Cooking your meals gives you better control of your nutrient intake, but it can be time-consuming. Don’t give up! You can put nutritious food on the table with these shortcuts for healthy cooking.
Prep when you return from the store.
As soon as you unpack your groceries, grab the cutting board, knives, and storage containers. Half of cooking is preparation; you can save time on a busy night by preparing your ingredients in advance. Some fruits and vegetables may lose nutrients when cut, but this approach is better than swinging in the drive-through when you are pressed for time.
Chop up bell peppers and onions to make fajitas. Make cucumber slices, carrot sticks, and celery sticks to eat with hummus or Greek yogurt dip. Chop up mixed greens and store them in a bowl for quick salads throughout the week. Cut broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts so you can quickly season and roast them for an easy side dish.
Rinse away sodium in canned foods.
Canned foods make cooking easier, but excess sodium in beans and vegetables can be problematic. Rinsing canned foods and draining the liquid can drastically cut sodium levels. Research shows that rinsing canned beans can reduce sodium by up to 40 percent.
Get a spray bottle for oils.
When heart-healthy oils are turned into a spray, they can be used in many different ways. Spray oils can be used to lightly dress salads, to coat vegetables before roasting, and to grease casserole dishes and muffin pans. Invest in a spray bottle that can turn your favorite healthy oil into a mist.
Buy pre-chopped toppings.
When finely chopped and evenly distributed throughout your salad or side dish, toppings like nuts and dried fruits add flavor without excess calories. Look for pre-chopped versions of these ingredients to save time during cooking.
Make the sides.
Side dishes provide an opportunity to boost your nutrient intake. If pressed for time, consider turning to a pre-made main course. Many delis carry pre-made salads, veggie patties, and rotisserie chicken. Check ingredients to ensure these foods are not loaded with added sugars and excessive sodium. Once the main course is taken care of, you can concentrate on making fresh greens, roasted vegetables, and cold grain salads to keep your meals packed with nutrients.