  Allow 10 to 15 minutes for pressure to build.
    2. Release pressure using the natural-release method according to manufacturer’s instructions, about 10 minutes.  Release remaining pressure carefully using the quick-release method, about 10 minutes more.  Unlock and remove lid.
    3. Stir in milk and peas.  Select Saute function.  Cook until thickened,  2 – 3 minutes.
    Source: Adapted from:
    Chicken Alfredo In Instant Pot
    Total time: 30 - 40 minutes
    Yield: 8 servings
    4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    1 cup quinoa
    2 cups lower sodium chicken broth
    1 cup light sour cream OR fat-free, non-fat plain Greek yogurt
    ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
    ½ cup fresh chopped basil or 1 tablespoon dried basil
    3 cloves garlic, minced  OR ¾ tsp garlic granules
    1 tsp sea salt
    ¼ tsp pepper
    1 tbsp olive oil

    1.  Set the Instant pot to the saute’ setting, and preheat on normal for 1.5 minutes.  Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and place chicken in pot (writer of recipe used 2 chicken breasts, 2 legs and 2 thighs from 4 lb chicken).  Sprinkle salt and pepper on your chicken pieces.
    2. Sear on saute’ setting 4 minutes on side one.  Move valve release to venting and release steam.  Open pot and season the opposite side of chicken pieces and sear an additional 4 minutes.
    3. Remove chicken and set aside on a plate.
    4. Add broth, quinoa, light sour cream, Parmesan cheese, basil and garlic to the instant pot.  Stir together.  Place chicken pieces on top of the mixture.
    5. Place the lid on and lock.  Set the valve to sealing.  Cook on manual high pressure for 10 minutes.  Allow the Instant Pot to release naturally (let the pressure indicator lower on its own- (approximately 8 to 10 minutes).  Switch the valve release to venting and remove the lid carefully.    Serve!
    *If larger pieces of chicken are being used, time will need to be adjusted to ensure chicken is completely cooked.
    Source:  Adapted from:
    Instant Pot Taco Soup
    Prep time: 3 minutes
    Cook time: 10 minutes
    Total time: 13 minutes
    Yield: 6 servings
    1 lb ground turkey or chicken
    2 x 15 oz cans tomato sauce, low sodium
    2 x 15 oz cans low sodium black, red kidney or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
    2 cups corn, frozen or canned (drained)
    1 ½ tbsp. taco seasoning
    2 tbsp onion powder or flakes
    1 tbsp garlic powder
    1 tsp maple syrup or honey
    1 tsp salt
    Ground black pepper, to taste
    3 cups low sodium broth or water
    1 tbsp oil, for frying
    ½ small bunch cilantro, finely chopped
    Yogurt, cheese, lime and tortilla chips, for serving
    1. On Instant Pot, press Sauté and wait until display says Hot. Takes 3-5 minutes.
    2. Swirl oil to coat, add ground turkey and cook for about 5 minutes, constantly breaking into small pieces and stirring. Press Cancel.
    3. Add ingredients in the following order (to avoid burn): beans, corn, taco seasoning, onion powder, garlic powder, maple syrup, salt, pepper, broth, and tomato sauce. Do not stir!
    4. Close the lid, move pressure valve to Sealing and press Pressure Cook on High for 10-20 minutes (longer – deeper flavors but overall soup is ready fast).
    5. Release pressure using Quick Release method – turn pressure valve to Venting.
    6. Add cilantro and stir (I didn’t have any and it was fine).
    7. Serve hot with tortilla chips, yogurt, cheese and limes (if desired).
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