Meals in minutes: Time-saving tips for healthy meals

Do you want to be healthier, lose weight or feel more energized? A good place to start is cooking more meals at home. Stocking your pantry, fridge and freezer with healthy foods that are both easy to prepare and ready to eat will set you up for success when it comes to eating healthy meals.

One of the biggest barriers to cooking meals at home is the time it requires. For people with busy lifestyles, the convenient option often trumps the healthy one. Here are a few tricks to trim minutes from your kitchen routine:

  1. Buy pre-cut vegetables and fruits. A stir-fry is a quick option using pre-cut peppers, onions and pre-cooked chicken. Or add broccoli, carrots or cabbage slaw. The leftover slaw is versatile — add it to a soup or cold vegetable salad for later in the week.
  2. Plan ahead. Always have pantry basics on hand such as olive oil, canned beans, canned tomatoes, nuts, herbs and spices. Making extra trips to the grocery store just before cooking is a time waste, so be sure to replenish your stash. Food preparation is a nearly foolproof plan of action.
  3. Choose veggies that last longer. Keep these long-lasting vegetables in your vegetable drawer: onions, carrots, garlic, peppers, slaws and kale. From a cold salad to kabobs on the grill … ways you can use these veggies are limitless.
  4. Cook for the week ahead. Spend Sunday afternoon or any day off making nutritious soups, salads and casseroles. Be resourceful with your ingredients by using foods like leftover chicken in tacos, quesadillas, salads, sandwiches, soups and pasta dishes for more meals. Hard-boiled eggs are also easy add-ins.
  5. Choose frozen foods. When fresh foods aren’t available, choose frozen. During the winter, fruits and vegetables are picked before their peak and spend way too much time en route to the grocery store, losing nutritional value along the way.
  6. Have a backup plan. Of course there will be times when your intentions to cook healthy meals get interrupted. For these times, stock your cupboard, fridge and freezer with quick and healthy ingredients that you can throw together in a few minutes. Need an idea? Sauté pre-cut, frozen peppers and onions in low-sodium vegetable broth while heating up a can of black beans. Fill a corn tortilla or Bibb lettuce with the beans and veggies and garnish with Pico de Gallo.

Getting meals on the table day in and day out isn’t easy, especially when you’re busy, tired or overwhelmed. Take a step toward a healthier you by trying some of these tips. They will fuel your body with nutritious foods without requiring too much time or money.

Caldwell Shackelford Photo3

By Ann Caldwell and Maureen Shackelford, nutritionists and registered dietitians at Anne Arundel Medical Center. To reach them call 443-481-5555.

Originally published Aug. 8, 2016. Last updated Jan. 6, 2020.

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